JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --
For the first time in the group’s history, Celtic Aire, the premier Celtic and folk ensemble of The United States Air Force, headed to Alaska for a mission in the final frontier. Over the weekend of June 26 and June 27, 2021, Celtic Aire delighted audiences at the Alaska Scottish Highland Games at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer, Alaska.
Founded by Master Sgt. Julia Cuevas in 2007, Celtic Aire was originally formed to perform at small diplomatic events in Washington D.C. However, demand for the group’s moving and joyful performances quickly grew. Celtic Aire now regularly supports a wide array of missions, including deployments, small and large venue performances for the public, and festivals. Additionally, the group regularly performs concerts in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area and frequently supports official functions for military and civilian leaders, including the president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. Additionally, the group deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, and Kyrgyzstan in support of diplomatic and troop morale initiatives as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009.
Celtic Aire consists of four musicians from the Singing Sergeants, the premier chorus of The United States Air Force Band. For this particular Alaskan mission, core members Master Sgt. Julia Cuevas (traditional Irish instruments and vocals), Senior Master Sgt. Joe Haughton (fretted instruments and vocals), Senior Master Sgt. Emily Wellington (violin and vocals), and Master Sgt. Eric Sullivan (bass vocals, percussion, and mandolin) were joined by Chief Master Sgt. Dennis W. Hoffmann (cajoles and accordion), Master Sgt. Adam Tianello (bagpipes), and audio engineer, Senior Master Sgt. Chad Randolph.
In preparation for their performances at the Alaska Scottish Highland Games, Celtic Aire carefully perfected their expansive repertoire of songs, which includes Celtic folk songs, Irish reels and jigs, pub songs, and even covers of modern pop tunes. To contribute to the festive atmosphere, the group selected their most lively and upbeat tunes. These included favorite Irish and Celtic traditional songs like “Black Velvet Band'', “Danny Boy'', and “Mermaid Song'' as well as popular singalong tunes like “Bog Down in the Valley-O.” Master Sgt. Adam Tianello, who is the U.S. Air Force’s only bagpiper, was also featured.
When asked what she was most looking forward to about the opportunity to perform at such a unique event, founding member Master Sgt. Julia Cuevas replied, “This is such a treat to perform where The United States Air Force Band has never been able to perform before. We want to share the gift of music and honor the local population by performing music for local veterans and a song cover by a local Alaskan folk composer.” As a nod to their Alaskan setting, Celtic Aire included the song “Miner’s Dream” by Alaskan folk composer, Hobo Jim.
All of Celtic Aire’s performances at the Alaskan Scottish Highland Games took place at the Borealis stage at the State Fairgrounds in Palmer, Alaska. Performances took place on Saturday, June 26 Sunday, June 27 Celtic Aire also performed “The Star Spangled Banner'' at the opening ceremonies for the Games.