The 22nd annual Pipes of Christmas concerts — featuring traditional, seasonal Celtic music by world renowned artists — will not be taking place at their usual locations, Central Presbyterian Church in Summit and Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, this year. But the show will go on virtually, with a broadcast on Christmas Day, preceded by a musical “Festival of Advent”: online shows on the four Sundays before the holiday.
“Since we can’t bring all these great performers to the greater New York area, I’m bringing our audiences to where our performers come from,” says concert organizer Robert Currie, who lives in Summit. “We’re not crying COVID. We’re taking COVID head on and saying, ‘You’re not taking away our Christmas.’ ”
All the videos will be shown at pipesofchristmas.com and the YouTube page of the Learned Kindred of Currie organization, which Currie heads.
The annual concerts help fund scholarships for students studying Celtic culture, and while there is no charge for those watching this year’s broadcasts, people will be encouraged to make donations. (Here is the link for anyone interested.)
Currie says he always has thought about doing Pipes of Christmas as a video production.
“I was not planning on doing that this year, but this year created new opportunities,” he said. “And less than a month ago, I had that bolt-of-lightning creativity that hit me that said, ‘Wait a minute. Do an Advent Calendar. No one’s doing an Advent Calendar.’ So that you revisit everybody on one of the four Sundays in Advent, with new music shot on location in incredible, beautiful places.”
The initial, 19-minute installment premiered on Nov. 28 and is embedded below; it features Gillebride MacMillan singing “Bitheadh Mac an Duine Uile Sàmach (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)” in the Glencorse Old Kirk in Milton Bridge, Scotland. This scenic location is known internationally as the site of the wedding of Jamie and Claire on the television series, “Outlander”; MacMillan plays Gwyllyn the Bard on that show.
The next three shows in the Advent series will debut on Dec. 6, 13 and 20, respectively. All will stay available online after their initial view dates.
The one-hour Christmas Day broadcast will combine performances from the four previous broadcasts with other material and remain available online for at least a few days after debuting.
Currie has been producing the videos himself, from afar. “I’ve produced upwards of 40 films or videos over my career, mostly corporate projects, and I tend to be a very hands-on producer,” he says. “The trick there is that, if you’re part of the process — it’s true of many filmmakers, I’ve heard — you’re editing the project while you’re shooting it. You say, ‘That’s a great moment, That’s a great angle.’ You also get to say, ‘You didn’t get any of this over here. Let’s try to do a slow pan through this spot or that spot.’ So I had to rely on them to cut it for me.
“My various crews are all over Scotland right now, shooting for me. And they’ll send me snippets of this and that. I’ll ask for something to be tweaked here, or something to be tweaked there. And they’re very responsive.
“And doing it this way really speaks to the notion that there’s a hell of a lot of creative people that can’t get work because of COVID. I felt, in a very small way, we could retain these firms, and put them to work, and retain these singers and musicians. And at least help a little bit. If you’re really committed to the arts, you’ve got to be committed to the sustenance of the arts.”
Currie did not want to reveal the lineup of all the broadcasts, but did offer a couple of “teasers.”
“There is a very solid, up-and-coming Gaelic singer and bagpiper named Chloe Steele. She’s from the island of South Uist, which is in the Outer Hebrides, places that nobody goes to. We’re going to be up at Dornoch Cathedral, which is a big northern cathedral in Scotland, with one of our regular people, our harpist, Jennifer Port.
“And we’re going to be at Glasgow Cathedral with a chap named Jamie MacDougall. Jamie MacDougall is — in Scotland, and on the BBC — an absolute celebrity. He’s an in-demand singer for the concert stage, and he’s also a very popular host of the BBC ‘Proms’ music concerts that are aired over the summer. So, not as well known here, unless you’re from Scotland. But a very big name in Scotland.”
For information, visit pipesofchristmas.com.
Here is the video of the first Sunday broadcast:
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