Media Release: New York’s Highland Divas on spiritual homecoming to Scotland


Photo call – Photo opportunity 10.45am or 12noon Friday 14th October
At school event which starts at 11am. Interviews from 12noon or later by arrangement

THE Highland Divas from New York, New York are having a life-fulfilling spiritual homecoming in Scotland this week.

This strong sisterhood of inspiring and very talented young women of the Scottish diaspora of the ‘Big Apple’ are thrilled to be home and so excited to be singing together in Scotland for the first time.

Only two weeks ago, The Highland Divas had their debut performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Margaret Kelly said of the Carnegie Hall concert: “It was a surreal experience for all of us and the most incredible and memorable night of our singing lives.”

Georgia Johnson and Marla Kavanaugh added: “We are all so happy to be here in Scotland. This is a homecoming in every sense, for all of us. It has been our dream to bring our music back to Scotland and connect our music to its inspiration, land and people.”

Highlights in the singing careers of The Highland Divas have included being flown to sing at Pearl Harbour for a commemoration of 9/11, singing in the Lincoln Center and also Madison Square Garden for a seated audience of about 25,000 and a television audience of millions and NYC’s iconic Metropolitan Room.

Georgia Johnson added: “A big fun highlight was when The Highland Divas headlined New York City’s Tartan Week and the American comedian and host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, not only turned up but jumped up on stage and sang with us!”

While they are here in Scotland, they are keen to encourage and inspire young women and girls to go for their dreams, as they did.

Marla Kavanaugh said: “Our message is this; keep going and never give up on your dreams!”

Their first engagement during their short visit to Scotland will be at the conclusion of an Edinburgh schools peace project.

A highlight of this project saw 350 school pupils walk through Edinburgh led by a World Peace Tartan piper to the Scottish Parliament to be greeted and received by the Presiding Officer who was formally presented with a World Peace Tartan scarf and heard the children read out a Global Vision and sing their own peace song.

The Highland Divas in their new World Peace Tartan dresses will perform seven songs at Portobello’s Royal High Primary School. Pupils of this school will receive a Peace Pole that has journeyed around Edinburgh schools involved in the project.

Then, they will read out their Global Vision statement and then sing their own peace song with the Highland Divas.

The Highland Divas will play a major part in a high profile variety concert at Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium on Monday 17th October.

The great line-up also includes Nicholas McDonald, Melanie Masson, Donnie Munro and the Glasgow Philharmonic.

The Highland Divas are available for press, magazine, radio and television interviews and appearances.

Contact Victor Spence on 07411 679736.

Photo call – Photo opportunity 10.45am or 12noon Friday 14th October
At school event which starts at 11am. Interviews from 12noon or later by arrangement

Royal High Primary School, Portobello, Edinburgh
Northfield Broadway, Portobello, Edinburgh, EH87R

Weekend newspaper interview opportunities available.
Broadcast media opportunities on Friday afternoon and 15th/16th/17th October

Short biographies:

Three women with diverse backgrounds with a single soul that makes up the group known as the Highland Divas.

The three are Marla Cavanaugh, Margaret Kelly, and Georgia Johnson.Margaret Kelly and Georgia Johnson hail from Glasgow, Scotland.

Marla Kavanaugh, whose father is Scottish, comes from Dunedin, but not Dunedin, Scotland, but Dunedin New Zealand.

As a group, the three of the Scottish diaspora have lived and performed in New York, New York for ten years.

The three women come from somewhat different performance backgrounds Ms. Kavanaugh’s training is largely operatic and she has appeared in a variety of opera houses around the world singing a number of roles such as Mimi in La Boheme, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.

Ms. Johnson, on the other hand, went to Glasgow’s prestigious Musical Theatre Course at Knightswood Secondary School in Scotland and came to the US where she had a scholarship to the American Music and Dramatic Academy.

She was hired very quickly after graduating to sing in the musical Shout! And a number of other roles followed such as Sharon in Girls Night Out. Ms. Johnson is also the first non-American to have become a ‘Liberty Bell(e)’ and performed with the U.S.O.

Ms. Kelly is one of the founders of ‘The Highland Divas’. Her career began performing in Scotland where she impressed audiences with her remarkable voice which has been referred to as ‘cathartic’.

She has performed and recorded a number of leading roles in such musicals as West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, The Full Monty and Cats. She was awarded a scholarship to the American Music and Dramatic Academy. Her exceptional musical talent enabled her to be granted a Green Card in the United States.

The idea for the group was the brainchild of Ms. Kelly, Ms. Kavanaugh and her twin sister Marissa. The three came up with idea about three years ago. They wanted to create something for themselves that reflected their Scottish heritage and gave them the opportunity to blend their different vocal styles and musical breadth while highlighting the oft overlooked music of Scotland.

With Marissa living so far away in Australia, it quickly became obvious that the group needed to move forward and Marissa would join the group only when she was in the US.

Despite the loss of Merissa, the group was still committed to three-part harmonies and just last year located a complementary third member in the person of Georgia Johnson. They have been steadily ‘building their own brand’ and their own show.

Their full-length show is scored for either six-piece or ten-piece band.

Each song has its own arrangement built from the ground up for their particular voices.

In the last two years, they have staged three full-length shows in New York City and on Long Island and have performed at many charity events for The Tunnel to Towers foundation, the American Scottish Foundation and the St Andrews Society.

The Highland Divas sang in Bryant Park for the unveiling of the ‘Wee Kelpies’ and on Al Jazeera World News, live from St Andrews, on the night of the referendum. They were flown to Pearl Harbor to sing the 9/11 commemoration out there and will be singing a second television segment for the iconic, ‘Positive Thinking’ show, Hour Of Power, after receiving a large amount fan mail from around the world – which is very nice!

After Ms. Cavanaugh appeared with the Greeley Philharmonic in Colorado two years ago, The Highland Divas were engaged to sing for their Poinsettia Pops program this Christmas just past. Five new orchestral arrangements were created for this engagement.

The journey they have taken in forming this group seems to be a remarkably personal one. Each of the divas has departed from a developing career in the more popular genres of the musical theater and opera to return to their own roots in Scottish songs. Perhaps it is the intense personal commitment which makes their singing so intensely moving.

The Highland Divas have a website which contains a plethora of information about the group and their programs and performances. You can listen to their performances on their web site and we are sure you will say with us after that “The Highland Divas are ‘divine!’”.

A quick Q&A with The Highland Divas

Q. How do you all feel about coming on your spiritual homecoming?

A. We are all deeply thrilled. This is a homecoming in every sense, for all of us. It has been our dream to bring our music back to Scotland and connect our music to its inspiration. It all takes on so much more meaning in front of a home audience. For our ‘KiwiScot’, it’s her opportunity to honour the memory of her late father by taking that journey back to her roots.

Q. How long have you been in the US and in particular NYC? 

A. We have all been in New York for ten years.

Q. What was the Carnegie Hall experience like? 

A. It was the most incredible night. We were all so nervous, but when you walk on that stage – it’s like something else takes over. When you work your whole life for something, and you get that chance, a certain amount of surrender happens, and pure creativity takes over. We felt very connected to each other and full of joy to be there. It was also surreal to be on the same bill as two of our idols, true musical theatre and opera divas, Liz Callaway and Frederica Von Stade! And, they were so lovely!

Q. What’s next for the Highland Divas? 

A. Next up for the Highland Divas; two Symphony Pops concerts in New York and Colorado. We’ll be singing beautiful arrangements, made especially for us, by NYC conductor/composer, Maestro Glen Cortese. And, actively booking our show with our band.

Q. What are The Highland Divas most memorable highlights since the three of you got together? 

A. We have had some really marvelous moments together. By far the most meaningful; singing at Pearl Harbour for the commemoration of 9/11 on 2014. Singing at that place, and on that day was an honour. Our most exciting venues have been; the Lincoln Center for the Broadway New Works Series, (music by Scottish – America- based composer, Paul Scott Goodman) Madison Square Garden, singing for a seated audience of about 25,000 and a television audience of millions, NYC’s iconic Metropolitan Room – where Jimmy Fallon not only turned up ~ but jumped up and sang with us! Headlining New York City’s, Tartan week, and of course, just recently, the hallowed stage of Carnegie Hall.

Q. What is your message for the young people of Scotland, about their future? 

A. Our message is this: keep going and never give up on your dreams. It seems to be a ‘rule of life’ almost, that things will get harder right before you’re about to realize something big. The path to the life you desire is not linear. It is not a straight shot. It sometimes doesn’t look like you have imagined it! It is a constant, creative process that demands that we dig deep into ourselves. Surround yourself with people who love you, and will inspire you – or just hold your hand at your hardest moments. Be kind to others, and especially, yourself.


Media contact: Victor Spence – 07411 679736.


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Contact: Victor Spence
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Email: victor@vjks.org