The Pipes of Christmas Too

In this1 second instalment of our exclusive interview with Bob Currie, he shares the details of this weekend’s The Pipes of Christmas event in New York City.

What is the event’s core mandate, and who does it benefit?
Our principal mandate is to produce a world-class concert event which honors our Celtic heritage and faith. Too many events with all the best intentions can fall victim to the doctrine of “good enough.” Quite the opposite, we constantly strive to be the best we can be. You never know who may be experiencing their Celtic heritage for the first time at “The Pipes of Christmas.” We have an obligation to strive for excellence in all that we do. If we don’t do all we can to protect and preserve our heritage, who will? So our audiences remain our primary responsibility. In addition to operating as a traditional clan society, the Clan Currie Society is also an international arts organization. We honor our clan’s Bardic roots. Clan Currie (or Clan MacMhuirich as they were known in Gaelic) was the pre-eminent Bardic Dynasty in Scotland for over 700 years. We strive to keep our rich arts tradition alive in everything we do. Through programs like “The Pipes of Christmas,” we get to demonstrate that commitment and generate a financial base that supports all our programs, which are intended for the general public as well as for our clans-folk. In addition to the “Pipes” and the resulting scholarships, we also produce Tartan Day on Ellis Island (one of the anchor programs of NY Tartan Week,) an annual MacMhuirich Academic Symposium, and the Harp Glen at the Seaside Highland Games in Ventura, CA. We are the Title Sponsor for the Scottish Harp Society of America’s national championship and have just become the annual sponsor of the Young Writer’s Literature Award at the Royal National Mod in Scotland. We keep pretty busy.

Who attends the event?
I’m always amazed to see where our audience hails from. When we first started in 1999, we generally drew from central New Jersey with occasional visitors from New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware – especially as the word got out. Since moving to Manhattan, we’ve added all five boroughs of NYC, along with Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Since NYC is an international travel destination, especially during the magical holiday season, we now play host to patrons from quite literally all around the world.

What can audiences expect this year?

For our 15th anniversary, we’re delighted to be debuting three new compositions as well as the return of many of our audience favorites. One of our anticipated premieres will be a new composition from a music student studying at Edinburgh Napier University. Through a generous gift, the university will award a cash prize to the winning composer for a new Christmas carol to be performed on the clarsach. We’re hopeful the student will be with us for the concerts to hear their work performed before a live audience in New York City. We are also producing our first music CD which draws from concert recordings made over the last 14 years. At the time of this writing, we have listened to over 500 recordings and have completed the near impossible task of selecting and mastering 15 tracks that represent some of our best work. Better still, we have a wealth of outstanding material for another two CDs! Last but not least, we are delighted to have two wonderful Honorary Chairs representing both sides of the pond this year. From Scotland, we welcome renowned author Alexander McCall Smith and from Canada we welcome Mark Standish from the Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets. Both gentlemen have illustrious careers and exceptional reputations for supporting important causes.

Why is it an important event for the community?
It’s become a holiday tradition for many, something special to look forward to year after year. That’s key to celebrating Christmas – gathering together to enjoy this lovely and inspiring program. It’s also a wonderful introduction to Celtic music performed on traditional instruments by top-notch performers.

Along with attending, how else can people get involved?
Experiencing the concert is – as the question suggests – the best way to become involved or engaged with “The Pipes of Christmas.” Many people tell me they buy a block of tickets to give out as holiday gifts. A great idea! Beyond that, we welcome individual and corporate sponsors with gifts of any size. Donors can be assured their gifts are being put to good use. The Clan Currie Society is a registered not-for-profit organization so all donations are tax deductible in the USA. We also always welcome sweat equity support and have brought on interns interested in concert management and Celtic heritage for some real hands-on experience. Give us a call!

What does the future look like for the event?
Hopefully another 15 years of great performances and many, many more scholarships to deserving young people. We’d truly be honored to perform parts of our concert for American and British troops who are serving in harm’s way one year and are investigating ways to bring the concert to them. Beyond that, perhaps an expanded performance schedule that might take us to other cities across North America. Can Scotland and Ireland be far away?