This year’s Grandfather Mountain entertainment lineup is the youngest ever to play the Games and we have some of the greatest legends of Scottish music booked alongside players taking the stage for the first time, and all levels in between. This has made possible some great collaborations and the budding of the next generation of Celtic bands following in the wake of the founders of some of the most powerful bands ever to be known in the Scottish Concert Arts. Look for these players interacting on stage together as their sets move fluidly into each other.
Elias Alexander is swiftly distinguishing himself in traditional music circles as a piper, singer, fiddler, composer, and sometimes comedian. He tours nationally and internationally with several projects, and has appeared with greats such as Carlos Nuñez and Alasdair Fraser. He has performed at top Celtic festivals including Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland with Gillebrìde MacMillan. He is a regular faculty member at Alasdair Fraser’s Sierra Fiddle Camp, and is in demand for other camps around the country.
At GMHG he will be joined by Eamon Sefton, guitar, bouzouki, and bodhran player extraordinaire. They’ll be showcasing material from their new album Bywater, which features many of Elias’s original compositions.
Chambless and Muse
Two members of Henri’s Notions, the longest performing Celtic band in the Southeastern US (more than 30 years!), Jil Chambless and Scooter Muse have also performed frequently as a duo and in a trio with Scottish singer Ed Miller in the US, Canada, and Scotland. They have released two CDs as a duo, Passing Tales & Glories (2014) and The Laverock Sang (2011).
Jil has become one of the finest singers and flute players on the Celtic circuit. Her solo CD, The Ladies Go Dancing (2009), was produced by Brian McNeill. Jil brings to any audience a wonderful listening experience that never fails to bring both smiles and tears in every performance!
A long-time 5-string banjo player, Scooter found Celtic DADGAD guitar in the 1980s and founded the Full Moon Ensemble before joining Henri’s Notions in 2003. His solo CD, Saddell Abbey (2005), includes beautiful original guitar instrumentals.
Jack Devereux grew up fluent in the musical traditions of both sides of the Atlantic. He has been an All Ireland finalist on both Fiddle and Uilleann Pipes, has appeared on stage and in the recording studio with artists includ- ing John Doyle, Altan, Bruce Molsky, Tim O’Brien and Tommy Peoples, and is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
David Brown, a multi-faceted musician and member of Rising Appalachia, will be artfully shredding with Jack on the guitar.
The Freestylers of Piping
The true power of the Highland bagpipe and Scottish drumming is carried by the players who come from the best pipe bands. The Freestylers of Piping combine these players from the legendary Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band, the Windsor Police Pipe Band, the LA Scots and the City of Chicago Pipe Band, and have devoted their lives to bringing the beauty of the piping and drumming arts to the concert stage. Deeply founded in tradition, the players of the Freestylers set their instruments and the audience free with their tight rhythms and immaculately tuned harmonies. Go on a journey from the songs of the old Scottish pipe masters to the creative improvisations of the new piping movement. Elijah, David, Michael and Richard combine their hard learned traditions with the experience they have tested in their many years of performances.
William Jackson has been at the forefront of Scottish traditional music for nearly 30 years. In addition to his stature as one of the leading harpers and multi-instrumentalists in Scotland, William has gained an international reputation as a composer. His “Land of Light” won the international competition in 1999 as the new song for Scotland, announced on the eve of that Parliament convening for the first time in 300 years.
As a founding member of the band Ossian (1976-1989) he was part of the revival of traditional music in Scotland in the 70s and 80s, and became known as an innovative composer, using a mix of traditional and classical musicians in such acclaimed works as The Wellpark Suite (1985), A Scottish Island (1998) and Duan Albanach (2003). The band, whose music influenced a generation of musicians, extensively toured the U.S. and Europe. Besides harp, he also plays tinwhistle, bouzouki and piano.
A career spanning 45 years has established Brian as one of the most acclaimed forces in Scottish music. Brian has been described as ‘Scotland’s most meaningful contemporary songwriter’ (The Scotsman); add to that his work and influence as performer, composer, producer, teacher, musical director, band leader, novelist and interpreter of Scotland’s past, present and future and you have a man who has never stood still. He has performed around the globe, both as a soloist and with some of the era’s most influential bands, including Battlefield Band, which he founded in 1969. As a multi-instrumentalist – chiefly fiddle, bouzouki, mandocello, guitars and concertina – Brian performs and teaches regularly at many of the world’s major festivals and is a core member of the UK fiddle phenomenon, Feast of Fiddles.
Brian’s audio visual shows, The Back O’ The North Wind, about Scottish emigration to America, and the sequel, The Baltic Tae Byzantium, exploring the influence of the Scots in Europe, have won wide critical acclaim.
For six years Brian was Head of Scottish Music at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Steven MacDonald began the pipes in Scotland at age 8 and played with pipe bands in Dundee before moving to the US, where he currently plays with the City of Dunedin Grade II Pipe Band. Steven was one of the finalists in the 2015 Goblin Cup informal piping contest and has been coming to Grandfather Mountain and the North American Academy of Piping and Drumming since he was 14 years old. He recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA to attend Carnegie Mellon University where he is continuing his bagpipe studies.
David and Michael McLeod are EUSPBA Grade I solo competition bagpipers from Upstate SC, and are members of the Atlanta Pipe Band. They are students of Jimmy McIntosh and have performed with John Doyle, Jamie Laval, EJ Jones, and John Maschino. They jointly won the 2014 Goblin Cup and are full of great music.
Marybeth McQueen grew up in an environment filled with Scottish music, the closest source being her father Gregory McQueen, fiddle player for Clandestine. She began learning the Highland pipes at age 8, and has been attending the North American Academy of Piping and Drumming for many years. In 2014 she placed 2nd in the US Scottish fiddle championship and in 2015 won “Best March” in the open level. Marybeth is currently a student at UNCW and is an expert at mixing traditional music with modern techniques in an upbeat and creative style.
A native of Edinburgh, Ed Miller first came to the USA for “a year or so” to do graduate work at the University of Texas. Now, over 40 years later, he is still based in Austin and travels throughout North America entertaining and educating audiences with his wonderful songs and droll stories.
Although he did gain a PhD in Folklore from UT, he has moved from university life to being a full-time performer. Over the past 30 years, he has established himself as one of Scotland’s finest singing exports, and is in great demand to perform at concerts, folk clubs, coffeehouses, Celtic festivals, Burns Suppers and Highland Games all over the country.
Piper Jones Band
Piper Jones is a celebration of the Highland pipes with the percussive strains of drums and bouzouki, balancing integrity of tradition with playing with a sense of true abandon. The group has released two CDs, The Wandering Stars and Crossing the Sabine.
EJ Jones first played at GMHG with Clandestine in 1998 and is a professionally ranked competitive piper in the EUSPBA. He has had a performing career spanning over two decades with the recent distinction of representing the USA at the 2014 MacCrimmon Trophy at Festival Interceltique Lorient.
Frances Cunningham, on bouzouki, is a Texas native who has enjoyed a long career performing nationwide, with a variety of musicians. Her first love is traditional Irish music and she was the winner of the Midwest Fleadh in 2013 in both accompaniment and on the tenor banjo. She currently lives in Nashville, TN and performs regularly with the Mike Snider String Band at the Grand Ole Opry.
Wolf Loescher plays percussion in bands ranging from symphonic to progressive rock to Celtic folk. He specializes in drum kit and hand percussion, and has performed and recorded with a variety of projects all across the country. He founded the band Jiggernaut and has been a key member of many great Celtic bands.
Raven and Red
Raven and Red is an award-winning acoustic music duo formed by lead singer/guitarist Mitchell Lane and fiddler/singer Brittany Jones. Both graduates of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Mitchell and Brittany are well versed in classical repertoire and enjoy combining these techniques in their recordings and live performances. Their individual musical accomplishments provide the inspiration to creatively arrange outstanding lead and harmony vocals with lyrical instrumental melodies. They strive to reach audiences through their original approach to acoustic music. In 2014, Raven and Red released their first 5-track EP, Live In The Studio, featuring a handpicked selection of the most popular songs performed at their shows. The Nashville, TN duo has performed concerts at various festivals, venues, and events throughout the U.S., including opening for headliners such as eleven-time Grammy Award-nominee Connie Smith, and the two-time Grammy Award-nominated bluegrass group, Dailey & Vincent. In addition to their current repertoire, Raven and Red has expanded into the Celtic music genre with recordings and live performances at several top festivals showcasing Scottish and Irish music.
Western North Carolina native Hannah Seng devotes herself to writing songs and playing tunes on her banjo and fiddle in traditional Appalachian old-time and Irish styles. Her songs and tunes are rich with texture, depth, tone, rhythm and lyrics that extend beyond the realm of traditional music into something atmospheric and original. Hannah grew up in a house filled with classical piano, rock guitar, folk songs, harmonies and dancing. She was strongly encouraged to pursue her love for fiddling, which she found as a teenager in the vibrant dance community of this region of North Carolina.
Throughout her musical career, Hannah has played fiddle and banjo in a number of bands for contra and square dances, as well as Cajun fiddle in the band Cafe Sho. Other performances include solo, duo and band acts at festivals such as the Lake Eden Arts Festival and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games over the years. After having earned her BA in painting at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2010, Hannah continues to balance songwriting and performing with time in her painting studio, as well as teaching fiddle and painting lessons in the community. She travels across the US and Ireland for teaching and performance, and to connect with musicians and artists to expand her repertoire.
Through its touring schedule and dynamic live performances, Seven Nations has become one of the fastest growing live acts nationwide. They have logged in more than one million touring miles trying to make the music universal for old and new fans alike. To the five member band, that means being on tour 85 percent of the year, melding guitar and vocal elements of American pop and rock with Highland bagpipes and fiddle. The result is a high-energy performance that has fans jumping out of their seats, and has sparked interest industry-wide.
Lead singer/songwriter and founding member Kirk MacLeod attended bagpipe summer schools in these mountains from the age of 12 and won the first ever John McFadden award for “most promising piper.” Many years later he has led a band through almost a quarter of a million albums sold and some of the most brilliantly powerful and creative Celtic rock ever played.
“We are lucky,” says McLeod, “because we come from two unique cultures. We love American pop and rock and roll, but we also love our Celtic roots. We want to touch everybody with our music.”
SYR (sire) is a Celtic Folk-Rock band from Columbia, SC. What started as a small traditional cover band has evolved into a serious endeavor with a unique blend of genres. Taking inspiration from Celtic history and myth, SYR creates original songs with themes like battle, love, loss, heritage…and a large pint. SYR also plays Irish & Scottish drinking songs, pirate sea shanties and ballads in Gaelic—even taking modern songs and adding a Celtic twist to create an interesting blend of old and new. The band consists of siblings Kyle and Laurel MacCallum, Timothy Strevens, Emily Bracey, Jacob McCleery, and Kelly Huff.
Born in Aberdeen, John started learning fiddle when he was 8 years old. At age 10, he began studying with the late Kim Murray of Elgin. While in high school, he used to play at various local functions, sometimes with Mrs. Pearson’s Concert Party, a kind of Scottish variety show. After high school, John went south to Edinburgh to study Engineering at Heriot-Watt University. While there, he played in folk clubs, and for a while played fiddle and guitar and sang in a band called Main Street.
In 1979, John moved to San Jose, California. He played for years with the pub band Emerald, but has also had his own bands (The Back Close Band, Twisted Knickers, Hamewith) and has played with many other well known musicians, notably Ed Miller, Men of Worth, and more recently, Scooter Muse and Jil Chambless, and can be heard playing at Scottish festivals throught the US. He has also worked with Brian McNeill, who has produced two albums for John, After the Dance and The Road Ahead.
John is also well known as a musician in the world of Scottish Country Dance. He has played for dance tours in Scotland and New Zealand and regularly plays for dances and dance workshops throughout the US and Canada.
Nick Watson has been a dynamic force in Celtic Rock in the USA for many years as one of the original members of Clan Na Gael, Seven Nations, Celtic Soul, and in his most recent super-group Rathkeltair. He played snare with the legendary Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band and has the breadth of knowledge, passion, and generosity of spirit to bring out the true potential of any tune.
photo: Sam Moffit