Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival - Celtic Rock, Pipers and Palm Trees with Albannach, Rathkeltair and Clan Na Gael

“When people watch us perform they are experiencing Celtic culture and I see that as the takeaway from our performance, that the audience is experiencing Celtic culture when they attend our performance”   Albannach’s Jamesie Johnston

The 19th Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival, held this year on Saturday 22nd of February, is one of largest single day Scottish games held in the United Sates with attendance having topped 30,000 in recent years whilst enjoying an average attendance of 25,000.  In an interview with Transceltic, the President of the Games, Audie Gibson, emphasised that the goal of the Festival is to preserve and promote Scottish culture and to pass down to the younger and future generations a sense of their Celtic identity.

Held in the Clay County Fairgrounds in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida, the festival boasts a broad range of cultural activities.  The games include a Scottish Athletics Competition sanctioned by the North American Scottish Games Athletics Association, Pipes and Drums Competition sanctioned by the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association and Highland Dance Competition sanctioned by the Federation of United States Highland Dancing Teachers and Adjudicators.  There is an impressive array of events that range from Gaelic language lessons, the obligatory “Whiskey Tasting”, a “Kilted Golf Tournament” and performances by Celtic folk musician Ron Davis.

The 2014 Scottish Games and Festival include representatives of about 45 Scottish Clans and Family organizations and this year have honoured the “Clan Wallace Society” as the featured clan. The attendance of the Scottish Clans is coordinated by Kevin Burke, President of the St. Andrews Society of Jacksonville.

The entertainment at the 2014 Northeast Florida Scottish Games and festival reflects the growing impact of Celtic Rock performers on the surging attendance at these events and in the reawakening of Celtic identity in North America.  The lineup includes three successful bands from the Celtic Rock genre, Clan Na Gael, Rathkeltair, and Albannach.   

Albannach – Electrifying performers with a combustible combination of Pipes and Drums and a dominant presence on the Festival entertainment circuit, Albannach are performers who tour extensively in North America.  This band have a growing and loyal fan base.   Albannach's leader, Jamesie Johnston, views the band as Ambassadors of Celtic Culture and sees the growth of Celtic festivals in America as important in keeping the culture alive.  The band are based in Glasgow and all members were born in Scotland.  In a March 23, 2013 Transceltic article, "Albannach: Scottish-Celtic Culture Warriors", Johnston in response to the question, “Do you consider Albannach to be ambassadors of Celtic culture", stated: “Yes – When people watch us perform they are experiencing Celtic culture and I see that as the takeaway from our performance, that the audience is experiencing Celtic culture when they attend our performance.”

Rathkeltair – A familiar presence on the Festival circuit is Rathkeltair. Named after the historical site in County Down in Ireland near the birthplace of band member Nick Watson, the band’s drummer who previously played with the award winning “Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band”. Band member Trevor Tanner is the former front man for 80’s MTV era band “The Bolshoi” and Neil Anderson on the Pipes is a founding member of the Seven Nations (Clan Na Gael) which continues to be a familiar presence on the Celtic Festival musical circuit. Anderson has played with several Celtic Rock bands including Scythian and the Grammy award winning band “The Chieftains”.  Rathkeltair enjoy a strong Celtic identity.  In a July 17, 2013 article, " A Celtic Tribal Celebration: Albannach, Brother and Rathkeltair", the Band’s Manager Robert Adolph stated: “The band has a sense of heritage and command and pride in the Irish and Scottish background of the music and considers that they have been given an outlet for the expression of that heritage.”

Clan Na Gael – A band comprised of current members of “Seven Nations” and Rathkeltair, the band members began their careers as members of Clan Na Gael which was the forerunner to Seven Nations and when the opportunity arises they come together again as the original band.  Seven Nations are a successful Celtic Rock band having been the subject of a 1990’s PBS documentary and known for their performance as part of the opening ceremonies at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

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