2023: Celtica sing(s)!
In February, we were unexpectedly invited to submit a 90-second live video for America’s Got Talent, the world’s largest talent show. Even though we don’t really fit into such a format, we worked out a “Best of Celtic in 90 seconds” performance until we were able to film it flawlessly and convincingly without editing. A great exercise, a cool video, but in the end we were – surprise! – not invited to the show.
Almost 2 years after the legendary Merkenstein show, there were also two small reunions: In spring with the great fire artists of Daidalos, in July with the dancers of Irish Fire. It was great to reminisce with other artists about the truly unique show.
Since we are all primarily instrumental musicians, but still like to sing, we decided – also to meet the occasional audience requests regarding vocals – to try to sing together at gigs ourselves. After our chorus with “international lyrics”: who-oo, na na was sung along enthusiastically by the audience at Megawatt, we also ventured into a serious piece:Ddue to the singing during the introduction Amazing Grace became a new challenge, but also a highlight for us at the concerts. The video we made for this version was released in December. The reactions were mostly enthusiastic, but there were also very critical voices about the dedication to “Mother Earth”, the singing and our message regarding the climate crisis.
At the end of the year, we had on Youtube around 50,000 subscribers, over 17.3 million views and more than 770,000 hours of playtime. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
But how did it start…?
2009 Start at the Grand Canyon
Celtica –Pipes Rock is founded in December 2009 by the Austrian guitarist, composer and producer Gajus Stappen who gathers several European and US-American musicians in Phoenix, AZ, to record their first CD “Rising” and to shoot their first video at Grand Canyon and Monument Valley for the song “Atholl Highlanders”. On bagpipes: John McLean Allan and Gwendolen Rowe. Bass player Harald Weinkum stays as founding band member till presence. Thomas Rettl, kilt maker and fashion designer, supports the band from the very beginning with for the band designed kilts and accessories. The combination of the traditional sound of Scottish bagpipes with the power of a Rock Band promises to become a recipe for international success.
During the summer touring season Celtica plays most of Europe’s major Celtic and/or Scottish themed festivals, as well as many local Music and Art Festivals, taking them to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia, and Austria, just to name a few. Their first CD “Rising” becomes a “Celtic” favorite on European radio stations and a hot seller on Internet Music outlets.
2011 Touring Europe
The season extends Celtica’s touring territory in Europe and even bigger festivals, while they start working on their second CD “Oceans of Fire”. Duncan Knight becomes the male bagpiper of Celtica. Trying to extend their popularity “across the pond”, they start gaining notoriety with several US- and Canadian promoters, leading to the planning of their first North American Tour for fall of 2012. The co-operation with AKG, a world famous company for audio technical equipment, starts.
2012 “Oceans of Fire”: USA
Energized by their second CD release “Oceans of Fire”, which contains also original tunes, they are booked solid on the European festival circuit from May to October, only to be joyfully interrupted by the 1st Canada- and USA-tour including prestigious Celtic Festivals like Canmore and their 100th performance at Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Sally Garen, promoter of the Canmore Highland Games, Canmore/ CAN: “Celtica has a very professional show, crowd-interactive, with high-caliber studied musicians. Really enjoyed your music and meeting you all. What a lovely group of people!”
2013 From New Mexico to Alaska
This year brings lots of touring in the USA playing shows from New Mexico to Alaska, from Newport, RI, to San Francisco, so Celtica invests in a complete 2nd backline, a van and trailer for the US. In Europe shows are played from Netherlands to Italy, from Northern Germany to Southern Spain. Jane Espie, the “Phantom Piper”, follows Gwendolen as the female piper of Celtica, drummer Matthias Katzmair becomes a regular band member. At Schotten Radio, one of the biggest Celtic radio stations, “Cape Horn” gets more than 250,000 requests and Celtica gains the pretty rare, prestigious “MacDudel Award” (within 14 years only 7 bands received this award). Their version of “What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor” stays among the Top 20 of Schotten Radio`s most requested songs for nearly 2 years. 2013 ends with a short Scotland-tour and more than 5000 followers on Facebook.
Hartford, CT/USA-based promoter Gail McClellan calls Celtica “THE new band on the international Celtic music scene”, and she goes on to say, “I really loved the Celtica CD; their music is very appealing, they have exciting stage presence, not to mention the fire show which people love.”
2014 “Legends and Visions”
The year starts with the 4th US-tour including a video shoot for “Whiskey in the Jar” in New York City. In spring the 3rd album “Legends and Visions” is released. Besides 4 tunes all other are original compositions. The 3 Celtica CDs became all #1 of the CD Baby charts and in 2014 all 3 albums are at the same time among the top 5 selling albums. In August contracts are signed with Magnetic Music as the booking-agency for Germany, Swiss and Luxembourg and Membran Media Group for worldwide distribution of the Celtica albums. In fall Celtica is touring again for 2 months in the USA, performing the 200th show. The official videos on YouTube have more than 1,000.000 views; Over 10,000 followers on Facebook.
Rick Field, promoter of the Hagen Celtic Festival said, “You were the hammer, the whole town is talking about you…!”
2015 Wacken Open Air
The classical violin player Aya Georgieva joins the band to make the sound more symphonic. The 2nd video shooting in New York City: “Avalon” in Manhattan. Celtica plays their 1st Germany club tour as headliner. Sven Hilberth gets hired as the band ‘s first full-time sound engineer. In August Celtica is invited to perform at a top slot at the world´s biggest Metal festival, the Wacken Open Air in Germany: Saturday 9-10pm, and the band presents a kick-ass show. Two videos catch the electrifying performance in front of thousands of head banging “metal-heads”. Another highlight is the performance at the European Harley Davidson Week, one of the biggest biker festivals in the world. Suzanne Lee-Barnes, London based promoter, is extremely enthusiastic about the hot show: “One of the 10 best performances I have seen ever in my whole life!” In fall Celtica performs again in the US, including their 1st time on Hawaii. The band uses the chance to be on an island, which is famous as a shooting location for Hollywood blockbusters, to film a spectacular video: “Visitors”.
The 7th year on tour brings a complete re-launch. The 4th album “Steamphonia” is released and delivers a significant change in sound and musical style: Influenced by bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation, symphonic and Metal elements make the sound more epic and powerful and introduce Celtica to an audience outside of the Celtic and Folk orientated circles all over the world. The band-styling follows the music and shows influences from Gothic, Steampunk and Metal styles. Stage design and website look also reflect the new sound. Christof Seidl, one of Austria´s top live sound engineers, gets signed for the upcoming show. The band tours again the US, including several shows on Hawaii. On YouTube, Celtica has more than 1,400,000 views. The 300th performance is celebrated at Hagen, Germany, on May 28th, and the band counts over 15,000 followers on Facebook.
2017 “Live at Montelago”
After 4 studio albums it was time for Celtica to record and even film a full live performance. To make it one of their best shows ever, a classical orchestra and choir were hired. After months of preparations and rehearsals while constantly touring the day of the show had arrived: On August 4th 2017 at perfect weather conditions Celtica played a brilliant show at Montelago, Italy in front of 8000 fans. The band celebrated with the enthusiastic audience an unforgettable summer night of symphonic Celtic Rock – and every single note got filmed and recorded…In December the concert was released as a double live CD and got enthusiastic reviews. As a first sample of the upcoming DVD “A Telegram for Monsieur Verne” got released on Youtube presenting Celtica for the first time with a classical orchestra;
Youtube: 2,7 million views, Facebook: 17.000 followers, more than 350 performances…
2018: DVD Live at Montelago
In 2018, the 9th year of touring all over Europe and North America, from Florida to Alaska, after shows and video shootings in New York City and Hawaii, after 5 CD-albums and over 4 million views on YouTube (counting the official videos only), it seemed to be time for the 1st Celtica-live DVD.
On August 4th 2017 Celtica played at Montelago, Italy, a brilliant show in front of 8000 fans. The band celebrated with the enthusiastic audience an unforgettable summer night of symphonic Celtic Rock – and every single note got filmed and recorded…The concert at was released on DVD on Aug. 3rd 2018 and got immediately enthusiastic reviews, e.g. “A top notch audio-visual sensation!” Musikreviews.de; As a 2nd track “Amazing Grace” got released on Youtube;
2018 was again a year of intense touring, in spring and fall bringing Celtica to the US including Hawaii, where a band-skydive-video was filmed, and during summer performing shows in Europe, e.g. Italy, UK, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France; More than 420 performances since 2010; More than 20.000 follower on Facebook, Youtube: 4 million views, counting official videos only, the original tune “Megawatt”, filmed at Old Tucson Studios, Arizona, in March 2017 has more than 700.000 views.
2019: Split from the US-band
In the 10th year on tour signs of fatigue got noticeable, not at the performances, but off stage, tensions became burdens. To avoid a potential band-liquidation band founder Gajus decided in spring to focus on Europe and all destinations world wide, but to continue without touring the US any longer and to leave all performances and the band management in the US to Harald. For fans and promoters there shouldn´t be obvious changes, just a new guitarist in the US and new bass player in Europe, what had already before happened several times without causing a big sensation. A little bit later, Jane announced that she will leave the band at the end of the year for personal reasons, and also Tom intended to quit in fall. Both offered to be available as substitutes for special occasions. Harald created a separate website and Facebook-page for Celtica in the USA and called the band first Celtica US and later Celtica Nova. Performances were played with various US musicians and some old band members, cover versions replaced the original compositions. As the 27.000 facebook-fans were left to the Celtica Nova-page, The original Celtica had to start from the scratch, but at the end of the year they had already more than 1000 followers.
In Europe Lukas Schlintl becomes the new guy behind the drums, and in December 2019 he plays his Celtica-debut at an adventurous gig at Mumbai, India – what a start…!
The year ends with 7,5 million views on Youtube, more than 1.000 facebook-fans, more than 550 performances played…
2020: Celtic Spirits with Ernesto Gongora
Gajus finds the perfect new 2nd bagpiper in Ernesto Gongora, winner of the All Ireland Bagpipe Solo Competitions 2019. The sound of the upcoming album „Celtic Spirits“ should become more Celtic, Irish, and so the classical played violin, as heard for the first time at Steamphonia, gets replaced by Irish Whistle and flute. To feature Ernesto´s virtuosity also on these instruments, the arrangements get changed in that direction – with sensational results. The line up gets optimized to Duncan, Ernesto, Lukas and Gajus, Duncan is now the only musician, who plays with both Celticas.
The new album gets released in May and is immediately a huge success. Fans, promoter and media people love the fresh sound and the new line up – but the dramatic Corona-crisis ends all plans for touring and performing the Celtic Spirits-show: worldwide, and so also in Europe, all summer festivals get cancelled or postponed to 2021…
2021: Covid, Merkenstein-Show and some Performances
In 2021 the pandemic continued to block performances world wide. Celtica used the time to create a spectacular show featuring more than 70 artists! A mighty choir, gast musicians, additional drummers, dancers and a breath taking fire show were the ingredients for the biggest and best Celtica-Show ever, and as a live-stream you could watch it all over the world! Edited and optimised got it released as double CD and DVD. Besides this sensational event, Celtica was able to return on stage for a few shows, all with Corona-safety restrictions. Ernesto presented himself as a perfect musicak bagpipe-partner of Duncan and terrific whistle-player. Speaking French and Spanish fluidly was very helpful. at performances in French and Spain. New videos, especially releases taken from the Merkenstein-Show, bring more fans on Youtube: close to 12 mio. views and over 30.000 follower till end of the year!
2022: Finally concerts and performances possible again!
After the two Corona years, in which there were practically no concerts or even festivals, performances were suddenly possible again in 2022! As recently as spring, everything pointed to a slow opening of events and a laborious, tenacious restart of the music industry. But then, all of a sudden, concerts were really happening! The first performances were unusual after the long break, and the euphoria about the regained freedom was mixed with scepticism about whether the end of the pandemic could be trusted. But by the middle of the summer, everything was back to normal, and Corona was a long way off. We enjoyed finally playing the Celtic Spirits show in front of or with an audience!
At the end of the season, we were able to shoot a very nice video for a serious occasion and to create a contribution to an international video project: Our friends of the Belarusian band Irdorath were still in labor camps at that time: They had been sentenced to 2 years in prison because they had played a critical song at a large demonstration against the dictator! We dedicated our piece Healing Tune to them to show solidarity with the imprisoned musicians. On this occasion, we also filmed a choir for the song “Halt Dich an Deine Liebe fest”, a band project for the benefit of Irdorath.