At the Fox with The Chieftains

Atholl Highlanders USA with at Fox Theatre with The ChieftainsPerforming on a world-class stage with world-class musicians in front of a large appreciative audience is something we’ll never forget.

In February of 2009, The Chieftains contacted us about whether a unit of 10 musicians from our band could accompany them on stage for their concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Of course we said yes!

HOW Long?!

The concert was less than three weeks out, and we needed to learn two new pieces of music as a band. One piece, The March to the Battle of San Patricios, is a spritely march with a hummable melody that sticks in your head. The second, a Breton pipe tune titled An Dro, is performed by The Chieftains at warp speed.

But we were up to the challenge! We scheduled Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday practices for two weeks.

Our call time for the performance was two hours prior to show time. We were immediately escorted to the stage for a quick rehearsal with The Chieftains. Someone directed our blocking (positioning) and we walked through our stage entrance and exit. Then we played only a portion of each tune one time with The Chieftains.

Waiting in the Wings

Following this extremely brief rehearsal, a representative led us to a rehearsal room many stories above stage level on the Ponce de Leon side of the theatre where we could tune and play in complete isolation.

At the appropriate time, a Fox representative came back to lead us down to back stage for our entrance. We marched single file onto the stage, taking our positions and receiving applause just for showing up! The Chieftains began An Dro, with the band coming in on the second verse. Celtic dancers encircled all of the musicians danced back and forth across the stage. The band dropped out for a verse as a vocalist joined in, and we came back in for many more verses as the vocalist dropped out and the dancers returned. The number was almost seven-minutes in length.

Forgotten!

Our second number, the march, was scheduled toward the end of the show, and a Fox representative was to return to lead us down at the proper time. She never showed. Fortunately we had a sound-only monitor in our rehearsal room, and one of our members, having seen the Chieftains’ show before, recognized that our tune was next. The drummers hurriedly crammed into a tight elevator and a thundering herd of pipers rushed down many flights of stairs and straight onto the stage just as Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains finished the tune’s introduction. As you’ll see in the video, our hasty entrance looked planned!

The pipers and drummers continued playing as we marched off the stage on the last verse of the march. The tune ended just as our last piper left the stage, and from the wings the applause was thunderous.

We thoroughly enjoyed our moment on the stage with the world’s foremost Irish and Celtic band!

—Wayne Coleman

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