Celtic Concert heats up Wirth Theatre

Our musicians were on fire at this year’s Celtic Concert!

Built around the theme Teine – the Scots Gaelic word for fire – the annual Celtic Concert drew capacity audiences for two shows at Wirth Theatre just before March break, on March 7 and 8. 

The audience paid rapt attention to the introduction: “Fire, the ultimate force of transformation, shapes everything from the steel we use to build, to the land we stand on…and ultimately the universe which connects us all. Tonight, with our instruments and voices, we will explore how it has shaped our lives.” 

Though the Pipes & Drums form the centrepiece of the concert, the varied show included plenty of song, dance, and supporting instrumentalists.

Produced by Director of Piping, Matt MacIsaac, the concert drew heavily on the music of Canada’s East Coast and Scotland. Fire-themed songs such as Coal Town Road and Working Man paid tribute to the workers in the coal mines. The pipe set, Steam Train to Mallaig, celebrated steam power and the beauty of Scotland, while Piper Alpha commemorated the tragic explosion and destruction of an oil rig in the North Atlantic in 1988.

The entire Music Department contributed to the show, with two sets by the Wind Ensemble and help on backing instruments and vocals from department members. The students had been learning the music for some months – pipers and drummers commit all music to memory – but putting it together took hours in a group setting. A St. Anne’s School student, a Canadian highland dance champion, performed as well, accompanied by four St. Andrew’s pipers.

The students were troupers, enduring rehearsals nearly every day, including weekends, for the final ten days leading up to the two evening performances. 

The set design complemented the musical themes, with a smoking cauldron set high above the stage on the balcony and chimney stacks on either side of the stage shooting out jets of smoke.

In the audience for the March 7 performance were 20 or so young musicians, ranging in age from 8 to 16, who make up the Canadian Sikh Marching Band. Ellen Mole, a former piping instructor at SAC, teaches the members of the Sikh band.

“The evening provided them with huge inspiration, not only to see how exciting piping and drumming can be but also to see such excellence from kids in their own age range. I think this will be a boon to us in the coming months as we work toward getting a group of kids who will be ready to perform themselves,” Ellen said.

The Celtic Concert first took shape in the early 2000s, when it was known as Cadets in Concert. With the addition of the school’s Wirth Theatre and theatre staff in recent years, the show has blossomed into a full-fledged Celtic music extravaganza.

See a gallery of photos from the two performances here.
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