Address to a Haggis
For the first time since we moved here seven years ago, we have decided to give Celtic Connections in Glasgow a miss. It is not that we haven’t enjoyed every moment of it so far, but we felt that giving it a miss for one year, would recharge our batteries and appreciate it all the more next year. Also in Pitlochry at this time was their “Winter Words Festival,” which was a festival about books and authors, and as Pitlochry is one sixth of the distance to Glasgow, and being Scottish, with short arms and deep pockets, we will give it a whirl. It should also be noted that Aberfeldy’s one and only petrol (gas) station is closing tomorrow for ten weeks while new underground storage tanks are installed, not that this was really a factor in our decision.
Watch What You Wish For:
The Settino Soprani 55
It is the old joke about the guy who leaves his car unlocked, and forgets that he has left an accordion (or a banjo or a set of bagpipes) on the back seat, and rushes back to find two of the instruments waiting for him.
We live in Aberfeldy, right in the geographical heart of Scotland, and in the last week we have become the custodians of approximately fifty accordions, part of a collection of over three hundred owned by a lady who lives north of here in Invernesshire.
The Passing of Nick Keir
As the years tick away, we are constantly reminded of our own mortality, and it sometimes seems that as I reach this stage in life, my contemporaries are sadly falling off the tree branches all around me.
June 2nd saw the passing of Nick Keir, a long standing member of the McCalmans, who were a cornerstone of Scottish folk music for many years. Nick was the groups multi-instrumentalist and wrote a good number of songs for the band. He was born in Edinburgh, attended Edinburgh Academy and Stirling University, where he founded the folk-rock band Finn mac Cuill which for a while expanded into The Finn mac Cuill Folkshow, a small touring theatre group, for which he wrote the scripts. In the late 1970s he joined 7:84 Theatre Company Scotland as a writer and musician. More recently he emerged as a singer/songwriter, producing three solo albums and performing as a soloist with The Tolkien Ensemble.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF SCOTTISH FESTIVALS
Scotland has had a wee bit of a cold winter, with March being the second coldest since records began (the coldest was over fifty years ago). April has been sunny so far, so spring plants and flowers are starting to pop up. The same can be said for Folk Festivals, with the Glenfarg Folk Feast taking place on the 12th, 13th and 14th of this month.
Thrifty, Clean and Cheap??
Scottish people are often stereotyped in America as being “thrifty, clean and cheap” but this is a misjudgment. Most Scottish people arriving in the New World during the 1800s had been driven from their homes by greedy land owners who believed that they could make more money off the land by rearing sheep. The same thing could be said of the Irish, who were driven off their land by the Potato Famine. Ironically when the Irish arrived in North America, they could only afford to order the cheapest items on restaurant menus, and thus the myth about corned beef and cabbage was born.
Peoples from both countries left their homes involuntary, the Scottish by forced eviction, and the Irish by famine, but fortunately for us, they brought a huge tradition of wonderful music with them. By these strange quirks in history, the New World has been vastly enriched and Scottish Highland Games and Irish Festivals re both features of the U.S. and Canadian cultures.
A Happy New Year to all, and I hope that 2013 will be a good one for all FolkWorks readers.
Funnily enough, despite these woeful economic times, Scotch Whisky is definitely not on the Rocks, as developing countries such as China and India are consuming vast quantities of the stuff, much to the delight of the distilling industry.
The same could also be said for Scottish Music Festivals such as Celtic Connections and Dougie Maclean’s Perthshire Amber, which are more than holding their own. Celtic Connections, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, from the 17th of January to the 3rd of February, has become a Juggernaut in the industry, and seems to be going from strength to strength. They will be celebrating their 20th year with over 2000 performers, in what must be somewhat of a logistical nightmare.
We are extremely fortunate that my sister lives in Glasgow, albeit on the outskirts, so we always have a place to stay. Our friend Doris Rougvie, herself a fine singer, will as usual be hosting the House of Song, a late night venue beginning after the concerts have all finished for the evening. You never know who you may bump into at the House of Song, as some of the performers use it to meet up with old friends and to de-compress after their gigs.
The Self-Perpetuation of Scottish Folk Music
It is a dull October day in Aberfeldy, with low clouds and occasional rain. The Scots have a wonderful word for this climatic condition, calling it ”driech,” pronouncing the “ch” as the same way that it is treated in the word “loch”. I am meeting with my old friend Douglas Craik, the National Convener of the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland, known as the TMSA. A convener, for my American friends means “people who bring people together.” We met for coffee in the Watermill, the town’s iconic and celebrated Book Store, Art Gallery and Café. Operated as a working Mill until 2001, it has been tastefully converted into its present usage, leaving some of the existing machinery in place. Once a mill for grinding oats (one of fourteen watermills that existed in this area before the Industrial Revolution), it has since been voted the best independent book store in the United Kingdom.
As everyone knows, the recent Olympics and Paralympics have been successful, and backs have been slapped all over the place. What has not been alluded to sadly, is the costs that other arts and cultural organizations have been subjected to, as a great deal of the funding that they depended on, were siphoned off and shipped to London. Add that to the lousy state of the UK economy, and you can see why many worthwhile organizations such as the TMSA, are hurting financially. Many artists and musicians are upset over the high handed attitudes by an organization called Creative Scotland, which dispenses cultural grants.
Meat and Potatoes
Hi there - some of you may remember me from the days when I was on the Folkworks Board, prior to 2006, when we resigned, so that my wife Linda Dewar and I could move back to the heart of Scotland where I had spent my childhood. We moved to the village of Aberfeldy in Highland Perthshire, where I had gone to secondary school. Since we moved here, Linda has still produced her Grace Notes column for the e-zine, and a couple of months ago, in what could only be described as a moment of mild insanity, Leda asked if I would consider doing a column.
My first reaction was “Well, slap me silly and call me Willy”, but then I realized that the word “Willy” means something quite different in the Scottish vernacular, so I quickly abandoned that thought, for a much more serious vein. Lacking a name for said column, I came up with several suggestions, and sent them to Steve and Leda and let them decide. This having been done, I will get down to the meat and potatoes, so to speak.