Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 2011 Fiddle Club Jam

We had a small, short jam this time, but that made it no less lively! Here are the tunes we played:

Bonny at Morn
Knockadhu Reel
Nine pint coggie (Laura risk)/Skye Air/Hughie Shorty's
Shetland Fiddler/Tail Toddle/High Drive
Laxo Burn/Barrow Burn/Patterson's General Store
Sitting on the Stern of a Boat
Iggy & Squiggy/Cranking out
Remembering Marie Maclellan/Miss Gordon of Fochabers/Boys of the Loch

Aiken Drum

On of the tunes from the November Meeting was "Aiken Drum". Some info about it can be found here, and here are a set of lyrics:

There was a man lived in the moon, lived in the moon, lived in the moon,
There was a man lived in the moon,
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle,
And he played upon a ladle,
and his name was Aiken Drum.
And his hat was made of good cream cheese, of good cream cheese, of good cream cheese,
And his hat was made of good cream cheese,
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his coat was made of good roast beef, of good roast beef, of good roast beef,
And his coat was made of good roast beef,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his buttons made of penny loaves, of penny loaves, of penny loaves,
And his buttons made of penny loaves,
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his waistcoat was made of crust pies, of crust pies, of crust pies,
And his waistcoat was made of crust pies,
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his breeches made of haggis bags, of haggis bags, of haggis bags,
And his breeches made of haggis bags,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lyrics from the October Meeting Songs

As with every year, Elke launched us into October with "Tunes Every Scottish Fiddler Should Know". In this month's collection were three tunes associated with songs, and to satisfy your curiosity, here are the lyrics to them.

The first is "The Barnyards of Delgaty", a song in a long tradition mixing a narrator's braggadocio with complaints about being cheated by a farmer.

As I cam' in by Turra merkit
Turra merkit for tae fee
I met in wi' a fairmer cheil
Fae the Barnyards o' Delgaty 
Chorus (after each verse):
Oh linten addie, toorin addie
Oh linten addie, toorin ay
Oh linten lourin, lourin lourin
The Barnyards o' Delgaty 
He me promised the very best pair
Ever I set my een upon
Fin I got tae the Barnyards
There wis naethin' there but skin and bone 
The auld black horse sat on its rump
The auld fite meer lay on her wime
For a' that I could hup an' crack
She wouldna rise at yokin' time 
Oh aul' Meg Smith, she maks m' brose
And it's wi' her I canna gree
First a knot and syne a mot
And aye anither jelp o' bree 
Fan I gang tae the kirk on Sunday
Mony's the bonnie lassie I see
Sittin' by her faither's side
An' winkin' ower the pews at me 
Noo I can drink an' no be drunk
I can fecht and no be slain
I can sleep wi' anither man's wife
An' aye be welcome tae my win 
But noo m' caunle is brunt oot
It's splutterin' fairly on the wane
Oh fare ye weel, ye Barnyards
Ye'll nivver catch m' here again

The next tune is a mnemonic song, entitled "The Rattling Bog"; each verse grows as one more element is added, much like the more familiar "There's a Hole at the Bottom of the Sea". One version of its words go as follows:
Chorus (sung after every verse):
Ho, ro, the rattlin' bog,
The bog down in the valley-o.
Ho, ro, the rattlin' bog,
The bog down in the valley-o. 
Now in that bog there was a tree,
A rare tree and a rattlin' tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now on that tree there was a branch,
A rare branch and a rattlin' branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now on that branch there was a limb,
A rare limb and a rattlin' limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now on that limb there was a nest,
A rare nest and a rattlin' nest,
And the nest on the limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now in that nest there was a bird,
A rare bird and a rattlin' bird,
And the bird in the nest,
And the nest on the limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now on that bird there was a feather,
A rare feather and a rattlin' feather,
And the feather on the bird,
And the bird in the nest,
And the nest on the limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o. 
Now on that feather there was a bug,
A rare bug and a rattlin' bug,
And the bug on the feather,
And the feather on the bird,
And the bird in the nest,
And the nest on the limb,
And the limb on the branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o.

Finally there's the Hugh S. Roberton song, "Westering Home". This appears to be one of those songs quickly assumed to be "traditional" and subject to copyright violation, leading to a famous court case in the UK. On, Hugh's grandson Andrew wrote:

[Hugh Roberton was] a Scotsman from Glasgow, and the creator and conductor of the Glagow Orpheus Choir. He was also a prolific composer of choral music, much of it based around traditional Scottish songs and hymn tunes. I was a young teenager at the time of the Vera Lynn case and remember it well. The arguments contained in it illuminate some of the issues raised by your correspondents. There was never a disagreement that the verse of the song was basically "The Muckin' of Geordies Byre" but Hugh S. Roberton definitely wrote the chorus and all of the words. My father, who was his amanuensis at the time, testified to this in court. However the Vera Lynn camp and her recording company produced the royal piper and a couple of other old geezers from the piping field who swore blind that it was all a traditional air. My father always claimed they were given a bung to commit perjury to spare the 'Forces Sweetheart' the humiliation of losing the case. The whole thing divided public opinion right down the middle. Miss Lynn was, of course, a wartime heroine whilst my grandfather was a founder member of the Scottish Independent Labour party, a well known pacifist, socialist and was given the moniker 'The Red Kinight of Clydeside'. Curwen, his publisher were virtually bankrupted by the case and wobbled on for another fifteen years until they were conumed in an asset stripping takeover by the US conglomerate Crowell, Collier Macmillan.

At the risk of reigniting the copyright battle, here are the lyrics!

Chorus (sung after every verse):
Westering home and a song in the air
Light in the eye and it's goodbye to care
Laughter o' love and a welcoming there
Isle of my heart my own one. 
Tell me o' lands of the Orient gay
Speak o' the riches and joys of Cathay
Ay but it's grand to be wakin' at day
To find yourself nearer to Islay. 
Where are the folk like the folk o' the west
Canty and couthie and kindly the best
There I would hie me and there I would rest
At hame wi' my ain folk on Islay.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 2011 Fiddle Club Jam

We had a great first meeting of the year, and a short jam afterward, and here are the tunes that were played:

High Road to Linton/The Forest Lodge
Smith's a Gallant Fireman/Jesse Smith/The Barrowburn Reel/(unknown)
Iggy & Squiggy/Patterson's General Store/Rannie MacLellan/Cranking Out
Bon nie @ Morn
Loch Torridon/Miss Drummond/Miss Shepherd
Hills of Lorne
The Pearl
The Sailor's Wife/The Cushion Dance/My Wife's a Wanton Wee Thing
Westering Home
Far From Hone
Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay
Tam Lin
Bladen Flats
Tim Horton's/Maggie's Pancakes

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Virginia Scottish Games in the Media

WTOP had a great piece about the Games, and your Webmaster & Games Coordinator was interviewed on Fox 5 news! It's going to be a great weekend, so come on out.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Final Set Order for Virginia Scottish Games Concert

1. QUICKSTEPS: Corriechoillie’s Welcome to the Northern Meeting (XVIII-2) / Loch Ruan (XVIII-2)

2. STRATHSPEY AND REEL: Allowa Kirk (XVIII-22) / Far Form Home (XVIII-4)

3. LESLIE’S SQUIRREL: Leslie’s March (XVIII-9) / The Squirrel (XVIII-23)

4. STRATHSPEY AND REELS: Thorn Bush (XVIII-24) / The Hurdle Race (XVIII-24) / The Bungalow (XVIII-5)

5. FAIRY SET: I Left my Baby Lying There (XVIII-26) / Cailleach Beinn na Bric (XVIII-27)

6. MAGGIE’S GENERAL STORE: Maggie Lauder (XVIII-8) / Linda and Barry’s Treat (XVIII-20) / Patterson’s General Store (XVIII-19)

7. TROWS IN 6/8: Vallafield (XVIII-29) / Aith Rant (XVIII-29) / Garster’s Dream (XVIII-29)

8. CAPE BRETON MSR: James Cameron (XVIII-20) / Miss Ann Moir’s Birthday (XVIII-30) / West Mabou (XVIII-30) / Gin I Had a Bonnie Lassie (XVIII-30)

9. AIR: Johnnie Faa (XVIII-16)

10. CAPE BRETON JIGS: The Trippers (XVIII-31) / Minnie MacMaster (XVIII-18) / The Four Musketeers (XVIII-31)

11. AIR, STRATHSPEY AND REEL: Eilean Beag Donn a’ Chuain (XVIII-5) / Charles Leslie of Findassie (XVIII-33) / Mr Natty McColl (XVIII-33)

12. TROWIE SET: Winyadepla (XVIII-25) / Wast Side Trows’ Reel (XVIII-28) / Hylta Dance (XVIII-28)

13. AIR AND COUNTRY DANCE: My Nanny O (XVIII-13) / Flowers of Edinburgh (XVIII-11)

14. MARCH STRATHSPEY REEL: Burning of the Piper’s Hut (XVIII-1) / Loch Ness (XVIII-7) / The Wooden Whale (XVIII-32)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fiddle Club mourns the passing of Newsletter Editor Leah Sparks

John Ward has recently notified the board of the sad news that our wonderful newsletter editor, Leah Sparks, passed away last night. She had just turned 39. Her parents have sent us the following:

On August 31, 2011 Leah Joy Sparks died peacefully at her parent’s home in Severn after a long battle against soft tissue sarcoma. Leah endured fifteen months of chemotherapy with seven different drugs and also radiation until she exhausted all of her options. To quote her oncologist, “You fought the fight and finished the race.”

Leah was born August 30, 1972, in Delaware, Ohio. In 1986 she lost her left leg to osteosarcoma during her first bout with cancer. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1995 and held a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Maryland and a Master’s in Publishing from Oxford-Brookes University in Oxford, England.

Leah was employed as an intelligence analyst for the FBI in Baltimore. She was extremely dedicated to her job and it brought her great joy to work for the Bureau. She was given the Leadership Award by her FBI colleagues at Quantico, Virginia and was the student speaker at graduation. Leah wanted to be remembered for her integrity, her loyalty, and her love for her family and country. She was a voracious reader and enjoyed playing the Scottish fiddle and cycling; she once rode 54 miles using her biking prosthesis. She was a member of Severn United Methodist Church where she wrote the bi-monthly newsletter and prepared the weekly bulletins. She insisted on finishing the bulletin after being admitted to hospice eight days before her death.

Leah will be forever held in the hearts of her grateful parents, Rev. Dr. Kelly and Myra Sparks, her sister, Erin Sparks Talbot and her husband, Mark Talbot, of Moorestown, New Jersey. “Auntie Leah” will never be forgotten by Ethan and Spencer Talbot, Leah’s 7 year old twin nephews. Other survivors include Leah’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. James Holtsclaw of Charleston, West Virginia and paternal grandmother, Mrs. James Sparks of Hurricane, West Virginia. Leah was loved and respected by her many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

Leah wanted everyone to remember her as she was before her illness. At her request, a private viewing for family only will be followed by a celebration of her life on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011 at Severna Park United Methodist Church in Severna Park, Maryland at 3:00 p.m. A private burial will follow.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Leah’s favorite charity, the Ronald McDonald House

Monday, July 11, 2011

Irish Music at CCE MAD Week

Mitch Fanning writes:

Hi Peter & Elke,

Peter, we met many years ago in passing when I heard your playing at the Royal Mile. Elke, we
haven't met, though I hope to correct that soon. I hope our paths intersect soon.

I'm also hoping you'll both help promote CCE MAD Week among your musical contacts. MAD Week is an
exceptionally fun week of trad Irish music and dance, not exactly the same cup of tea, but there are
many Scots and Irish over the border.

We have an exceptional faculty this year:

Fiddle: Martin Hayes, Patrick Ourceau, Jesse Smith, Cleek Schrey, Bob Spates, Donna Long, Joe DeZarn, Dylan Foley
Flute/Whistle/Uilleann Pipes: Kevin Crawford, Laura Byrne, Jerry O'Sullivan
Guitar Accompaniment (DADGAD): Josh Dukes
Bodhran: Jesse Winch, Myron Bretholz
Button Accordion: Sean McComiskey (Friday only)
Tenor Banjo: Keith Carr
Singing/Song Circle: Len Graham
Set Dance/Sean-nos: Marilyn Moore, Shannon Dunne

Would be happy to extend early registration discount ($45) to any and all of those you would care to invite!

For more information about schedule, faculty bios, and registration information:

I've also attached a flyer (.pdf) for your information and convenience. Please feel free to post or forward at will.

If either of you would like to attend the public faculty concert on Wednesday, July 20th (7:30 p.m.) at Takoma Park
Community Center, please let me know and I'll be happy to set aside comp tickets in your name. For more information
about the concert, please see the calendar section of the IMT website:

Thanks much for your consideration and assistance.


Mitch Fanning, Director
CCE MAD Week 2011
m. 703.989.7369

SummerTunes 2011

Liz Donaldson writes:

Hello all - A gentle reminder that SummerTunes 2011 - Saturday, July 23 - 10 am until.... is in two weeks. Alex and I are hoping you can come join us for another splendid day of making music together. The registration form is posted on the MMFAC website- Do let us know if you are planning on attending so we know how many SummerTunes tunebooks to order.

Information:, or contact Liz Donaldson - or (301) 986-1291 or Alexander Mitchell or (240) 344-7806.

Thanks. Liz

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DVD Review: Scottish Step Dancing with Dannsa

One of the things I enjoy most about receiving the newsletters from Music Scotland and Foot Stomping Celtic Music is that they pitch products I'd never think to look for, but might be of interest to me.

Recently this happened when one of them advertised a new DVD, Learn to Scottish Step Dance with Dannsa. The name itself piqued my curiosity, so I ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival.

In summer 2003, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured Scotland, and one of the acts - the Mitchellson Brothers, discussed the various forms of Scottish dance. What struck me was their claim that there were still a few exponents of old Scottish step-dancing left in Scotland, independent of Cape Breton, and they demonstrated the ever so subtle differences between the two. I wondered, in ordering this DVD, if this might be the almost-lost Scottish form, or if the differences would be discussed.

Alas, that was not the case. This was straight-up Cape Breton style step dancing, just as taught by Scottish dancers and instructors Caroline Reagh & Sandra Robertson, accompanied by Fin Moore (son of the pipe-maker Hamish) on the reel pipes, who make up the ensemble Dannsa. But don't let that deter you! In the extras section, we are told precisely why they consider this dance form to be Scottish, perhaps preserved in Cape Breton, but still authentically Scottish. And whatever its ultimate provenance, it looked like a lot of fun to dance!

The DVD starts with a section on warmups, and then goes independently through the various steps for Strathspey, reel, and jig dancing. The most basic step is shown first, and then variants are discussed. Demonstrations begin with Fin playing for the dancer at tempo, and we see the dancer from the front, going through all the steps in the section in succession. Then each individual step is broken down at slower tempos, first from a frontal close-up view of the feet, then rear and side views, while verbal instruction is offered in the form of a voice-over. Eventually the tempo increases and we see the dance at full tempo again, still zoomed in on the feet.

Now I have to say, I have two left feet. Prior to taking a few Scottish Country Dance classes this fall, the only dance I could do was the Breton An Dro (and that's a pretty simple one!). But this DVD is perfect for the beginner with little coordination - one can watch the step over and over, repeat as necessary, until one gets it. I'm still mastering the basic reel and jig steps, but I'm not daunted by the difficulty, since the DVD successfully portrayed the step in a manner I can understand and, if imperfectly and slowly, repeat. I figure if I do 10,000 more steps, I'll get the hang of it!

One thing you have to remember when practicing is to wear the right shoes. Dress shoes with a low square heel are necessary - hiking boots and tennis shoes just aren't the right shape! In my case, I pulled out some 18th century style buckle shoes I use when I do living history, and they were perfect for the job.

All in all, if one is interested in learning Scottish/Cape Breton step, and doesn't have an instructor handy, I can't recommend this DVD more highly. It might even be worth it for Fin's piping alone. And, given some time, some effort and some floor, one might soon have a few steps of one's own to put to it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tunes from the May Fiddle Club Jam

As it happens, I had asked my girlfriend to bring my contribution to the fiddle club potluck, a roasted leg of lamb, so she could join us and hang out at the jam. But due to circumstances outside her control - a faulty meat thermometer and an oven thermostat that's not to be trusted - the lamb arrived quite late, and the jam began with some tunes to hopefully speed it along:

Sheep Running About
Cheap Mutton
Ram's Horns
The One Horned Sheep
The Moffat Ram
The Lambing Storm
A Yowe Cam to wir door Yarmin
Da Blue Yowe
Ewie with a Crookit Horn

And, after long last, the leg of lamb arrived! So we took a break for a dessert of meat, and returned to our tunes:

Lochanside/High Drive
Trip to Pakistan/The Fourth Floor
Sean Truibhas/Tam Lin
Jig by William Gillis/Stool of Repentance/Sailor's Wife/Grace Hay's Delight
The Nuptial Knot/The Wedding of Fair Ian's Sister
North Highland Dance
(the 9/8 from Patrick McDonald)
Skye Air/The Quarryman/9 Pint Coggie (Laura Risk's)

Thanks to everyone for the tunes, and to Amy for the lamb!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tartan Day Debate: Authenticity

By way of Scott Morrison:

Hello all. This is a video of a debate that was held last month in Antigonish, Nova Scotia about the authenticity of Tartan kilts, highland games and festivals and whether or not they represent an authentic connection to the greater Scottish Gaelic speaking community and cultural representation. Michael Newton (the man who posted and participated in the videos) is the only non-native Canadian on the pannel (he being an American) sent us this link. It is a good "debate" (more like a friendly discussion really) and presents very valid views and points on both sides. It is in 6 parts and you will need a good 45-55 min to watch it all. I hope you enjoy it! :)

"North Loch"/"Gin I Had a Bonny Lass"

Patrick Wamsley gives us some more information about "North Loch"/"Gin I Had a Bonny Lass", which Elke taught this last weekend:


[Edinburgh] was walled in 1460, and part of the wall acted as a dam forming The North Loch . . . . After 300 years, the loch was permanently drained in stages, first in 1763 to help build the North Bridge, and the final drainage in the early 19th century. It was much used for fishing, though given old Edinburgh's standards of sanitation, this must have been playing Russian roulette with food poisoning. The city abattoir was beside it for its entire existence, on the site now occupied by the Lothian Region Transport office on Waverley Bridge; wastes from slaughtering were simply dumped in the water. During the great idol-smashing of 1560, the Reformers sent the statue of St Giles from the High Kirk the way of a century's putrefied offal; then they pulled it out again and burnt it just to make sure. In 1562, one particularly deep part was designated for ducking fornicators. "The North Loch" was first published by Robert Bremner (c.1713-1789) in the 1750s.

It is also known from Ireland, as "The Lucky Lover;" lucky not to make too close an acquaintance with the loch, perhaps. It was later reprinted in Lowe's Collection as "Gin I had a Bonny Lass, Little Sleep Wad Sair Me" and as "Gin I had a Bonny Lassie" in the later Athole and Kerr collections.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Smith's a Gallant Fireman: Lyrics

One of our favorite tunes at both Fiddle Club and The Royal Mile is "The Smith's a Gallant Fireman", also (and possibly originally) known as "Carrick's Rant". Turns out there are words that lend the tune its name, by a man named Harrison. I found them transcribed by James Scott Skinner and intended to be included in The Harp and Claymore (though it doesn't appear to have been). The original text is shown here - check the rest of the site out, it's a wonderful tribute to everything J. Scott Skinner.

Though the first two verses seem to be praising a superhuman figure, the third verse is almost channeling "A Man's a Man for a' That"!

The Smith's a Gallant Fireman

Wha's the King o' oor toon end and sets the lads in awe man
Wha has lassies nine or ten when some hae nane ava man
Wha can mak us daftly dance till we be like to fa' man
Whene'er the music o' his pipe is heard in cot or ha' man
Oh Rab's the man oor village smith I winner that ye speer man
Whaur hae ye been for a' yer days that that ye didna hear man
He's King o' Bar and Lord of love and Knight o' a oor Shire man
At feast or fray by nicht or day The Smith's a Gallant Fireman.

Wha can spend and spare a plack and still hae twa ahint it
Gie a fren a helpin han and never care tae mint it
Wha for honour's sacred cause and honest independence
Like steadfast rock can beer the shock o' a' the warl's vengeance
Oh Rab's the man wi' hert and han tho clad in rude attire man
Wi' strong resolve and iron nerve, nae mair he doth require man
He bends the bars o' burnin steel as ain the' were but wire man
Dependen aye upon himseel, The Smith's a Gallant Fireman.

Wha would be a lordling slave, a thing withoot a name man
Wha would beg frae ither folk what they should hae at hame man
Wha would scuaner a' their gear an' syne gie fate the blame man
The growin' grass aboon his grave, it micht turn red wi' shame man
Let folks deride and ca' it pride be it mine still to aspire man
He that winna wale the road deserves tae dree the mire man
Let honest dignity and worth oor hearts and souls inspire man
Let's honor pay where honor's due: The Smith's a Gallant Fireman.

Video from the 2011 Fiddle Club Dance

Thanks again to for this story!

I Left My Baby Lying There

In April's meeting, we learned the tune "I Left My Baby Lying There", a song about an unattended child stolen by Fairies. Here are the lyrics, courtesy of Kist O' Dreams:

I Left My Baby Lying There

I left my baby lying there
Lying there, lying there
I left my baby lying there
When I went to gather blaeberries
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

I followed the track of the white swan
But I could not find my baby o
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

I followed the track of the red deer
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

I followed the track of the grey mare
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

Fhuair mi lorg an dòbhran donn
Cha d’fhuair mi lorg mo chùbhrachain
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

Fhuair mi lorg na lach’ air an lòn
Cha d’fhuair mi lorg mo chùbhrachain
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

Fhuair mi lorg na bà sa pholl
Cha d’fhuair mi lorg mo chùbhrachain
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

Fhuair mi lorg a’cheo ‘sa bheinn
Cha d’fhuair mi lorg mo chùbhrachain
Ho bhan ho bhan haithri o ho ....

Translation of Gaelic verses:

I got a track/spore of the dunn otter
I didn’t get a track/ trace of my fragrant one

I got a track of the duck on the marshy ground
I didn’t get a track of my fragrant one

I got a track of the cow in the pool
I didn’t get a track of my fragrant one

I got a trail of the mist on the mountain
I didn’t get a trail of my fragrant one

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More on Trowies and Up Helly Aa

Patrick Wamsley's forwarded some info and links on two topics discussed in this month's Fiddle Club, trowies and Up Helly Aa.


For years, the accepted explanation for the word "trow" has been that it is simply a corruption of "troll" . . . . But in my opinion, this is completely wrong . . . . The Icelandic Dictionary defines "draugr" as being a ghost or spirit; especially the dead inhabitant of a cairn . . . . The pagan Norse believed that a body placed in its grave continued to live on. The term we would use today would be "undead" . . . .

See here for more.

Up Helly Aa

Described as the end of "Yule," it could occur as early as the last week of January. Once, Up Helly Aa was called the "twenty-fourth day of Christmas," implying that it should occur on January 18th. However, some Up Helly Aa events now occur as late as mid-March. Perhaps one could liken it to the Mardi Gras / Carnival festivals that mark the Epiphany / Lent transition in Catholic countries? There are multiple celebrations of this festival on Shetland:

"This was the biggest Up Helly Aa celebration."








Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Events of Interest

Holly Shropshire writes:

Celebrating 50 years of Piping and Drumming!

National Capital Area Scottish Festival
May 14 from 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Rockville High School
2100 Baltimore Rd., Rockville, MD
Indoor—Rain or Shine!

The Festival will be replete with Scottish pipe bands, including the City of Washington Pipe Band, the MacMillan Pipe Band, the MacMillan-Birtles Memorial Pipe Band, and the Rockville High School Pipe Band.

World-renowned, GRAMMY-nominee Bonnie Rideout is performing! Other performances by: the Irish Breakfast Band, Sleat, Scottish Country Dance Society of Washington! Plus: Celtic Dancers, Ceilidh Music, Children’s Crafts and Games! FOOD! And, Silent Auction for the Thrifty!

Come and hear the music of Scotland and experience Celtic culture right here in Rockville, MD.

Adults/$7, Seniors/$5, Kids (under 18)/$1. Food at 11:00. Show at 1:00.
Benefiting the One and Only Rockville High School Pipe Band!

Visit for more information. Save May 14 on Your Calendar!

Allison Hayward tells us:

I'd like to invite you to a concert at my house featuring steller uber-fiddler Darol Anger and also-steller uber-singer Emy Phelps. Darol and Emy will be exploring singer-songwriter territory the likes of which I expect none of us have heard before. Darol will amaze us with his fiddle and octave mandolin virtuosity. No animals will be harmed in the making of this concert.

Thursday, May 26, 2011
7:00 pm
7105 Churchill Road, McLean VA 22101

RSVP by email ( to me!

Will it be more Phil Ochs or Phil Lesh? More Lowell George or "George IV"? More Ani DeFranco or Annie Lennox? Heck, who knows? But you'll miss out if you don't come!

Here's The Official Blurb:

Emy Phelps with Darol Anger
A special pairing of 2 unique and deeply affecting musicians, Virtuoso fiddler and multi-string master Darol Anger here focuses his talents in service of the singer-songwriter's art. Emy Phelps is a standout artist in a large field, a prolific songwriter with a riveting voice which plumbs the deepest emotions. A musician of note in the Pacific Northwest, she has made a 30 year music career while raising 3 sons and one daughter, achieving degrees in Theatre Arts and Special Education, and touring for 7 years with Brian Ransom's Ceramic Ensemble.
In combination, these 2 musicians bring out each other's special ability to convey deep emotional resonance and spark low-key fireworks.

Fiddler, composer, producer and educator, Darol Anger is at home in a number of musical genres, some of which he helped to invent. Exceptional among modern fiddlers for his versatility and depth, Anger has helped drive the evolution of the contemporary string band through his involvement with numerous pathbreaking ensembles such as his Republic Of Strings, the Turtle Island String Quartet, the David Grisman Quintet, Montreux, his Duo with Mike Marshall, and others. He has performed and taught all over the world with musicians such as Dr. Billy Taylor, Bela Fleck, Bill Evans, Edgar Meyer, Bill Frisell, Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, Mark O’Connor, and Stephane Grappelli. Today Darol can be heard on NPR's "Car Talk" theme every week, along with Earl Scruggs, David Grisman and Tony Rice. He has recorded and produced scores of important recordings since 1977, is a MacDowell and UCross Fellow, and has received numerous composers’ residencies and grants. He has been a featured soloist on dozens of recordings and motion picture soundtracks. He is an Associate Professor at the prestigious Berklee School of music.

Emy Phelps does not remember a time when she has not sung. Trained in theater arts, she participated in Ashland, Oregon's world-reknowned Shakespeare Festival programs including both Shakespeare and contemporary productions, and danced for 3 years in The Green Show, an ongoing Festival program. She was a founding member of Brian Ransom's The Ceramic Ensemble, which toured internationally from 1980–1987. As a member of that ensemble she did research on indigenous music in Peru. She is a musician of note in the Oregon region and has performed all around the Pacific Northwest since the late 80's.
She has released one recording entitled As It Should Be on Sweet Mercy Records, and has participated in many recordings including Patrick Brayer, Chris Darrow, Norma Tenega, and Duke McVinnie. Past venues include the New Music America Festival in Philadelphia, North By Northwest, the Moab Folk Festival, Wintergrass, The Britt Festival, and Northwest Folk Life Festival in Seattle.

From Sandy Hoar we have:

The April newsletter features Martin Hayes. He will be one of the instructors at the Irish CCE MAD (music arts and dance week) camp this summer for adults and kids. See the link below for
information. I have gone every year and it is great fun and local.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fiddle Club in the Media

We had a wonderful reporter and photographer from the Gazette come out for the Fiddle Club dance this past weekend, and their article, along with pictures and video, is up on their website. Show them some love and check it out!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Appeal for Content

Fiddle Club members,

I'll be in the process of developing more content for our website through April and May, and I'm looking for your ideas: links, photos, videos, memoirs, and so on. What would you like to see up on our site?

March Events & an early April

We've had a busy several weeks - the March meeting came a week late, followed by a fantastic Fiddle Club dance (more lightly attended than last year, but brilliant fun nonetheless).

And the very next weekend, this coming Sunday, is the April meeting, a week early, followed by a rescheduled Royal Mile jam a week later.

There are also a lot of events in town for National Tartan Day (April 6). It's with more than a little pride that I mention that The Devil's Tailors will be playing the National Tartan Day Festival at Market Square in Old Town Alexandria this coming Saturday, April 2nd!

There's also a National Tartan Day concert on April 8 at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis featuring the Blue Ridge Brass and Montreat Scottish Pipes and Drums with Scottish Balladeer Ed Miller (with piper EJ Jones!).

Know of any other events? Let me know!

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Fiddle Club Jam

We had a lot of fun after this month's fiddle club meeting at my house jamming to some tunes. Here's what we played:

Corriechollie's Welcome to the Northern Meeting/Terribus/Greenwoodside
Bonnie at Morn
Sitting in the Stern of a Boat
Hamish Henderson's Refusal/Tam Lin/The Tongadale Reel/The Knockadhu Reel
The Piper's Weird
The Sweetness of Mary/Miss Drummond of Perth/Put Me in a Box
The Squirrel in a Tree/The Directors
Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch
Far From Hame
St. Anne's/Soldier's Joy
Flowers of Edinburgh/Staten Island
Da Full Rigged Ship/Da New Rigged Ship
Bonnie George Campbell/Hector the Hero
Minnie MacMaster

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Celtic Concert with Maggie Sansone & Friends

A Celtic Concert with Maggie Sansone, Robin Bullock, Shannon Dunne, Matt Bell, Regan Riley
"In Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church"

Date: Saturday, March 12, 2011
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: St. Mark Presbyterian Chuch, Rockville, Maryland.
Join award winning Celtic and folk musicians and dancers for a great family show.Featuring America's premier Celtic hammered dulcimer recording artist Maggie Sansone, "flat picking master" Robin Bullock, guitar, cittern, mandolin; Matt Bell, Irish Bodhran and who is a snare drum percussionist with US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps ; Shannon Dunne, concertina, vocals and Irish Step Dancer who tours with Percussive Foot Works Ensemble and also Regan Riley, a champion Irish Step dancer, former member of the Teelin School of Irish Dance. . Tickets and info: ; 301-530-2613; Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, 10701 Old Georgetown Road, Rockville, MD 20852
Tickets and info:
St. Mark Presbyterian Church
10701 Old Georgetown Road
Rockville, MD 20852


Maggie Sansone:

Monday, February 21, 2011

February Fiddle Club jam tunes

Chandler Becker sends the list of tunes played at the jam:

Spootiskerry, Sailor's Wife, Cushion Dance
My Wife's a Wanton Wee Thing
Primrose Lassies
Tongadale Reel, Knockadhu Reel, Tam Lin
Duke of Fife's Welcome to Deeside, Alex Dan MacIsaac's
Lime Hill, Highland Whisky, Jack Daniel's
Brenda Stubbart
Calliope House, Andy DeJarlis, The New Fiddle
The Wedding Jig
Barrowburn Reel, High Road to Linton
Laxo Burn
Muckin Out Geordie's Byre, Stool of Repentance, Stan Chapman Jig
Mom's Jig
Bonny at Morn
East Neuk of Fife
Crossing the Minch
Johnny Cope
Flowers of Edinburgh
Hughie Shorty
My Cape Breton Home

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ryan McKasson Workshop on March 5th

Liz Donaldson will host Ryam McKasson for a workshop at her home in Bethesda on March 5th, open to all, but with a discount for fiddle club members. Space is limited, so RSVP.

Ryan writes:
Scottish Fiddler's Guide to the Galaxy: how make magic happen with the bow and spawn a fauna of ornamentation on the fingerboard - and feel good doing it. Ryan will teach tunes from the Scottish tradition (Strathspeys, Reels, Jigs, Slow Airs), focusing on bowings and ornamentation. Ryan likes to teach music, not just tunes! Any instruments are welcome, but some of the lesson will be spent on fiddle specific bowings. Ryan teaches all tunes aurally, so sheet music will be available after the workshop, not during. The workshop will be taught at an intermediate to advanced skill level.

Click the image for the full-sized flyer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sources for Jerry Holland Collections

We covered some great tunes from Jerry Holland's second collection in fiddle club on Sunday. The question was raised, "Where can I buy Jerry Holland's books?" Well, here are several sources:

Cranford Publications:
1st Collection
2nd Collection

Mel Bay:
1st Collection
2nd Collection

Elderly Instruments:
1st Collection
2nd Colection not available through Elderly

One of the new features I plan to introduce here is a review of major publishing houses and vendors for Scottish and Cape Breton music. I was going to start with the Highland Music Trust, but I suppose Cranford Publications will have to come soon after!

Kale Brose recipe

I had a couple questions about the kale brose I brought to Fiddle Club on Sunday, so here's the recipe. Do you have any favorite Scottish recipes you'd like to share?

Kale Brose
3 pints chicken or vegetable broth (I used 2 pints chicken, 1 pint vegetable)
1/2 cup fine-ground Scottish oatmeal (Bob's Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Grain Scottish Oatmeal is perfect. If you use a coarser ground like Old Wessex Ltd.'s Scottish-Style Porridge Oats, you'll probably want to put it in a coffee grinder for an instant.
1 pound curly kale
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a boil, adding salt & pepper. Once boiling, reduce heat and add oatmeal. Stirring intermittently, let cook for 10 minutes. While this is taking place, wash the kale and tear the soft leaf from the hard stems, discarding the latter, and shred the kale. Put the kale into the boiling mixture, and stir for another 10-15 minutes until tender. Leave uncovered so that the color is retained. When the kale is fairly tender remove from heat and place in serving dish. Serve piping hot.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Save the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music - Online Petition

Forwarded from Jennifer Cutting:

Dear all,

It is very sad news to hear that Highland Council are considering the complete closure of the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music, based in Plockton in the Scottish Highlands. Over the last 10 years this specialist school has produced dozens of fantastic traditional musicians, please demonstrate your support for the school by signing the online petition here:

all the best,

Simon McKerrell.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Candlemas [Latha Fheill Bride] in Scotland

Fiddle Club member Patrick Wamsley writes:

While February 2nd is popularly known as "Groundhog Day" in the United States, the tradition of weather-forecasting animals originates in Europe. Because today was cloudy, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil "predicted" an early spring.

In Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland, February 2nd was associated with the adder, the only poisonous snake in northern Europe.

Here's a Gaelic poem about Candlemas Day [Latha Fheill Bride]

Carmina Gadelica, Alexander Carmichael

Moch maduinn Bhride, Thig an nimhir as an toll;
Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir, Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.
Thig an nathair as an toll, la donn Bride
Ged robh tri traighean dh' an t-sneachd air leachd an lair.

Early on Bride's morn, the serpent will come from the hollow
I will not molest the serpent, nor will the serpent molest me
The serpent will come from the hollow on the brown day of Bride
Though there should be three feet of snow on the ground

Also see

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Words to the Song were a Thousand Years Long

January's Fiddle Club covered some tunes to 18th century songs.

Here are the words (several courtesy of Patrick Wamsley):

"Johnnie Faa," aka The Gypsie Laddie and The Wraggle, Taggle Gypsies, O!

Numerous versions of this song are available:

The gipsies cam tae our lord's yett,
And oh! but they sang bonny,
They sang sae sweet and sae complete
That doon cam oor fair lady;
When she cam tripping doon the stair,
And a' her maids before her,
As soon as they saw here weel-faured face,
They coost the glamour ower her,

'Sae take frae me, this gay mantle,
And bring tae me a plaidie,
For if kith and kin and a handsworn,
I'll follow the gypsy laddy;
Yestreen I lay in a weel made bed,
And my guid lord beside me;
This nicht I'll lie in a tenant's barn,
What ever may betide me,

Come tae your bed, says Johnny Faa,
Come tae your bed, my deary,
For I vow and swear by the hilt o' my sword,
Your lord shall nae mair come near ye,
"I'll go tae bed my Johnny Faa,
And I'll go tae bed tae my deary,
For I vow and swear by what passed yestreen,
My lord shall nae mair come near me.

I'll mak a hap tae my Johnny Faa,
I'll mak a hap tae my deary,
And he'll get a' that it gaes round,
And my lord shall nae mair come near me,
And when our lord came hame at e'en,
And speired for his fair lady,
The tane she cried and the ither replied,
"She's awa wi the gypsy laddy.

Gae saddle tae me my black, black steed,
Gae saddle and mak him ready;
Before that I either eat or sleep,
I'll gae seek my fair lady.

He wandered heigh, he wandered laigh,
He wandered late and early,
Until he cam to that wan water,
And spied his fair lady.

O there were fifteen weelmade men,
Although they were na bonny,
And they hangit a' in a raw,
For the Earl o' Castle's lady.

"For our Lang Biding Here"

Here's the text of the original poem by Allan Ramsay,
also entitled "A South Sea Sang",
taken from page 31 of "The Tea-Table Miscellany."

When we came to London town
We dream'd of gowd in gowpings here
And rantin'ly ran up and down
In rising stocks to buy a skair
We daftly thought to row in rowth
But for our daffin paid right dear
The lave will fare the waur in trouth
For our lang biding here
But when we fand our purses toom
And dainty stocks began to fa'
We hang our lugs and wi' a gloom
Girn'd at stock-jobbing ane an a'
If we gang near the South Sea house
The whillywhas will grip ye'r gear
Syne a' the lave will fare the waur
For our lang biding here

"Will you go to Flanders"

Peter Hall of Aberdeen claims that the original stanzas date back to the 1st Duke of Marlborough's campaign in Flanders in 1706. This campaign climaxed at the Battle of Ramillies, where 62,000 men under the Duke of Marlborough defeated 60,000 men led by French Marshal Villeroi. Scottish, Irish, Swiss and German soldiers fought in the battle for both sides.

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?
Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?
We'll get wine and brandy, sac and sugar candy
Oh will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?
Tae see the bonnie soldiers, my Mally O?
They'll gie the pipes a blaw wi' their kilts and plaids sae braw
Oh will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?
An' tak the royal shillin' there, my Mally O?
Will ye tae a foreign shore for tae hear the cannon roar
Oh will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?

Will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?
Tae see the bold commanders, my Mally O?
Will ye see the bullets fly and the soldiers, how they die
Oh will ye go tae Flanders, my Mally O?

[Peter's note: I suspect the second verse is a later intrusion, since Highland Regiments with their kilts and plaids and pipers were a thing of the future; and even in the 18th century songs, and the kilt itself (or philabeg, as Johnny Cope calls it, as opposed to the belted plaid, would not become common among soldiers until the end of the 18th century.]

"De'il Tak the Wars" aka -- De'il Tak the War! --

De'il take the war, that hurried Willy from me,
Who to love me just had sworn.
They made him captain, sure, to undo me:
Woe is me, he'll ne'er return.
A thousand loons abroad will fight him, He from thousands ne'er will run.
Day and night I did invite to stay safe from the sword and gun:
I used alluring graces with muckle kind embraces,
Now sighing, then crying, tears dropping fall.
And had he my soft arms preferred to war's alarms,
By love grown mad, without the Man of Gad,
I fear in my fit I had granted all!
I washed and patched to make me look provoking
Snares that they told me would catch the men
And on my head a huge commode sat cocking,
Which made me show as tall again;
For a new gown too I paid muckle money,
Which with golden flowers did shine.
My Love well might think me gay and bonny:
No Scotch lass was e'er so fine.
My petticoat I spotted, fringe too with thread I knotted,
Lace shoes, and silk hose, garter full over knee.
But oh! the fatal thought: to Willy these were naught,
Who rid to towns, and rifled with dragoons,
When he, silly loon, might have plundered me!

"O'er Bogie wi' my Love"

This song is also based upon an Allan Ramsay poem.

I will awa' wi' my love, I will awa' wi' her
Though a' my kin had sworn and said, "I'll o'er Bogie wi' her."
If I can get but her consent, I dinna care a strae
Though ilka ane be discontent, awa' wi' her I'll gane

"The Black Jock", aka "The Black Joke" or "The Black Joak"

This one is naughty. You have been warned.

Variant 1:

No mortal sure can blame ye man,
Who prompted by Nature will act as he can
Wth a black joke, and belly so white:
For he ye Platonist must gain say,
that will not Human Nature obey,
in working a joke, as will lather like soap,
and ye hair of her joke, will draw more yn a rope,
with a black joke, and belly so white.

The first that came in was an English boy,
and then he began for to play and toy,
With her black etc..
He was well vers'd in Venus's School,
Went on like a Lyon came off like a fool,
From her coal black etc.

Then Shonup a Morgan from Holly-head
Was stark staring mad to go to bed,
To her black etc.
His cruper her saddle did not fit,
So out of door she did him hit;
With her Coal black etc..

Then hastily came in a Hilland man,
His chanter and pipe both in his hand,
To her black etc.
But his main spring it was not strong
For he could only flash in the pan
Of her Coal black etc.

A Frenchman oh yh wth ruffles and wig
With her he began for to dance a Jig
With her black etc.
and wn he felt wt was under her smock,
Begar said Mounsier 'tis a fine Merimot
With a Coal black etc..

A rich Dutch skiper from Amsterdam
He came wth his gilt ready in hand,
To her black etc.
He fancy'd himself very fit for ye game,
She sent him to Holland all in a flame,
By her Coal black etc.

The good Irish Man he cou'd not forbear
But yt he must have a very good share,
Of her black etc.
Madam said he for money I have none.
But I'll play a tune on ye jiging bone
Of your Coal black etc.

Then next came in a brave Granadeer,
and calls in for plenty of Ale and beer,
For her black etc.
The cuning sly Jade show'd him a trick
and sent him away wth fire in his stick
From her Coal black etc..

Traverse ye Globe and you'l find none,
Who is nott addicted and very much prone,
To a black etc.
The Prince, ye Priest, ye Peasant do love it,
and all degrees of Mankind do covet
A Coal black etc.

The rigid recluse wth his meager face,
From fasting and prayer wd quickly cease,
For a black etc.
Let ye Clergy Cant and say wt they will
They stop ye mouth and tickle the Gill
Of a Coal black etc.

The Bishop in his Pontifical Gown,
Wou'd tumble another Susanna down,
For her black etc.
The Lawyer his Clients cause wd quit
To dip his pen in ye bottomless Pit
Of a Coal black etc.

Variant 2:

There was a lady came out of France
all for to learn an english Dance
with her coal black jack that will lather like soap
and the hair of her Joke will draw more than a rope
with a black Joak, and belly so white

We girls of the Town are Ladies of pleasure
We go to the Tavern and stitch at our leisure
with her coal etc.

Whe have such ways to draw men in
We'd rather stitch then learn to spin
with our--- etc.

In comes prime Phillis then in a great h--
and swears l--m her soul she'll stitch without men
with our --- etc.

She followed me from lane to lane
picking my pockets quite so clean
with her etc.

Of all the Collours that are in the Town
a red, a flaveen, a Grey or a brown
with her---etc.

Remember you Gallants, that follow the game
french Ladies first gave you sauce for the same
With a coal black etc.

It is our Delight for to pick up a spark
To] walk with at night in the Garden or park
With a Coal black etc.

You sparks of saint James's and likeways pall mall
I'd have you take care of this frenchify'd Girl
With a Coal black etc.

Songs of Market Crashes

During January's Fiddle Club meeting, we discussed song tunes of the 18th century. I'll be posting lyrics soon, but one song, For Our Lang Biding Here, was about the South Sea Bubble, which destroyed much of the wealth of Great Britain in 1720. But as crippling as this was for England, it was a knock-out punch for Scotland, whose economy had already been decimated by the Darien Scheme, which frittered away a quarter of the liquid wealth of a struggling Scotland in 1700.

The following is from a wonderful BBC Documentary, A History of Scotland, hosted by Neil Oliver; from Season 2, Episode 2, "Let's Pretend", about the Jacobite Rebellion period from 1688 through 1745.

Someone has uploaded the entire series onto YouTube - but it's definitely worth buying! The discussion of the Company of Scotland, starts at 6:55.

And continues in this portion, to 1:46 - and then leading into a discussion of how the weakened Scotland was pushed into the Treaty of Union.

And the rest of the episode:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Robert Burns Museum Opens on 22-01-2011

Forwarded from Fiddle Club member Patrick Wamsley:

New £21m Robert Burns Birthplace Museum opens

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (RBBM) in Alloway, Ayrshire, aims to attract visitors from across the world. The project, which has taken six years to complete, will feature more than 5,000 artefacts, including original manuscripts written by the poet. The official opening of the museum is due to take place on 22 January to coincide with Alloway's Burns weekend . . . . The RBBM replaces what was formerly the Burns National Heritage Park and brings together all of the Alloway sites, including the Burns Monument, Alloway Auld Kirk, Burns Cottage, an education pavilion and Auld Brig O'Doon . . . .

Nat Edwards, director of the museum, said: "Our aim is to provide a modern and relevant interpretation of Burns that will intrigue visitors of all ages, whether they are lifelong Burns enthusiasts or completely new to his work. Here, you will not just be able to read the manuscript of Tam o' Shanter, you can see the fireplace round which Burns first heard the stories that he turned into that poem, and you can look out the window and see that landscape, places like the Kirk Alloway and Brig O'Doon where the poem takes place. It gives you every facet of the man and his work."

Robert Burns, who died in 1796, is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.