Big crowd turns out for Scottish Arts Indoor Festival in Nashua
NASHUA — Pipers, drummers and dancers took over Nashua High School South Saturday and filled the school with sights and sounds of Scotland for the 14th Scottish Arts Indoor Festival.
Sponsored by Scottish Arts, a Manchester-based hub of Scottish culture, the event featured musicians and dancers from throughout the Northeast, who made the annual trip to Nashua to compete as individual performers or in bands and to share their passion for all things Scottish.
"I think people just like bagpipes," said Dr. Patricia Edwards, a pediatrician from Concord, and a member of the Scottish Arts Board and the New Hampshire Pipes and Drums.
Despite the appreciation of the music and pageantry, Edwards said Scottish games and festivals have been hurting for the past few years.
"A lot of events have been canceled due to the economy and a lack of donations," she said.
Still, there was plenty of participation and support at Saturday's festival.
Edwards, who was busy on Saturday helping individual musicians and arranging lunch for a team of judges, said people find their way to piping and drumming for all different reasons.
Some take up the bagpipes because they grew up with the music as part of their own ethnic heritage. Many of the musicians are police officers and firefighters who play with bands organized by their departments.
Edwards followed her son, Greg, into the world of Scottish music.
"After 9/11, he was a young kid, 9 or 10 years old, and he was watching all the pipers pipe for the first responders," recalled Edwards. "He said, 'I want to pipe for the heroes.'"
Edwards said that's one of many stories of why people participate in the Nashua festival and other similar events throughout New England.
"It's all inclusive," she said. "It's a matter of enthusiasm for the culture. You don't have to have the genetics."
Brannagh O'Donnell, 14, does have the genetics, and the drive. O'Donnell made the trip from Westport, Mass., to play as a solo piper for judges determining the ability of pipers according to grades 1-5.
O'Donnell, a grade 3 piper, who was waiting for her turn in front of a judge, said she has been playing for three years.
"My grandfather used to pipe down the sun," she said. "He taught me how to pipe."
Kelly Faulkner, a member of New Hampshire Pipes and Drums, said she played saxophone in her high school band in New Jersey, but stopped after graduation. Piping offered a new chance to perform individually and be part of a unique band.
"It's a whole culture," she said.
Windham resident Peter Bruyn said southern New Hampshire is home to a lot of individuals and families that celebrate Scottish culture in different ways.
"It's a close-knit group, and it's competitive," said Bruyn, who is a fan of the annual Highland Games at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, where contestants compete in traditional feats of power such as hurling tree trunks and carrying boulders.
But according to Edwards, the pipers are no less hardy than the Highland athletes. During the last two local parades, including St. Patrick's Day, New Hampshire Pipes and Drums marched despite the wintery weather.
"It was drizzling and cold and all the school bands canceled," said Edwards. "But we were there."