We are here today with an eclectic group of people who make up an amazing musical group called Celtic Rain. They are an original Celtic Spiritual Fusion Folk band made up of Guitar, Original instruments, Celtic Drum and Tom Drum, and Bagpipes. This ensemble makes beautiful music and changes lives. They take traditional Celtic, original Celtic and Spiritual tunes and mix them with a twist of jazz, classical, industrial and acoustic sounds and style – and I can’t wait to hear from them. I want to know so much more about them, who they are, what drives them, what influences them and makes them tick. Here for the interview is Celtic Rain, aka: Rev. Rebekah Lawson, Samuel Lawson and Jeff Kestin.
Q: So, Celtic Rain. Where did that name come from?
Rev. Rebekah: Well we are all Celtic, even if it is in our hearts, and so that had to be a part of who we are and what we are called… and then rain can be a sprinkle or it can drench you from head to toe. It really is up to how long you stay in the rain. I hope that our music not only touches the skin of who people are, but changes the hearts of those to encounter our music and changes their lives for the better. A great part of who we are is Celtic Spirituality and that starts with sitting in the rain of who we once were and looking towards the future.
Q: That is an amazing way to look at life. How does this outlook benefit you in your music?
Samuel: It allows us to create original pieces and have them play off of the stories and fables of many Celtic traditions that touch the heart in a Spiritual way. And this happens while throwing in a twist of Spanish Celtic Jazz guitar, lyrical vocals, and beautiful harmonies, not only with the voice but with instruments including bagpipes.
Q: Harmonizing with bagpipes must be hard.
Jeff: Oh, there is nothing like harmonizing with bagpipes. That is why we use two different kinds of pipes. We use the Great Highland Pipes for walking around and letting people feel the power of the music of the highlands, and we use the small pipes or parlor pipes to blend with the songs that we write which touch the heart of what was, what is, and what is to come. Meaning our original music and rearranged music.
Samuel: For me I have to capo and tune my guitar in process to be able to match the key of the Highland pipes, but for the parlor pipes they tend to be in D or A major so we can work around that in a much nice way.
Rev. Rebekah: For me my drums are in a key that works with both and my voice, and they change on demand. Most of the time when we are writing we use the pipes as another voice and it tends to be a polyphonic addition to the song, giving it a layered ‘more deep’ feel and sound that pulls the listener and us in as it consumes and drenches with our understanding of Celtic Rain.
Q: So what instruments and parts in the band do you all play?
Jeff: I often say a lot that I am not a musician but just an engineer that gets to play music with this band. Rebekah would say I am a musician that has played my instrument for over 20 years, and being an engineer just adds to my musicianship. I play the pipes, highland and parlor. I stand to play the Highland pipes and sit to play the parlor pipes. And I help sometimes in the shouty bits. I also help call us into a concert, hype up the crowd with the highland pipes, and work as a family as we pull the audience into feeling the fun of what Celtic Music is about, feeling music in your soul. I am also trying my hand at writing pipe music. When I make the attempt, I feel a connection with a centuries-old tradition. In the words of Neil Munro, a piper may “have parley with Old Folks of Old Affairs”.
Rev. Rebekah: Jeff is so much more than just an engineer. He is our brother and musical family. He is a part of our heart. None of us could be what we are right now without each other. We all make each other better. For me, I have many hats in this musical family. I play the Celtic drum, while playing a tom drum, while singing lead and harmonies, and working with this great group. I look a little like a one-man band. I took a luggage strap and put it on my Celtic drum so I could have another hand free to play the tom drum. I love it. It gives a range of bass, baritone, and treble in the drums that does not always happen. Then on top of that I help write music, put the song orders together, keep practices on tasks, and help book our events. I also do the social media and advertising for the band. Everyone helps in booking in their own ways and then we all come together and finalize it all.
Samuel: For me I play several kinds of guitars that use effect peddles and loopers that change and thicken the sound. I sing lead and harmonies, and I play an original midi instrument that we call the Steppen-Pressen-Organ-Schleppen. I took my mom’s old practice organ peddles and created a midi instrument that I play with my foot like a piano that is hooked up to my computer. I can change the sounds that come from the peddles and let them give a fullness to the music that strings or a chorus would give. In essence I have given myself changeable drones that I play with my feet.
Q: What do you like most about playing music?
Samuel: I love the feeling of being in another universe when I’m really into a song, and then the last note holds at the end and it’s like coming back through a rip in space. To me that is the world I would love to live in all the time.
Rev. Rebekah: For me I love being in a space where my heart can be free to be completely me. There is nothing in the world better than opening your mouth and singing a note that rings while all the instruments are holding you and you are just flying in sound. It transforms a space into whatever you decided to make it. There is nothing else in the world that can change life like music can. It washes over you and can move you to love and live, and when you are a part of the creation of this transformation it is such a powerful feeling.
Jeff: Music has created opportunities for me to meet people, make connections, and have experiences that would not have otherwise been possible for me. I have been privileged to make life-long friends that I never would have met in my career or through my other hobbies. It is fair to say that music has woven a myriad of brilliant colors into the tapestry of my life.
There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to recounting the indelible memories that I have collected because I am a piper. Rebekah is right when she says that Celtic Rain is family to me; I would never have met them if I hadn’t been escorting the Scottish Society in the Indianapolis Saint Patrick’s Day parade for 15 consecutive years.
I have met musical idols of mine face to face, such as when my pipe band performed with the Chieftains, of whom I have been a devout fan for over 20 years.
I have been privileged to know many beautiful souls by sharing in the intimacy of weddings and funerals all over the world. I will never tire of seeing the joy of a new bride’s face when I am about to escort her down the aisle to the skirl of the pipes, especially given that I am typically the first person to lay eyes on her other than her bridesmaids. That joyful vision is always magical.
And how could I even begin to describe what it was like to stand with my beloved Fountain Trust Pipe Band family amongst 6,000 other pipers and drummers as we competed at Glasgow Green, Scotland in the World Pipe Band Championships? The sound of it all will echo in my mind for the rest of my life.
Q: What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever released and why do you feel that way?
Samuel: I think I’m most proud of the song, Celtic Rain. Musically, it kind of runs all over the place and feels otherworldly, while the actual story in the song is about a huntress chasing a deer all over the countryside and ending up in another world.
Rev. Rebekah: I love that one as well and love singing that song, but for me my newest is the one I am so proud of. It is called Giants. My mother-in-law died in 2019, my grandmother on my mom’s side died about 5 years ago, and my grandmother on my dad’s side died this past summer in 2020. When she died, I started thinking of the women in my life that showed me how to be a giant in my own life. I then started to think of the legacy all of them not only left me, but the woman of the past have left us all. In that moment I started understanding and hearing those voices calling me to be a giant in my life. Yes we will fall down, but like them, if we chose to hear their call and answer, we will get back up and become giants that call the next generation to do the same. Our legacy is living large so that we can change this world for the better.
Jeff: Closest to my heart is the tune that Samuel and I wrote together in honor of, and while simultaneously toasting the memory of, a dear friend we lost all too soon. It is titled Salute to David Allen.
I am a woodworker in my spare time, so I prepared a hand-carved frame in which we presented a copy of the music to Dave’s widow, whom we love dearly, at his memorial. In retrospect, it is a measure of the extent to which we mourned Dave’s loss, and to which we toasted his memory on the fateful night we composed the tune, that we eventually had to replace the framed music with a corrected copy that Samuel signed when sufficiently sober to get his own name spelled correctly.
I hope one day that David, Samuel, and I will have a laugh about that particular goof when we raise a glass together on the Other Side.
Q: I would love to know your creative process when you write new music.
Rev. Rebekah: For me I have several ways. I used to always write words and melody together and I could pump out songs very quickly. But I wanted to deepen my writing skills, so I started taking scripture and rewriting them into lyrics. Now Sometimes the lyrics come with the melody, but sometimes the lyrics come first and then I listen to the words to hear the melody. Form there I bring it to the guys and we work out their parts in the process. I then leave and let them work that out as I cook or clean or do whatever I want. I learned a long time ago that sitting and waiting for them to create was mind-numbing so I leave – and when I come back we have something to work with. Then we work together to make the song art.
Samuel: I like to start with a sound or a rhythm. I’ll get an idea for a lick and get into it, then if I get an impression from it that it makes me feel something, I write about that. Sometimes there are no words, so I just write music until it feels like I’ve found a form for it. Then move the parts around until it feels like a finished work. If I’m writing with someone else (like Rebekah or Jeff), it usually works best if I’ve already done a good portion or a finished musical idea before taking it to them and then molding it to work with the group.
Jeff: Well, I think Samuel would testify that beer helps…
Kidding aside, I am fortunate to be able to draw inspiration from many sources. Pipers whose talent dwarf my own have preceded me for centuries, and I can look to an incredible body of work for understanding.
Closer to home, collaboration with Samuel and Rebekah is always a seething cauldron of ideas. Once we wend our way through the customary zaniness (which is largely Samuel’s and my fault, and Rebekah suffers with saintly patience), the result is usually something melodious and entirely unexpected. My association with Rebekah and Samuel has opened my eyes to possibilities outside the realm of bagpipe music.
I draw further musical insight from the historical foundation for Scottish pipe music. If you examine the saga of the Scottish Highlands, you can see that it is the milestones of workaday life that provided occasion for new music: salutes, dances, weddings and gatherings, protests and rants, farewells and leave-taking, battles and victories, births and deaths. Both classical and modern pipe tunes have sprung forth from the occasions that marked the highs and lows of life, and I try to draw on my own experiences in that same way.
Q: What accomplishments do you see yourself achieving in the next five or ten years?
Samuel: I’m trying to develop my jazz skills right now, but it’s more likely I’ll use that as part of my songwriting than aspiring to only play jazz. I also am helping create a new business in renewable energy in Great Britain with wind power. I can see that taking a place in my life that helps me have the money to make more music.
Rev. Rebekah: For me I want to write more music and establish not only my music and ministry globally but also establish the Celtic Rain Radio Show that goes live on Tuesday nights at 9pm on https://www.youtube.com/c/celticrain.
Also, starting my other YouTube blog called Healing Our Land where I talk to community leaders and people doing things in this world to heal it so that the world can see and support those who are doing something to change this world for the better. For me that means finishing my transfer of ordination, and focusing on making the connections while making sure I have the time to sit and be inspired to write music for my life. All this comes with organization and pushing forward in my life. Everything is about priorities.
Jeff: I will likely retire from my position as the COO of engineering company, and I will have more time to devote to my many hobbies and interests. Frankly, if I live to be 150 years old, I still will not be able to pursue even a fraction of everything that fascinates me, and life will never be exhausted of interest.
Those pursuits will no doubt continue to include travel, piping, and musical collaboration. So, unfortunately for Samuel and Rebekah, relocation across the pond will probably still not be sufficient distance to get shed of me.
Q: So where can folks find you and your music?
Rev. Rebekah: We are all over the place. There’s www.celticrainmusic.com where you can find our calendar and where we are performing next. We are always at BrewDog in Indianapolis at 7pm on the 3rd Saturday of the month and at Primeval on the 4th Saturday of the month. We also play for private events and weddings.
On Facebook we’re at www.facebook.com/celticrainnow. You can watch videos of the bands and the Celtic Rain Radio Show on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/celticrain. Just go to playlists and you can find everything. To download music you can find us on Spotify or you can find all of our music at www.reverbnation.com/celticrain. And we have a blog on https://celticnationsmagazine.com.
But what I am so excited about right now is what we are working on at this moment. We are working on our new album that is going to be called Legacy. With the songs we have written during the lock-down and the songs we are writing right now, we are all putting our hearts together to create an album that shows the legacy of who we all are and where we all come from, but most of all where we are all going. We are writing right now and in the next few months we will be furnishing up and starting recording. It will be out in 2022 if all goes well.
Q: Well, thank you so much for sharing your life and hearts with me. I cannot wait to see what comes from all of you and to hear the music that will wash over us like the rain that comes from a Celtic sky.
Rev. Rebekah Lawson: Began ministering through music at the tender age of three in groups like Children Around the World, Fishers of Men, and King’s Kids/YWAM. She grew up traveling in South Carolina and Florida with her evangelistic parents, and was under the leadership of Benny Hinn at Orlando Christian Center. While in college she sang with her school’s black gospel ensemble, as well as the college choir and in seminary was the student director of her Seminary Chorus. She has several CD’s out. She is also part of several other music groups like The Lute and The Lady and Philadelphia Phil and Friends. Rev. Rebekah has been part of the Indianapolis Scottish Society for over 16 years, is one of their past presidents, and is the entertainment director for the Indianapolis Scottish Highland Games and the Enchanted Fairy Festival in Hendrix county, IN. Rev. Rebekah Lawson is a hands on ministry who is currently she is ministering with her husband, Samuel Lawson, Celtic Rain as Co-Director, Produced by Vessel 7 Productions, while teaching voice lessons and Guest preaching at several Churches and organizations, transferring her ordination to the Metropolitan Community Church, and is host of the Celtic Rain Radio Show. Rev. Rebekah’s main ministry is hands on with people who love to go out into the world and create change through relationships, by teaching by example, and loving people.
Celtic Rain is an original Celtic Spiritual Fusion Folk band made up of Guitar, Original instruments, Celtic Drum and Tom Drum, and Bagpipes who make beautiful music and change lives together with their hearts and their music. They take traditional Celtic, original Celtic and Spiritual tunes and mix them with a twist of jazz, classical, industrial and acoustic sounds and style. Their original pieces play off of the stories and fables of many Celtic traditions that touch the heart in a Spiritual way while throwing in a twist of Spanish Celtic Jazz guitar. Their vocals are a mix of traditional and classical vocals with beautiful harmony thrown in. Come experience the Celtic side of life with Celtic Rain. Celtic Rain would love to come and play for you any time. Just call Rebekah Lawson at their e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.