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Brooklyn musician touts ‘traditional’ Celtic music

Brooklyn musician Christopher Layer will perform in “The Pipes of Christmas” show on Dec. 20 at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side. Courtesy Warren Westura for the Clan Currie Society Brooklyn musician Christopher Layer will perform in “The Pipes of Christmas” show on Dec. 20 at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side. 

He’s the piper among us.

Christopher Layer plays rock legend Sting’s songs on Broadway, leads the city’s oldest traditional Irish music session at an East Village pub and generally acts as an unofficial ambassador for Celtic tunes wherever he can.

Right now, the Ditmas Park resident is gearing up for an annual performance in “The Pipes of Christmas,” a classical concert series staged in an Upper East Side church.

“It’s kind of the nexus of all Celtic holiday programs,” Layer, 50, said of the show.

Originally from a tiny town in southern Indiana, he followed his musical interests 20 years ago to the West Village, where he established himself as one of the best in the country on the Uilleann Pipes, or Irish bagpipes.

He moved to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, two years ago, hoping to rediscover some of the diversity and neighborhood character that once attracted him to Manhattan.

“A lot of what I like about Brooklyn I liked about the West Village 15 years ago,” he said.

Layer traveled the world during 16 years with the Trinity Irish Dance Company but now spends most of his time performing in and around the city.

He’s playing eight times a week on Broadway for Sting’s musical, “The Last Ship,” a show that drew mixed reviews but has impressed critics with its musical chops.

“The Pipes of Christmas,” set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 20 at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, feels like a family reunion for the musicians, he said.

Many of the veteran performers return year after year, and they usually meet for a private dinner after the concerts.

The show is a sweeping display of traditional music, from Layer’s Scottish dance band to a soloist accompanied by a harp.

He believes there’s a resurgence of traditional music across the city.

There’s always been good interest in the traditional city enclaves of Irish occupancy such as Sunnyside, Queens, but he says bar owners seem to be scheduling more and more “trad sessions” for the under-30 set throughout the five boroughs.

That’s good news for Layer, who’s filmed YouTube tutorials on the Uilleann Pipes in hopes of encouraging composers to write more songs.

“There’s no question there’s a young, thundering herd of traditional musicians,” he said.

dmmurphy”@nydailynews.com


Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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