Finally I am back in Austin after a greatly enjoyable, and
successful, month in Scotland. It's good to be "home," but as always
part of me stays across the water with the friends, family, music,
language and landscape of the hameland.
This year's Folksong Tour of Scotland could hardly have
gone better - a very enthusiastic group of folks from all over the USA,
miraculously good weather (2nd warmest June on record), lots of fine
music and a new itinerary. This took us from Edinburgh to the far
northwest Highlands and across the Minch to the Isle of Lewis, my first
time in the Outer Hebrides, let alone the group members. It really is
another world out on the heartland of Gaelic culture and we
travelled round both Lewis and Harris over a 3 day period. Enjoying the
landscape and visiting historical; sites was very interesting in
itself; but having Margaret Bennett with us to sing or tell stories at
Rodell Church, the blackhouse or Callanish standing stones made the
experience quite magic. Also, it was a huge pleasure to have fiddler
Iain Fraser along for 5 days, always ready to play some tunes that went
with wherever we were. I wonder how long it has been since people last
danced in the Carloway broch?!
From Harris, it was back on the ferry (singing all the
way) to Skye, and through the "misty isle" back to Plockton on the
mainland, where some of the incredibly talented young traditional
musicians from the national program based there kept us on our toes at
a dance in the village hall. Driving from there back to Edinburgh, we
were treated to crystal clear weather, perfect for photographs of
Kintail, Ben Nevis, Glencoe and the Braes of Balquhidder. With
conditions like that, I cannot imagine anywhere more beautiful than
As alway, huge thanks to our trusty guide Charles Hunter,
driver Ian Cowie and all the singers and musicians who shared their
music and craic with us, including Jim & Susie Malcolm, Scott
Gardiner, Calum Martin, the Ness Melodian Band, Charlie Milne &
Due to the success of this itinerary, we plan to
repeat it in 2016 (yes, hotels need to be booked 2 years in advance).
Also, because demand was so high for this year's tour, we will offer
two in 2015.
Tour No. 1 (May 24 - June 3)
will involve less long distance travel days and offer a hike (as well
as lots of other activities) in each location - 3 nights in Peebles to
explore the Borders region and the ballad tradition of this
history-rich area; 2 nights near Ft William to have more time in the
majestic scenery of Glencoe; 2 nights by the River Tay in Dunkeld; and
3 nights in Edinburgh, which has such a multitude of attractions, from
the Castle & Old Town and wonderful museums to hikes, walking tours
and a tour round East Lothian.
Tour No. 2 (June 7-17) will
feature a similar itinerary to that which was so successful in 2012 and
2013. - 2 nights in the Borders; 2 nights in Ayrshire to follow the
life and songs of Robert Burns; 2 nights on the Isle of Mull with a
trip to the holy island of Iona; 2 nights in a Victorian-era hotel in
Blair Atholl in the Central Highlands; and then back through Angus and
Fife for 2 nights in Edinburgh.
This year's tour was sold out by early October 2013
and we had to disappoint many others who applied too late; so if you
are interested in coming on either (or both?) of these tours, please
download the application form on the Folksong Tours page of this
website and don't delay.
Both before and after the actual tour, I had the
opportunity to do four gigs at Scottish folk clubs, all of which went
really well, and I'd like to thank all the old (and I mean old) friends
who came out to give support and provide tremendous chorus singing.
After performing for American audiences for so long, its always a
"reality check" to sing for fellow-Scots, who don't need any
explanations of words or song backgrounds; so it was heart-warming to
get such a good reception.
After a visit to Amsterdam to hang out with my
wonderful older daughter Anna, my time across the water ended with a
small festival in the ancient village of Falkland in Fife. What a joy
to be part of a 4 hour singing session on the Saturday evening
with a room full of great singers and not an instrument in
sight.....probably the best session I've ever been part of.
There were two main subjects of conversation with
friends along the way - the World Cup in Brazil was one of course;
while the other was the upcoming referendum in September when Scots
will vote whether or not to become independent. Most friends in the
folk music community were strongly in the YES camp; but I also heard
many NO opinions, especially in the media. Whichever way it goes, it is
wonderful to see how Scottish culture, language, music, literature and
overall self-confidence appear to be thriving and steadily
growing....and the ongoing folk music revival of the past 40 years
continues to be one of the major streams in this growth.
Now, its off to the Blueridge Mountains of
N.Carolina...to the Grandfather Mtn Highland Games for the 23rd year in
a row; then a week of teaching at the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week
near Asheville. the rest of July and August are looking pretty quiet;
so I'll have plenty time to whine about the Texas summer!
you've made Sunday evenings a regular listening time for "Across
Water" It's from 6-8pm
Sundays (Central Time) and can be heard live anywhere on the web at KUTX.org (click on Listen Live).
the Water" features the folk
music of Scotland, Ireland and England along with its connections to
music in this country. We passed our 4th anniversary in March, and it's
always heart-warming to receive so many calls from listeners welcoming
mainly Celtic show, not to mention the great financial support during
our twice-yearly membership drive. The show often has
themes, from "the Irish
Experience in America," and "The songs of Ewan MacColl," to "songs
about birds" or "Transatlantic Connections - song versions from both
sides of the ocean."
other Sunday, I'll continue to host Folkways from 4-6pm,
alternating weeks with Kim Simpson. The request line is 512-471 2345.
remember to support your local
non-commercial radio station.
You will not hear folk music on commercial stations; only on GOOD,
non-commercial radio which is not consumed by the need to keep
shareholders happy by playing lowest-common-denominator music.
You can also help with promotion by requesting your local station to
play tracks by performers you like (hint hint, nudge nudge).
There is a order form in this web site for ordering all 9 CD's by mail
a check, money order or credit card. CD's, however, are
also available from CDBaby.com
For ordering other peoples' CD's, if you don't like
I-Tunes, I would recommend going to the websites of Greentrax Records,
Compass Records or Coda Music (in Edinburgh)