November-December 2007

Each Tuesday night during the summer, I play at a ceilidh that's organized by An Comunn Gaidhealach, the association that's charged with preserving the Gaelic language and related music.  There are a couple of us who are so-called professional musicians, but the remainder of the performers are folks from the town and around, plus now and then a visitor who wants to join in.

My favorite is Jock, a retired dairy farmer who knows the words to just about any song. He's up there in years, but his voice is as strong as the bulls he used to parade around the auction ring. Mary is a native Gaelic speaker from the island of Lewis, and she sings in a beautiful, bell-like soprano voice. Jimmy Lindsay comes from up in Amulree, near the Sma' Glen, and he's a three-time Scottish button accordion champion. Duncan is the resident piper, and he plays for the highland dancers who are always there-wee girls who have to perform and go home early because it's a school night.

We're a tourist town in the summer, and there are always plenty of visitors at the ceilidh.  There are almost always Americans, Canadians, and people from Holland. Now and then we get folks from France or Scandanavia, and of course there are always a few from England.  It's wonderful to see how they all join in when the dances are called. You don't need a language in common to Strip the Willow!

So once again, I've been delighted to find a folk tradition that's alive and thriving here in our little Scottish corner of the world.

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"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music."-Sergei Rachmaninov

"The only thing better than singing is more singing."-Ella Fitzgerald

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Here some more creative answers to test questions which were collected from Missouri music educators:

John Sebastian Bach died from 1750 to the present

Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling him. I guess he could not hear so good. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died from this

Morris dancing is a country survival from times when people were happy

Most authorities agree that music of antiquity was written long ago

For some reason, they always put a treble clef in front of every line of flute music. You just watch

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His voice was like no other-as soon as he sang a couple of notes, you knew you were listening to Tommy Makem. Tommy died on August 1, 2007, at the age of 74, in a nursing home near his home in New Hampshire. He'd just returned from a trip to Belfast, where he'd been awarded an honorary degree.

He was best known for his collaboration with the Clancy Brothers, and in later years for his duo performances with Liam Clancy.  He made songs like Gentle Annie, Four Green Fields, and Red is the Rose his own, as well as playing both banjo and whistle.

Tommy not only contributed to the popularity of Irish folk music in America, he also influenced a generation of folkies including Bob Dylan.  He was one of a kind, and he'll be missed.

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Want to see an amazing musician in action?  Go to YouTube, and do a search for Jake Shimabukuro.  He's a ukulele virtuoso-yes, there is such an animal-and not only does he make amazing sounds and beautiful music, but he's a treat to watch.  It isn't just a trick of the video... I've seen him playing live, and his hand literally becomes a blur that obscures the entire body of the uke. There are quite a few clips of him on YouTube, and most are good.  Check out the one of him playing George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

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. What's the least-used sentence in the English language?

"Isn't that the banjo player's Porsche?"

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It doesn't happen very often, but this year's BBC Radio2 Folk Award winners included an American.  The Musician of the Year award went to Chris Thile, former mandolin player with Nickel Creek and now out there on his own as a solo artist.  The BBC web site describes Thile as "now regarded as the greatest mandolin player in the world."  Don't know if I'd make quite so broad a statement as that, but he's certainly one of the greats, and it's nice to see him gaining recognition outside the US.

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The World Pipe Band Championships were held, as always, in August on the Glasgow Green in Glasgow, Scotland.  I was lucky enough to be there, and although the weather was awful, the piping was spectacular.  Field Marshal Montgomery won the Grade I championship, with Simon Fraser University coming second.  Southern California was represented by the LA Scots in the Grade I competition.  They didn't place in the top tier, but they did make it through the qualifying round and into the final, placing fourth out of 13 entries. 

Also competing from California were the LA Scots Grade 4 band and the Kevin R. Blandford Memorial band (Grade 3)

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Did you hear about the gang of terrorists that hijacked a busload of bagpipe players and threatened to release one an hour until their demands were met?


 

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Here are a few stories and creative answers to test questions which were collected from Missouri music educators:

Refrain means don't do it. A refrain in music is the part you better not try to sing.

Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel.

Just about any animal skin can be stretched over a frame to make a pleasant sound once the animal is removed.

When electric currents go through them, guitars start making sounds. So would anybody.

Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields and McCoys.

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Another legend of ethnic music has gone. This time, it's the venerable Don Ho, who was best known for luring boatloads of tourists to Hawaii. Born Donald Tai Loy Ho in Honolulu, Ho came from true Hawaiian melting-pot ancestry: He was of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and German descent.

Although he was best known for his signature song, Tiny Bubbles, Ho was also the one who introduced the song I'll Remember You to Hawaiian audiences. His tenure as the Hawaiian crooner coincided with the renaissance of more traditional Hawaiian music that began in the 1970s. But in spite of stylistic differences, there was always a measure of respect between Ho and the traditionalists, and he admired their efforts greatly. Don Ho was 76 when he died in April.

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Monaco's national orchestra is bigger than its army.

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The singing voice of Lauren Bacall, in her screen debut, To Have and Have Not was dubbed by Andy Williams ... when he was a teenager.

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.In my last column, I reported on the folk, world and traditional musicians who had won Grammy awards. Unfortunately, I left out one very important item-the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Joan Baez.  Throughout her career Baez has been not only a gifted musician, but an activist for peace and equality-and she even appeared in cartoon form in Doonesbury for awhile. My apology for the omission, and may her lifetime and her achievements continue for many years to come.

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Do you have your copy of the Chrysalid CD yet?  This is an album that was originally produced in 2005 to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. The musicians involved are from an assortment of countries and genres, and there are some real gems included. To purchase a copy, go to CD Baby at cdbaby.com/cd/chrysalid. Proceeds continue to be split evenly between Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross, to be used for Gulf Coast recovery efforts.

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A child sings before it speaks, dances almost before it walks. Music is in our hearts from the beginning. ~Pamela Brown

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Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order. ~Samuel Beckett

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When I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole, that is why I dance. ~Hans Bos

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Linda Dewar is a singer and a player of various instruments with strings and keys.  She can be heard playing mostly Celtic music at small gatherings and large festivals here and there in California. You can find her first solo CD Where the Heart Is at www.cdbaby.com/lindadewar

  

All Columns by Linda Dewar