Piping it up in the Big Apple

Craig playing the world premiere of The Immigrant's Lament, commissioned by the Clan Currie Society, on Ellis Island.
Craig playing the world premiere of The Immigrant's Lament, commissioned by the Clan Currie Society, on Ellis Island.

International-renowned Carnoustie piper Craig Weir has been rubbing shoulders with the stars as part of the Big Apple’s Tartan Week celebrations.

The 21-year-old student, who’s previously piped for VIPs from The Queen to rock band Queen and the Dalai Lama to Andy Murray, took part in New York City’s annual Tartan Week as an Ambassador for the World Peace Tartan and Scottish culture.

Speaking about the visit, Craig said: “My 9/11 Memorial performance was very emotional. Only one artist each month gets to play there for 15 minutes and it was a powerful thing standing between the fountains in the World Peace Tartan in front of the families of some of the victims of the atrocity and Scottish Government Minister Keith Brown MSP. It was the most emotional moment I’ve had playing and I’ll never forget it.

“It was also great to debut my piece ‘The Immigrants’ Lament’, commissioned by the Clan Currie Society, on Ellis Island on Tartan Day with the stunning Manhattan skyline as the backdrop.

“This trip has been very special. I’ve met so many amazing people and played at so many incredible events.

“It’s been great to see how people in New York are engaging with Scottish culture. There were thousands and thousands who turned out for the Tartan Day Parade. Hopefully that will continue to grow. I hope I’ve managed to introduce new people to our national instrument. I’ve enjoyed the whole experience and hope to come back to perform here again.”

Asked about his highlights of the week, he said: “There are too many highlights to mention. US TV legend Jimmy Fallon showing up and giving an impromptu performance at the Highland Divas concert was pretty special.”

The first highlight of his week was playing at the National Trust for Scotland USA gala dinner at the Metropolitan Club to honour Billy Connolly as a Great Scot.

“The dinner was in an incredible location and it was a huge privilege to meet him. We discussed how his first public performance was at the Stag’s Head in Carnoustie! I also got to speak in depth with Alan Cumming about local connections back in Angus and how fond he is of Monikie and Carnoustie.”

Craig, who won a Young Scot award for promoting the pipes to young people, also talked about and played the pipes for two classes of schoolchildren including one at the Alexander Robertson School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the oldest in the USA, watched by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hislop MSP. He also gave a lunchtime recital at Bryant Park for the American Scottish Foundation.

Later, in the less formal surroundings of the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East, Craig also played solo and as a guest with An Acoustic Mind, the band of Mike Ogletree (Simple Minds/Fiction Factory).

The next evening saw Craig play an unusually silent role – modelling the World Peace Tartan on the catwalk at the Scot Street Style New York Gathering in Brooklyn.

On Tartan Day itself, last Sunday, Craig led pupils from the Alexander Robertson School in the annual Tartan Day Parade while wearing the World Peace Tartan.

At home in Carnoustie Craig is Pipe Sergeant of the Arbroath Royal British Legion Pipe Band and is frontman for four-piece Celtic rock band Gleadhraich.

The band were Angus Cultural Ambassadors for 2014 and were commissioned by Angus Council to write their tune Skirling Ska as part of the county’s legacy from the Commonwealth Games. Their latest EP, Where We’re From, is available on iTunes.