Author Archives: Sara Heegaard

Songs of Separation: Groundbreaking Female Folk Talent on the Isle of Eigg

On the picturesque Isle of Eigg in the Northwest of Scotland, ten of the UK’s groundbreaking female folk musicians have been exploring the theme of separation through their songs.

The project, titled SONGS OF SEPARATION, brings together the musical talent of celebrated artists Eliza CarthyKarine PolwartMary MacmasterKate YoungHannah JamesHazel AskewRowan RheingansJenn ButterworthHannah Read, and Jenny Hill. Though the 11540917_1662199680666646_7537123944153860386_nmusicians are individually based in cities across the UK and the US, they came together as a group for the first time on the island and began the process over the last week of rehearsing, arranging, and recording an album of traditional songs which explore the theme of separation in its many forms. The result of this collaboration: a political, personal, and powerful musical reflection relevant to our world today.


Hannah Read performing at Bryant Park during New York Tartan Week 2015


Recently, we were delighted to catch up with project member and talented musician Hannah Read, a native of Edinburgh and regular collaborator with the American-Scottish Foundation who spent much of her childhood on the Isle of Eigg. “It’s an amazing place,” said Read, “and it’s also where I really got excited about music when I was little.”

The tiny island famously gained independence from an absent landlord almost twenty years ago, making it a particularly relevant location to reflect on the ideas of independence, separation, and collaboration.



For Read, who is now based in New York City, the project has not only been a chance to return to her roots, but also a rare opportunity to work with fellow artists she has looked up to all her life. “It’s such an honor to be playing and working alongside all these brilliant musicians,” she said. “These are women who I’ve looked up to my entire life – it’s a real treat to be able to work alongside them.”

Though the project draws both inspiration and structure from its theme, Read emphasized the importance of the organic process. “Collaboration is the center of the whole thing,” she said. “I love the idea of all these women being in the same room, coming in with our own ideas but letting things breathe and seeing what works in the setting, and I know a lot of the other women agree with that as well. I think the energy between us will generate so many more ideas. We’ll all be learning by ear – we’ll all be teaching each other by ear.”

Read also commented on the theme’s ability to span across eras and places: “The Highland Clearances come up in a lot of traditional songs, as well as emigration – and with the connection of separation to the referendum, this collaboration is a really exciting and relevant way to explore ideas of place, belonging, and relationships.”

“I’ve been away from Scotland for so long, and in that way I’ve had my own experience of separation,” said Read. “I’m so excited to get back into the traditional music scene in Scotland and work with these amazing women. It’s a real honor.”

1524837_1662199573999990_4795420930961698356_nThe results of the project will be a variety of recordings and traditional songs on the theme of separation, including two newly composed songs, a residential rehearsal and recording week on the Isle of Eigg, and two field recordings at the sites of the ‘Big Women of Eigg’ legend. In addition, there will also be a short documentary film, to be available for free online, as well as daily film posts during the residential week, available now on the Songs of Separation Facebook pageThe expected release date of the album is September 18, 2015.

For a preview of the group’s incredible work, watch them sing the the Unst Boat Song from Cathedral Cave on the Isle of Eigg:

For quick access to tracks and images, please contact: more information about the project, please visit the Songs of Separation homepage at


“Scotland Meets Appalachia”, Thursday, July 2nd, 2015, 8PM

The New York Caledonian Club presents Gillebride MacMillan and Kyle Carey in concert at the Theater of Saint Jean, 184 East 76th St. Manhattan.  Purchase advance tickets, $32.50, at website or call 212-662-1083; or pay $35 at the door. AD14gill.jpg

Gillebride MacMillan is one of the most sought-after Scottish Gaelic singers, a native Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides.  He also stars as Gwyllyn the Bardin the Sony Starz’ TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

Kyle Carey HiRez


Kyle Carey’s music includes ingredients from the American Folk Anthology, the Appalachian poetry of Louise McNeil, the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton.

NYC July 2015 - Poster to send



200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo

This week will see the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, one of the turning points in European history. From June 18th to 21st, reenactments and commemoration ceremonies will take place with heads of state, members of royal families, military regiments, and more.

As Sir Malcolm MacGregor of the Clan MacGregor, Convener of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, noted as he prepared to depart for Belgium, “Hundreds of clansmen from the Outer Hebrides to the borders fought at Waterloo. There are many epic tales involving the Guards, the Royal Scots Greys, and the Highland and Lowland Brigades.”

War artists, such as Lady Butler, also came to prominence. Her painting of the charge of the Scottish Greys entitled ‘Scotland Forever’ (pictured below) is perhaps one of the most well known.

For insight into events taking place and historic details of the Battle of Waterloo, visit



In My Father’s Words at 59E59 Theaters: Exclusive Opportunity for ASF Members

Join us at 59E59 Theaters and see IN MY FATHER’S WORDS, presented by Dundee Rep, the powerful performance about language and identity hailed as “both intimate and epic in its reach for roots and reconciliation” by the Herald Scotland.


“In an old wooden house by the shore of Lake Ontario in Canada, Louis battles with his elderly father, Don, whose decline into dementia is gradually robbing him of the ability to speak.

Into their lives comes Flora, the caregiver that Louis employs to look after Don. Flora, who is of Scottish heritage, understands that the ‘nonsense’ that Don speaks is fragmented Gaelic, opening up an ocean of revelations and buried family history spanning the Atlantic.”

“Philip Howard’s strongly acted production bridges the gulf between the domestic and the mythological” –The Scotsman

“Rich and thoughtful… Powerful and fascinating” –The Guardian, London

ASF members and friends may receive an exclusive price of $25 on up to six tickets for any performance of the play if they book before Friday, June 12. To book, visit the performance’s website here and enter the discount code INMYASFSmallImageWideMar2015IMFWNew

For more information, please visit the 59E59th Theaters website here. We hope to see you there!   tartan_thin

Summer Highland Games Across the United States!

Highland Games season is upon us, and this summer brings a wealth of celebrations across the country. From Milwaukee to Monterey, Chicago to Colorado, join in the festivities and celebrate in true Scottish style around the United States!


May 2015

May 23-24: Alma Highland Festival and Games –

June 2015


Newport Celtic Festival & Highland Games

June 6: Milwaukee Highland Games –

June 6: The Allegany County Celtic Festival –

June 12-14: Newport Celtic Festival and Highland Games –

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

June 13-14: Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games –

June 19-20: Chicago Scots –

June 27: Ohio Scottish Games –

July 2015

July 9-12: Grandfather Mountain Highland Games –

July 25-26: Seattle Scottish Highland Games –

August 2015

July 31-August 2: Colorado Scottish Festival –

August 1: 166th Annual Highland Games in Livonia, MI –


The Highland Games presented by the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit

August 1-2: Monterey Scottish Games –

August 15: Maine Highland Games –

August 22: Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games –

August 29: Green Hill Highland Games –

Both the American Scottish Foundation and the Association of Scottish Games and Festivals are members of the Scottish Coalition USA, a collective of six national organizations who seek through collaboration to strengthen the Scottish American Diaspora.

For the most up-to-date news regarding the Highland Games, please visit the Association of Scottish Games & Festivals‘s website and Events Calendar here.


New Chicago-Keflavik Service from Icelandair Coming in 2016

Opening up new opportunities for travel between the US, Iceland, and several destinations in Europe – including Scotland – Icelandair recently announced a new year-round service from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Keflavik International Airport. 

Flights will begin March 16, 2016 with four weekly round-trips to Iceland on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with connections to more than twenty destinations across Europe.

Image via Guide to Iceland

Image via Guide to Iceland

“We are excited to return to Chicago as a bigger, better airline that can best serve the dynamic market of this world-class city and its nearly 10 million inhabitants. Chicagoans will now have a refreshing alternative when traveling to Iceland and beyond, and Icelanders and Europeans will have direct access to the vibrant and historic city of Chicago. This is an exciting and significant moment for Icelandair and we look forward to welcoming Chicago aboard,” said Birkir Holm Gudnason, CEO of Icelandair.

Image via

Image via

Icelandair offers service to Iceland from Boston, Chicago-ORD, Denver, Edmonton, Newark, New York-JFK, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.; and seasonal service from Anchorage, Halifax, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando, Portland, OR and Vancouver.


Image via Iceland Magazine

Image via Iceland Magazine

Connections through Icelandair’s hub at Keflavik International Airport are available to more than 20 destinations in Scandinavia, the U.K. and Continental Europe.

For additional information about Icelandair’s fares to Iceland & beyond please visit them at or by calling (877) I-FLY-ICE.


Causes to Support: Royal Gurkha Welfare Trust UK


The American-Scottish Foundation asks our Members and Friends to consider a donation to the Gurkha Welfare Trust UK.

The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) is a rifle regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Unlike other regiments in the British Army, soldiers are recruited from Nepal, which is neither a dependent territory of the United Kingdom nor a member of the Commonwealth.

This year, the Royal Gurkha Rifles celebrate their 200th anniversary of distinguished service to the British Crown.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust is the main beneficiary of Gurkha 200. It will be organising a number of special events. These will include a Beating Retreat, Cocktail Party and special Dinner, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, in association with the Brigade of Gurkhas in June 2015 to mark the occasion.

Sadly, Gurkha pride in this remarkable milestone is offset by deep concern following the disaster in their homeland of Nepal.

In August, many will see the 1st & 2nd Battalion of The Royal Gurkha Rifles Pipes & Drums as they perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

For US donations you can support by donating via the following link and selecting The Gurkha Welfare Trust from the menu:

For UK donations and to learn more visit their website at

We keep them in our thoughts and hope we can assist them at this difficult time.




May is Whisky Month – Celebrate With These Exciting NYC Events!

May is Whisky Month, and we’re thrilled to see the variety of events taking place in the upcoming weeks to celebrate! Take a look at the calendar of whisky-related events below and start planning your festivities! 
                         Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 4.49.22 PM       Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 4.49.28 PM

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

  • Balcones at Rôtisserie Georgette, 5:30 pm | $50

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015: WORLD WHISKY DAY
Monday, May 18, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Saturday, May 30, 2015
  • Whiskey 101 at The Flatiron Room, 7:00 pm | Tickets $85


Brandy Library


Ward III


The Flatiron Room



New York Tattoo: Friday, May 22nd and Saturday, May 23rd

ASF Members and Friends have been extended special pricing for the New York Tattoo presented by Pipefest on May 22nd and 23rd at the historic 69th Street Armory.

The New York Tattoo is “a spectacularly fast-paced show – bringing together the best military music and Celtic traditions.” 

The 2015 cast includes the talent of Lesley Craigie, Alan Brydon, The Vatersay Boys, Celtic Heritage, Flight & Things, Shot of Scotch, Celtic Cross, Rachel McLagen, Mise Eire Irish Dancers, Saffron United Pipe Band, Drum Major Charles Chuck Kaba, NYPD Brass Band, and more.

The New York Tattoo welcomes all members of the American-Scottish Foundation, with a special 10% discount rate for members, families and friends on the Friday or Saturday. 

This discount is only available until May 15, so be sure to take advantage while you can! 

To book, please visit their homepage here.



Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop Visits the Grange with Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School

Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange, at St Nicholas Park, received a visit from Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop during her visit to New York for Scotland Week 2015.  

The Grange reopened to the public in 2012 after extensive restoration by the National Parks Service and the ASF is proud to be working with National Parks and the New York Parks Department on the Scottish heritage of the gardens and links to Scotland.  The Grange was built by John McComb, and his work has been spotlighted within the ASF project “The Scots Who Built New York”.

The Grange is named after Alexander Hamilton’s ancestral home in Scotland. The plantings in the gardens follow many of the original elements layed out by Hamilton in his diaries.

During the visit, Secretary Hyslop met with the pupils of Stephen T. Mather High School, and joined them in the planting of shrubs in the Hamilton Gardens.

Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School, located in New York City, is a Career and Technical Education high school for hands-on skills-training in the specialized building arts and landscape trades, focused on high-quality craftsmanship and historic preservation.  Students work directly in the trades of carpentry, masonry/plastering, decorative finishes and landscape management. To learn more about the school and their community, visit their website here.

The Mather School is partnering with the National Park Service on various projects including the First Bloom Garden project and The Grange is one of the National Park sites they will be involved in.

To learn more of the restoration and of the work of John McComb, visit the ASF website here.


Secretary Hyslop and ASF Chairman Alan Bain with students of the Mather High School

Mather Logo