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Black Tie International:
The Pipes of Christmas
Photos by:  Joyce Brooks/Blacktiemagazine.com
 
Robert Currie.  Photo by:  Joyce Brooks/Blacktiemagazine.com
Event Founder Robert Currie reflects on the Pipes of Christmas past and present
 
The Pipes of Christmas

16th
Anniversary, 1999 - 2014

Proudly Presented by the Clan Currie Society
 
Robert Currie.  Photo by:  Joyce Brooks/Blacktiemagazine.com
 
Photo by:  Joyce Brooks/Blacktiemagazine.com
 
Photo by:  Joyce Brooks/Blacktiemagazine.com
 
Robert Currie and Joyce Brooks
Robert Currie and Joyce Brooks
 

In what has become a firm holiday favorite, The Pipes of Christmas concert series celebrated its sixteenth season with performances in New York and New Jersey
 this December. 

The concert presented the music of Christmas accompanied by readings taken from the Celtic literature of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Featured performers included James Robinson from the film “Braveheart,” New England fiddle champion Paul Woodiel, “Riverdance” uilleann piper and flutist Christopher Layer, Gaelic Mod champion harpist Jennifer Port of Golspie, Scotland, and the Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band from Redlands, CA.

Produced by the Clan Currie Society, the 2014 season opened 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 moved 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.

 

Concert to Mark the Christmas Truce of 1914
 

For 2014, the concert  commemorated the Christmas Truce of 1914 – the historic unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front during World War1. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of Scottish, French and German and soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from all sides ventured into "no man's land", where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another. The truce is often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.

The concert also featured a tribute to legendary Cape Breton fiddler, Buddy MacMaster who passed in August at the age of 89.

 

New Musical Works to Have Their Premiere
 

As is customary with the Pipes of Christmas, the 2014 concerts featured 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 were 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.

New Jersey began in 1664 as a royal gift. Charles II of England granted a sizeable parcel of land on the east coast of North America to his brother James, Duke of York. James in turn gave a piece of this valuable real estate to two loyal noblemen, Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley.

The document that records this transaction, now housed at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, proclaims that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.” And so New Jersey was born.

 

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.

 

About “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 has over 2,000 members worldwide that gather via the Society’s website and at special events and clan gatherings.

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. The Society is also a founding member of the NY Tartan Week Alliance with oversight for many of the anchor events of Tartan Week including, Whisky Live, From Scotland With Love, and Tartan Day on Ellis Island.

To commemorate the 10th annual observance of Tartan Day on Ellis Island, the Society commissioned and launched the Ellis Island Tartan in April 2011. The tartan is designed primarily for all Americans whose ancestors came to the United States through Ellis Island. The Society’s growing scholarship program provides financial support for students wishing to further their studies in music, poetry, and Gaelic history.

The Society has spearheaded the construction of two permanent clan monuments in Scotland. A MacMhuirich Memorial Cairn has been built adjacent to the 15th century ruins of Bale nam Bàrd, the Chief Bard’s home at Stilligarry on the Island of South Uist. A carved stone, commemorating the bard Lachlan Mòr MacMhuirich, has been installed at Makars Court alongside the Scottish Writers Museum in Edinburgh.

Clan Currie is an outstanding 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.

The Arms of the Society were granted by the Court of the Lord Lyon, Edinburgh, Scotland on June 30, 2006. The star, or mullet, is a heraldic symbol frequently found on individual Currie family coats of arms in Scotland. The thistle wreath, or chaplet, represents the international community the Society has created in “promoting Scottish heritage in general and Clan Currie heritage in particular, involving domestic and international matters.”
 

Online donations can be made by visiting:
www.pipesofchristmas.com
 
Or by mailing a check to:

The Clan Currie Society
P.O. Box 541
Summit, NJ  07902-0541

Moran taing!
(Thank you!)
Wishing Everyone  A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year...
Let's Hope it's a Good One Without Any Fear...
 

joyce brooks, gerard mckeon.  photo by:  rose billings

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