Heron Valley Brings Scotland to Calais

The five-piece group from Scotland, Heron Valley, filled nearly every seat in the cafeteria on Saturday night. The group played music that was a blend of traditional sounding Scottish music with a bit of a modern twist. From the pipes to the vocals, it was a mixture of upbeat and lively to haunting music. Pictured (l-r) Euan McNab, Abigail Pryde, Callum Cronin, Nick Hamilton, and Arlene Mackechnie. (Photo by Kaileigh Deacon)

By Kaileigh Deacon


What the Celtic Concert Series labeled the biggest concert of the summer was held on Saturday night in the Calais High School Cafeteria. The group Heron Valley certainly did pack the cafeteria full on Saturday.

Heron Valley is a group of five musicians all from the West Coast of Scotland who have been traveling in the United States since early July and will continue through July 31. The five musicians have all known each other for most of their lives, growing up in the same part of Scotland. As children in Scotland they were exposed to music all the time, and it was as much a part of their schooling as anything else. 

The group officially formed in 2011 and has been playing spots all over Scotland at festivals and other gatherings, sharing the stage with many other great groups from Scotland and Ireland. With a blend of pipes, drums, fiddle, guitar and piano, Heron Valley plays a blend of music that will make you think of the traditional Scottish folk music, but they also have a more modern sounding lilt to some songs that bring traditional instruments into the modern age. 

“There’s so many chances to play musically as a group, especially in Glasgow and stuff, but when we play together as a group it’s just a completely different feeling. We’ve been playing together so long that we can just bounce off each other, you don’t get that when you’re just thrown together. It’s a completely different feeling,” Nick Hamilton said. 

Heron Valley is a multi-talented group with many of the members playing a variety of instruments as well as providing enchanting vocals. In addition to their talent on the stage, the group has also written many of the pieces they play including a beautiful haunting tune called “Home”. According to Abigail Pryde, a lot of what they write about is what they know, the Scottish landscape. 

In Scotland, when Heron Valley performs, it is often at a festival or a similar event where they are just one of many groups performing. “A lot of places back home don’t do sit-down concerts for bands our size. People go to a festival not usually in particular to see us, whereas here people have come to see us specifically. That’s been a bit weird to get our head around,” Abigail Pryde said. 

The group is continuing their month-long tour of the US before going back to Scotland at the end of the month. They will only be back home for a short time before heading back to the States in September through October where they will be mostly on the west coast of the United States as well as a few midwest states. 

The concert Saturday evening was a wonderful experience of energy and talent which kept the crowd engaged with clapping and even some singing. There was a captivating energy in the cafeteria on Saturday night that easily transported the audience to Scotland, even if only for a few hours. 

Prior to walking into the concert the attendees were welcomed by local piper Dana Planetta from St. Stephen who was in full piper uniform. Planetta is the piper who helps welcome in the Hands Across the Border Ceremony that starts the International Festival. Planetta played a variety of traditional tunes to welcome the crowd and set the tone for the night ahead. 


The next concert for the Calais Celtic Concerts will be Jig Jam who are coming from Ireland to the Calais High School on August 22.