WRITTEN BY M. ENGLISH
For Digital First Media
So what if opening day is Friday the 13th, Bill Reid scoffs good-naturedly. Don’t be a pessimist. Grab the nearest four leaf clover or lucky thistle and head over to Valley Forge Casino Resort-Convention Center for Feb. 13-15’s 23rd Annual Greater Philadelphia Scottish & Irish Music Festival and Fair. Nothing but good vibes there, Reid promises.
Veteran attendees know negativity doesn’t stand a chance against the warm Celtic landscape Reid and wife Karen — trading as East of the Hebrides Entertainments — create every mid-winter. Snow, sleet and ice, frigid temperatures, shenanigans by mischievous wee folk and other unseen forces … no match, any of that, for the continuous music, unflagging cheer and easy camaraderie that mark this lively celebration of Scottish and Irish music and culture.
Thousands of fans show up year after year, and the agenda for 2015’s family-friendly bash is looking as robust as ever. Friday’s action is set for 6:30 p.m. to midnight. A concert featuring Albannach, Jamison, Charlie Zahm & Tad Marks and Brother band mates Angus Richardson and Didgeridrew (the Reids’ son) is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. Food and gift vendors will open shop at 6:30 p.m. and remain open for the duration.
Things will swing into even higher gear for Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. to midnight festivities with four stages and non-stop performances by Albannach, Screaming Orphans, Rathkeltair, Searson, Brother, Clan Na Gael, John Byme Band, Oliver McElhone, Brigadoons, MacLeod Fiddlers, Charlie Zahm, Tad Marks, Mollie Larkin, Fitzpatrick Irish Dancers, Campbell Highland Dancers, Companions of the Cross, Washington Memorial Pipers, Rosemary Timoney, Lynette Fitch Brash, Frank McDonald and Kent Wires.
On tap for Sunday’s four-stage roster — Rathkeltair, Screaming Orphans, Albannach, Brother, Searson, Jamison, Brigadoons, Runa, Timlin & Kane, Belfast Connection, Mollie Larkin, MacLeod Fiddlers, Companions of the Cross, Washington Memorial Pipers, Campbell Highland Dancers, Cummins Irish Dancers, Celtic Flame Dancers, Rosemarie Timoney, Lynette Fitch Brash, Frank McDonald, and Kent Wires.
Among the weekend’s ongoing activities:
Fencing demos by Companions of the Cross and Live Steel, Irish and Scottish dancing, bagpipe tattoos (live performances) as well as kilt-making and numerous other crafters, vendors and fraternal organizations with everything from clan and family crests and histories to romantic Claddagh rings, Luckenbooth brooches and kilt pins, tartan accessories, fisherman knits, Fair Isle sweaters and CDs on offer.
The festival’s special interest seminars include an Irish language workshop with Casey O’Connor (noon-12:45 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday); Scots Gaelic workshop with John Grimaldi (1-1:45 p.m. on Saturday and 3:15-4 p.m. on Sunday); What the Heck is a Bagpipe? with Kent Wires (2-2:45 p.m. on Saturday and 1-1:45 p.m. on Sunday); and a whisky tasting with Frank McDonald (3-4 p.m. on Saturday and 2-3 p.m. on Sunday).
Scottish step dance classes with Lynnette Fitch Brash are scheduled for noon-1:15 on Saturday and 11:45-12:45 p.m. on Sunday; ceili-ceilidh dancing with Rosemarie Timoney, for 1:30-2:30 on Saturday and 1-2 p.m. on Sunday; and a bagpipe-Highland-Irish dance tattoo with Washington Memorial Pipers, Campbell Highland and Fitzpatrick Dancers for 2:45-4:30 p.m. on Saturday and with the Cummins Dancers for 2:15-4:15 p.m. on Sunday.
In between, plenty of traditional Scottish and Irish fare — meat pies and fish and chips, for example — and all kinds of “American” snacks.
Admission to the 23rd Annual Greater Philadelphia Scottish & Irish Music Festival and Fair is $18 on Friday, $30 on Saturday and $25 on Sunday. Kids 12-and-under are free all weekend, and multi-day passes are available at the box office. All festival-related activities are inside.
Valley Forge Casino Resort-Convention Center is located at 1200 First Ave. (at Gulph Road or Route 363), King of Prussia. Additional details, including festival room rates at the adjoining Radisson Hotel or other events sponsored by East of the Hebrides Entertainments, are available at www.eohebrides.com and (610) 825-7268.
East of the Hebrides Entertainments evolved from the Scottish import business Bill Reid and his Scots-born father began in the late 1960s. The Plymouth Meeting-based business also hosts vacations like its annual Celtic music cruise and April 18-26 and April 25-May 3 Arran Tours to Scotland accompanied by members of the Albannach and Brother bands.