Let the games begin
One of the treats of the Ligonier Highland Games — aside from the meat pies, shortbread and scones that are the staple of Scottish festivals — is the sound of music created by Celtic instruments such as bagpipes and harps.
Both of the instruments, in addition to solo drumming and Scottish fiddling, will be featured in competitions at the 48th edition of the Highland Games held at Idlewild Park. The Ligonier Highland Games also includes heavy athletics, rugby, children’s games, a Scottish dog exhibit, a Scottish fair with imported goods and foods and a Scottish military reenactment.
Faith Stenning, of Greenfield, says the harps used at the Games are smaller versions of the traditional harp. The instrument has been part of Scottish culture since ancient times, according to the Scottish Harp Society of America, which sanctions the competition.
“The harp has gained popularity in recent years,” says Stenning, a harp teacher and member of Harpgrove, a harpists’ circle, which will host the harp events. “A wealth of material has been written for the instrument. Its repertoire has expanded to include jazz, popular music and show tunes. It has a mystical appeal to a lot of people.”
At the Ligonier games, harp competitions will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday with medals to be awarded in four levels — novice, apprentice, journeyman and master. A Harper of the Day will be chosen to receive the St. Andrews Trophy. A Harpers’ Circle and Workshop will be at 10 a.m. led by internationally known harpist Sue Richards, of Bethesda, Md., a four-time winner of the Scottish Harp Society American Championship. A Scottish musicians’ jam session will begin at 4:30 p.m.
David Peet, executive director of the games, says 28 pipe bands from across the country will compete at the annual celebration. Musical entertainers will include the Homespun Ceilidh Band from the Washington, D.C., area. It’s a nine-piece, Celtic dance band that performs traditional jigs, reels, hornpipes and airs.
“They’re a real fun group,” says Peet, of Bethel Park. “We had them here five or six years ago, and they were so popular, we wanted to bring them back again.”
Another popular feature of the games is the genealogy tent, where people can obtain information about their Scottish heritage and the clan associated with their families.
“It’s a big draw,” says T.J. Galbraith, of Franklin Park, who has been helping people research their ancestry for nearly 30 years. She says she was inspired to look into her own family history after watching the 1977 television miniseries, based on Alex Haley’s novel “Roots.”
She has traveled to the Scottish Genealogy Society in Edinburgh, Scotland; the Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast, Northern Ireland; the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City; and “all of the county courthouses in Pennsylvania” investigating genealogy, she says.
In the genealogy tent, Galbraith and other volunteers will help people begin their search for links to their heritage.
“I give them Web sites to start with,” she says. “Most people like to do the research by themselves. It’s fun. You can be busy the rest of your life.”
Ligonier Highland Games
When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $15; $12 senior citizens; $5 ages 6-12; free for age 5 and younger
Where: Idlewild Park, Route 30 West, Ligonier
Details: 412-851-9900 or www.ligoniergames.org
- Tartan Workshop: Philip Smith, past president of the International Association of Tartan Studies, will offer a daylong workshop about Scottish tartans. Smith, a retired professor of linguistics at West Chester University, is the author of several books on tartans, including ‘Tartan for Me.’ His workshop will focus on the significance of Scottish tartan ‘plaid’ in history. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday at the Wingate Inn, Route 30, Latrobe. Reservations are requested. $5. 412-851-9900.
- Professional piping competition: Free. 6-10 p.m. Friday. Mountain View Inn, Route 30, Greensburg
- Scottish dinner with whiskey tasting: Featuring performance by Homespun Ceilidh Band and Colin Grant-Adams. 7 p.m. Friday. Mountain View Inn. $35. Reservations necessary. 724-834-5300
- Scottish dance party: 8 p.m. Friday. Mountain View Inn, Greensburg. $8. 412-343-3265
- Scottish worship service: 10:45 p.m. Sunday. Covenant Presbyterian Church, Ligonier.
- Pipe band concert: 1 p.m. Sunday. The Diamond, Ligonier