Tag Archives: Celtic Fiddle

Music Hath Charms – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

We just had a weekend away and enjoyed a great time with musical friends in Williamsburg VA. We went to join the farewell party for Mick and Neva Mikula who are headed permanently to Florida. Mick is an ex-member of a great Celtic rock band called Coyote Run who split up a couple of years ago and the company was composed of other ex-members and associates of the band.

At the last minute I discovered that there was to be a wedding on Sunday and I was invited to contribute to the musical accompaniment. To my astonishment I encountered a fine fiddle player who launched into Niel Gow’s ‘Farewell to Whisky’, which confirmed for me that behind the kilts and leather gear favored by ‘Coyote Run’ lay an unusually deep (for that particular musical scene) appreciation and understanding of real traditional Celtic music.

We first encountered the Coyotes a number of years ago at the Sycamore Shoals festival in Elizabethton TN, where Wendy and I had started to MC the main stage. We found that we shared a mutual quirky sense of humor and over the succeeding years our paths continued to cross. In their final year we were able to book them as headliners at Big Stone Celtic. I was always impressed by their combination of musicianship, stagecraft, visual effects and sheer exuberance. By comparison with the other regular and much shallower bands on the circuit they clearly had listened to the ‘right stuff’ and that was reflected in their repertoire.


Over the weekend, in conversation with the fiddle player (Paul Anderson) and Mick and the others I was astonished to find how much overlap there was in the singers and musicians we all admired.

However, there was another amusing occurrence before we headed home. Wendy went on a shopping spree with the others as I recuperated from a very late night and found a bookstore – Mermaid Books. She happened to be wearing one of our bookstore tee-shirts and the owner asked her if she’d ever visited Tales of the Lonesome Pine. She said that she had. He said that there was a great book about it that he really enjoyed, to which Wendy said “I’m the author”. Cue much hilarity and exchanging of bookstore stories!

A final big thank you to our hosts, who I suspect didn’t originally intend to have so many house-guests just as they were about to box up their possessions ahead of their departure. They treated us and the other ‘lodgers’ like royalty and we were fed delectable Indian and Middle-Eastern delicacies, not to mention haggis for breakfast.

it’s a hard life over here – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, Uncategorized

Jack’s Weekly Guest Blog tackles Celtic Fiddle

Jack’s weekly guest blog about our recent bookstore guest

Among the many delights of running our bookstore are the events that we put on. Just last weekend we had a house concert with a wonderful musician from North Carolina. Jamie Laval is an American who plays Scottish fiddle music as well as any Scot I know and we had first met some years ago when he and Wendy and I were teaching at the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week at Warren Wilson College outside Asheville.
Jamie stayed the whole weekend so we had lots of time to talk about his music and share a few tunes together.
But maybe the most fascinating thing happened a couple of evenings before he arrived, when we realized that he’d recently done a ‘Ted Talk’ and watched it on YouTube. He had lots of interesting things to say about his musical career and the reason he switched from playing classical violin in orchestras to making his way as a solo fiddle player specializing not just in Scottish music but west coast Scottish fiddle music!
But when he moved on to talk about how he worked with young people, and involved some of them in his performances, things really got powerful. He explained that his motivation was to open their minds and eyes to the wider world and raise their awareness of what they were capable of. Not necessarily in music but in anything they chose for themselves.
I immediately remembered when I was still working in a college in Scotland and organized student exchange programs with colleges in Denmark and Slovakia. I always had to work hard to recruit participants from among my students, and I only needed fifteen from a population of three hundred and fifty. The reasons why it was hard were simply that most of them needed exactly the boost to their self esteem and self worth that Jamie is doing with his musical events. My students often set off in fear and trepidation wondering what kind of food they’d encounter or whether they’d be able to communicate with people etc., etc. But when they came back they were unrecognizable! Confident and excited they could see, at last, that they could do anything they set their mind to.
So here’s to the folk like Jamie Laval who can find the time to invest in young people and help them to open the door to their future.
What was that about bagpipes?


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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized