A Celtic Tribal Celebration: Albannach, Brother and Rathkeltair at Celtic Fling

View of audience gathering at the Celtic Fling and Highland Games

The Celtic Fling and Highland Games at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is one of the Major Celtic Festivals in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United Sates and Transceltic were the guests of the 2013 event organisers the weekend of June 21st. The driving force of the festival is the music, the Celtic bands that traffic in the language of the culture. The line-up included Seven Nations, Kilmaine Saints, Enter The Haggis, Scythian, Town Pants, Amarch, Ramblin Rose, Neidfyre, Seasons, Barby Holder and an appearance by the hugely successful Gaelic Storm.

Albannach & Brother – Bronach

Bronach logo

Sharing the stage at one of the festivals twelve stages, under the banner “Outlawed Tunes on Outlawed Pipes”, were the incomparable Scottish band “Albannach” and the Australian Celtic band “Brother”. These two bands are closely associated having just come off the April 2013 “Bronach Tour” of Scotland with another planned for 2014. 

Brother have uniquely placed their Celtic Stamp on indigenous Australian music. The Festival brochure aptly describes Brother as follows: “Fusing signature vocals and the deep pulse of the didgeridoo, the soaring highs of the bagpipes and tribal percussion”. The lead singer Angus Richardson is a steady hand that guides this energetic performance. The bands Piper makes it seem the most natural thing in the world to have the Pipes soaring into the canopy of trees whilst being dogged by the didgeridoo, a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians about 1500 years ago.

“Tribal percussion” fits Albannach, described in Transceltic's recent feature Albannach: Scottish-Celtic Culture Warriors. The energy of the drums juxtaposed against the expert piping of band member Donnie Mac Neil was transfixing. Not to put too fine a point on it, I was stunned and the 30 minute set seemed to pass in an instant. The drums dominate but the focus is on the Piper as if the drums are the ancient Pictish warriors and the Pipes the call to war. It as if drum beat is the force of the resistance which saved Scotland from Roman occupation and preserved Celtic culture north of Hadrian’s Wall. Albannach’s performance did not disappoint and both Brother and Albannach evoke the same visceral reaction from the audience.

Albannach at the Celtic Fling

The Fling

The impression walking the lanes that slope through the glens on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, operated by Mount Hope Estate and Winery, is that of strolling through a prosperous Tudor village on market day in a boisterous Celtic land. The sprawling  35 acre (14 Hectares) site is the permanent home of the on-going Renaissance Faire which on a normal day boasts up to 90 historically themed performances from the Middle Ages and buccaneers, on 12 stages. The Faire is suspended at certain times of the year and given over to special events such as the Celtic Fling.

The Celtic Fling & Highland Festival boasts an impressive line-up of entertainment with 18 bands appearing on 12 stages. Adding to the depth of this gathering was an Irish Dance and Irish language competition sanctioned by the North American Feis Commission, a Scottish Highland Games sanctioned by the Mid-Atlantic Scottish Athletics Association and a Rugby exhibition by the Harrisburg Rugby Club. On a lighter note the festival offers the “Men’s Best Legs in a Kilt Contest” and a “Haggis Eating Contest”.

Caber Toss

The mind wanders when attending a Festival as grand as the Celtic Fling. What is going on here? What draws 20,000 people to this event? No doubt the musicianship of bands like Albannach, Brother and Rathkeltair are part of the draw, but there is something else. This phenomenon is not unique to the Celtic Fling and is increasingly common across the United States and Canada. Perhaps a search for an identity amongst the ancestors of Celtic immigrants in a rapidly changing North American ethnic landscape, a Celtic identity steeped in the richness of 3000 years of Celtic history and culture. Celtic festivals are a tangible link to that identity.

Loch Rannoch


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, Rathkeltair brings a wealth of experience and music making ability to their latest album, entitled “8”. Watson, the band’s drummer, previously played with the ward winning “Field  Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band”, and band member Trevor Tanner is the former front man for 80’s MTV era band “The Bolshoi”. 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 Chieftans”.


Rathkeltair logo

Interview with Rathkeltair

Transceltic interviewed the band’s Manger, Robert Adolph, at the Celtic Fling:

1. Do Rathkeltair Consider themselves Ambassadors of Celtic Culture?

Yes, we are lucky in that we have band members who strongly identify with Celtic culture. Nick Watson, from County Down in Ireland (vocals, drums, percussion) has played with the award winning Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band. Neil Anderson, the bands piper, is an accomplished musician on the Highland and Uillean pipes and has previously played with Scythian, Seven Nations and the Grammy award winning band “The Chieftains”. Neil was a founding member of Seven Nations which was then known as one of the founders of Celtic Rock.  Neil would set up outside the festivals and play at the gates before it was accepted to include this new music (Celtic Rock) within the festival grounds. Well, eventually they had to let him in and here we are now.

2. What impact does the band’s Celtic identity have on Rathkeltair’s music?

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. Nick is from Ireland, Trevor’s mother is Scottish and Neil is a piper.

3. Tell us about the Band’s latest album – “8”

This album represents an advance for Rathkeltair in that the rock influences are heavier. The album has strong drumming and strong piping and a new element which is the Banjo. The album reflects the bands method of seeking out traditional Celtic musicians and trading up on their influences.
We are a self-reliant in that the band market and sell our music.  Band member Nick Watson has his own studio where we also produce.

4. Describe Rathkeltair’s interaction with the Audience

We are a fun band who takes the music seriously.  We rely on Trevor to write humorous lyrics which enhances the interaction with the audience.  Another element is Trevor’s sardonic wit, his father is English and his mother Scottish and that together brings it out in him.


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