RICHMOND - The sound of bagpipes and harps filled the air at the Washington County Fairgrounds last Saturday, at the 14th annual Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival. The event gave local the families the chance to experience traditional Scottish music, food and activities.
Among the dayâs festivities were performances by three professional Scottish musical acts, traditional Scottish dance lessons, pipe band, solo piping and dance competitions, professional athletes competing in the heavy athletics competitions, and games for all including the Haggis Hurl, Rolling Pin Toss and Wellington Boot Toss.
The highlight of the event was arguably the compilation of premier musical acts. Celtic quintet Albannach, Celtic fusion group MacTalla Mor, and soloist Charlie Zahm each took the stage to share their highly-acclaimed and world-traveled sounds with the fairgoers.
Abannach is a group that hails straight from Scotland. While there are many bagpipe and percussion bands around, Albannach proclaims that they bring a new and exciting form of the music to listeners. âA championship winning piper, an extremely talented main drummer, bass drummers and bodhran musician bring you a brand new approach to percussion and Celtic music,â says the bandâs biography. âOur style of music is exciting, energetic and enchanting and we promise to leave you begging for more.â
MacTalla Mor is a band with Celtic roots, but tries to blend their sound with contemporary and classic genres, such as rock, blues, jazz, reggae, latin and even hip-hop. The band has performed everywhere from Caesarâs Palace in Las Vegas to Central Park in New York City, and now can add Richmond to their impressive resume.
Formed seven years ago, MacTala Mor is a family endeavor. Brothers Jesse and Levon Ofgang play bagpipes, guitar and drums, their mother Patty Devlin plays the bodhran, which is a traditional Irish frame drum, and their brother Erik Ofgang plays the bass, and is also a professional magician who is known to do magic during the shows. Organ, piano and vocals are added into the mix to create the bandâs signature sound.
The band plays under the slogan: âThe pipes are calling resistance is futile.â
Finally, soloist Charlie Zahm brought his relaxing Celtic sounds to the festival stage. Zahm is a popular musician on the Celtic music circuit known for intermixing magical moments of Scottish and irish history in with his music. A native of Ontario, Canada, Zahm has been a musician since he has been old enough to sing, according to his biography.
Zahm has a powerful baritone voice and is a master of the guitar. He performs a range of several hundred selections that are meant to appeal to those of all ages. He also has it in his repertoire to play North American period music from the 18th and 19th centuries. Because of this, he is often asked to play at Civil War reenactment ceremonies, which are abundant for the Philadelphia resident.
While these three performers ruled the day, they did not represent the only music at the festival. A group of harpers from all around New England joined forces on a Celtic harp circle. The harp has been closely associated with traditional music in Scotland, Ireland and Wales for much of history, and the instrument can produce chilling and haunting melodies, and also catchy, energetic dance music.
With all of the Scottish music in the air, it is only natural that there was Scottish dancing as well. The Scottish Country Dancers group was on hand to not only show of their moves, but to teach them to newcomers as well. There are three types of scottish dances; lively reels, fast jigs and slow strathspeys. The three dances are categorized by their tempos.
Add in some athletic competitions, like the caber toss, which is the measure throw of a large wooden pool, and there is the most complete local Scottish festival.