In what has become a firm holiday favorite, The Pipes of Christmas concert series will celebrate its sixteenth season with performances in New York and New Jersey this December. The concert presents the music of Christmas accompanied by readings taken from the Celtic literature of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
Celebrated Scots Gaelic singer, Gillebrìde MacMillan, is making his NY-area debut with the 2014 concerts. MacMillan portrays Gwyllyn the Bard in the smash hit Sony STARZ series, “Outlander.”
Featured performers also include James Robinson from Mel Gibson’s film “Braveheart,” New England fiddle champion Paul Woodiel, “Riverdance” uilleann piper and flutist Christopher Layer (both performing on Broadway in Sting’s “The Last Ship,”) Gaelic Mod champion harpist Jennifer Port of Golspie, Scotland, “Jersey Boys” guitarist Steve Gibb and the Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band from Redlands, CA.
Produced by the Clan Currie Society, the 2014 season opens on Saturday, December 20 at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, located at 921 Madison Avenue (at 73rd Street) with performances at 2 and 7PM. The concert moves across the Hudson River on Sunday, December 21 to Central Presbyterian Church located at 70 Maple Street in Summit, NJ for a 2PM performance.
For those weary of the ceaseless stream of secular seasonal music from department stores to TV, the Pipes of Christmas offers a spiritual and traditional take on the season that connects concertgoers to the holiday in a fresh, meaningful way. The show features tunes such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “Joy to the World”, and “Amazing Grace”, all performed live on pipes and drums, harp and fiddle, and organ and brass. Not only does the performance define Christmas cheer, but also it inspires those of Celtic descent to retrace and reconnect to their ancestry. A compilation CD, “The Best of the Pipes of Christmas 1999 – 2012” was produced in 2013 and has sold approximately 1000 copies since its release.
Concerts to Mark Special Commemorations
The 2014 concerts will commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914 – the historic unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front during World War 1. The concert will also feature a tribute to legendary Cape Breton fiddler, Buddy MacMaster who passed in August at the age of 89.
New Musical Works Will be Premiered
As is customary with the Pipes of Christmas, the 2014 concerts will feature two world premieres of new music. After successfully debuting in 2013, the concert will feature the premier of a new work featured by a music student of Edinburgh Napier University as part of the annual Alexander McCall Smith Composition Contest.
Sunday concertgoers will also be treated to a new pipe tune, “The Garden State March,” composed by renowned piper Duncan Bell. The tune has been commissioned by the Clan Currie Society in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the State of New Jersey.
Proceeds Support Scholarships and More
Proceeds from the concert support an extensive music scholarship program which includes annual gifts to the National Piping Centre and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (both located in Glasgow,) the Gaelic College of Nova Scotia and Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. Proceeds also support the Society’s sponsorship of the US National Scottish Harp Championship, the Gaelic Literature Competition at the Royal National Mod and an annual academic research prize at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye.
The Clan Currie Society also hosts an annual academic symposium which brings together top scholars and historians to explore the history and contributions of Scotland’s Gaelic culture. In addition, the Society hosts the annual Tartan Day on Ellis Island observances (estimated to be the largest Tartan Day event in the world) and the Harp Glen – a festival of the Scottish harp – at the Seaside Highland Games in Ventura, CA.
Commenting on the Society’s music scholarship program, stage and screen star and former Honorary Chairman of the concerts, Alan Cumming said, “I am delighted that proceeds from the Pipes of Christmas will result in these important gifts which ensure that the future of Scottish culture is safer with these generous scholarships.”
Named one of New York City’s “Top Ten” holiday events, the concert is made possible by a generous gift from Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland and the Grand Summit Hotel in Summit, NJ.
Saturday, December 20 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church,
921 Madison Avenue, (between 73rd & 74th Streets)
New York City
Additional performance in Summit, New Jersey (2 block from NJ Transit rail station) on Sunday, Dec. 21 – advance sale/mail order only.
General admission tickets start at $50 and are available via mail order. A downloadable ticket order form can be found on the concert’s website at www.pipesofchristmas.com. Tickets for the NYC concerts may also be purchased online through SmartTix or by phone at (212) 868-4444. Reserved patron seats are available at both venues.
Gillebrìde MacMillan is one of the most sought after modern Scottish Gaelic singers. A native Scottish Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides, Gillebrìde is a regular performer at some of the most prestigious Celtic music festivals throughout the world. This is his first visit to ‘Pipes of Christmas’.
He also stars as ‘Gwyllyn the Bard’ in the Sony Starz TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. As Gwyllyn, he regales those in Castle Leoch with traditional Gaelic songs and tales. MacMillan’s role as the Bard has been widely acclaimed for its subtlety, authenticity and musicality. Outlander has been a huge ratings success and the dedicated followers of the books and the TV series have been fulsome in their praise of MacMillan’s portrayal of the medieval bard.
Gillebrìde MacMillan is a fluent, first language Gaelic speaker. Gaelic is the first language and he then learned English in school. He comes from a family with strong Gaelic song and music traditions as his father was an accomplished piper and his mother has a great knowledge of Gaelic songs and poetry.
He is also a published writer, song maker and poet and he has performed his songs and poetry internationally. Gillebrìde MacMillan is fluent in Gaelic, Spanish, Galician and English. He has also released two critically acclaimed CDs, Thogainn Ort Fonn (I’d Sing You a song) and Air Fòrladh (On Leave.)
Gillebrìde is also an accomplished song researcher and expert and in 2013 he produced a CD of traditional songs from his native South Uist. One reviewer described MacMillan as having “a voice that wine writers would love to set their vocabularies loose on – mahogany richness with hints of sea salt, perhaps – and he has a way of singing in Gaelic that conveys the gist and tone of a song by subtle inflection.”Another reviewer commented that his CD, Air Fòrladh “is full of excellent songs sung by one of Gaeldom’s best singers.”
“The Pipes of Christmas”
Since making its debut in 1999, The Pipes of Christmas has played to standing room only audiences. Now a cherished holiday event, the concert provides audiences with a stirring and reverent celebration of the Christmas season and the Celtic spirit. Audience-goers return year after year to experience the program, many reporting that the Pipes of Christmas has become part of their family’s annual Christmas tradition.
The concert has been lavished with critical acclaim. In his review for Classical New Jersey Magazine, Paul Somers wrote, “The whole evening was constructed to introduce gem after gem and still have a finale which raised the roof. In short, it was like a well constructed fireworks show on the Glorious Fourth. The Westfield Leader described the concert as “a unique sound of power and glory nowhere else to be found.”
About the Clan Currie Society
The Clan Currie Society, based in Summit, NJ and Edinburgh, Scotland is an international, non-profit cultural and educational organization. It is the preeminent Scottish-American cultural society in preserving and promoting Highland heritage at Scottish Games, ethnic festivals, as well as community groups and classrooms.
The Society was originally formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1959 to further the knowledge and appreciation of the MacMhuirich (pronounced MacVurich) Bardic dynasty. The MacMhuirichs served for over 700 years as professional poets to the Lords of the Isles and later to the MacDonalds of Clanranald among other prominent Highland clans and families. The Red Book of Clanranald, one of Gaelic Scotland’s literary treasures, was penned by successive generations of the MacMhuirich family.
Today, the Society is a respected producer of programs and events to honor Scotland’s rich culture and heritage. The Society’s signature events include The Pipes of Christmas, the annual observance of Tartan Day on Ellis Island – the largest attended Tartan Day event in the world, and the annual MacMhuirich Academic Symposium.
Clan Currie is also a producer of exhibitions and documentary films. Past exhibitions have included “The Life and Legacy of John Muir,” “Tartan – Scotland’s Enduring Icon,” and “Loyalty and Rebellion: The Jacobites and America.” The Society received one of its many awards for video production excellence for “The Crafter’s Song”, a documentary film narrated by Cliff Robertson.
Photo: The Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band of Redlands, CA returns to the NY area for three performances of the Pipes of Christmas this December. Photo by Warren Westura.
Photo: Gillebride MacMillan from the Sony STARZ series, “Outlander.”