Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tartan Day & ClarSeannachie

Saturday, April 6th, was Tartan Day in Pittsburgh!

Melanie at Ligonier Games Harp Comp
That morning I drove out to Bethel Presbyterian Church in the South Hills, a historic congregation that was founded in 1776, one of the oldest west of the Alleghenies. Almost as soon as I set foot inside the door, I met Bruce Golightly, who was coordinating the entertainers, and he took me up to the lovely sanctuary to meet Jim, an excellent sound tech. To my delight, I was able to listen to some of the set twelve (and a cellist) of the Ringgold School Harpers were playing, directed by Melanie Sandrock in there at 10:45. Besides being a fellow member of the Harp Grove of Western PA, and our liaison/local organizer of the Ligonier Highland Games’ Harp Competition, she is an excellent music teacher. Her students learn to play Celtic harp in the only public middle school curriculum classes that we know of in this country, and they are competing too!

Jill the Weaver
Back on a lower level of the building (the number of them was somewhat confusing—I think this was the main one), I glimpsed a familiar face and stepped into the room shared by the historical re-enactors and the spinners/weavers to greet and chat with Kathryn o’ the Hills who was at her small wheel next to the big Sheep to Shawl display, her husband Jim and their niece Anna and friend Cody. Later I had a chance too to say hi to Jill the Weaver (Jill Stewart Moncilovich), too.

If you are wondering what “ClarSeannachie” is, it’s a duo I’m half of with Linda McNair. It was a busy day for us! Linda was dancing with her husband Arthur McNair and the Pittsburgh Scottish Country Dancers at 11:45; at 12:45 she and I did our first of two sets in the Sanctuary, performing 2 pieces: “The Blind Harper of Lochmaben” (our signature piece based on a Child ballad, also including snippits of “Southwind,” “Katie Bairdie,” and an ancient Celtic lullaby… ), and “Why the Sea Is Salt” (a Scottish Travelers tale about the devil’s mother, paired with a jig called “Peter’s Peerie Boat.”).

Bruce Golightly, Druidsong
An hour later, after eating a meat pie and a fern cake—and buying four more so John would let me in the door when I came home!—while listening to Bruce as DruidSong on the Main Stage, I was back in the Sanctuary for my solo telling, just time for two tales: a historical one about one of the three great heroes of Scotland: “How William Wallace Became an Outlaw,” which I introduced by explaining why Scots-Americans were celebrating the 693rd anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. This document is regarded as one of the major world heritage documents, stating Scotland’s right to freedom from the English, and was one of the models consulted by Thomas Jefferson’s committee when our Declaration of Independence was being written.

My second tale was a Scottish fable, “Gilmartin Fox, the Dog, & the Fleas,” which is always fun to tell! As a Scottish teller, I am always happy to share the folktales, myths, legends, and historical tales that are such an important part of Scotland’s history and oral culture.

ClarSeannachie’s last set was at 2:45, and we performed a Campbell/MacIntyre clans’ tale, “The Fatted Calf & the Snowball,” paired with a MacIntyre clan tune, “Westering Home,” followed by another favorite of ours, “Whuppity Stourie,” which includes a Hebridean tune from the Isle of Barra, “Cuidheal na Maighdin/Spinning & Weaving.”

Loath to go home when I was still having such a good time, I browsed through the vendors’ and clan tables again, visited with Carol of Miller’s Homestead in South Park and Kevin Anderson, director of the Bridgeport, WV Scottish Festival & Highland Games; surrendered my tickets for the silent auction; and finally left with my fern cakes, a lovely wee porcelain pillbox with –what else?—a Celtic harp on it from Thistle & Pine, plus a knitted thistle pin that Sarajane Williams told me the mother of one of her Highland Dancing students makes that was on sale at the Tartan Day booth. I wish I had the pattern!

That evening, I checked email, including the Harplist digest, and found that Carol Wood has posted a video she recently made at: of her song, “Two to Mambo.” I like it for two reasons: the percussion on the tune, and her asking harperists in a duo to send in a picture for her to include. ClarSeannachie is on it, so don’t blink! I just wish she had shown more of Linda’s Rees Oak Tree harp….We were delighted to be included among such good duos!

Tartan Day is a free event; I hope you’ll come next year, if not here, then to the nearest celebration of it near you!

Gus an àm seo an ath-bhliadhna aig an lá bhreacan! (Until next year at Tartan Day!)


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