Tag Archives: Elizabethton

Coming Up, Rushing ‘Round, and all things ‘Twixt and ‘Tween

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in which Jack contemplates all that is to be accomplished between now and Thanksgiving…..

It’s that time of year again –  when Wendy and I take a deep breath before diving into the whirl of Fall and early Winter events in and around the bookstore and the country.

Coming up on September 25th and 26th is the 9th annual Big Stone Celtic festival which always means plenty of last minute arranging, checking and panicking. Before that, though, we MC the Sycamore Shoals Celtic festival this weekend over in Elizabethton and that’s much more relaxing and an opportunity to re-connect with old friends. The weekend between, we will be heading to the On the Same Page literary festival in West Jefferson where I will be singing and Wendy is a guest author.

Just a couple of weeks after Big Stone Celtic is Wendy’s yearly medical conference, Head for the Hills at the gorgeous Breaks Park, where I can relax (but Wendy cannot!).

Then we’ll be into the season of bookstore events: a house concert and traditional foods supper with storyteller Lyn Ford Oct. 30; a Nov. 6 eat with the author event featuring Willie Dalton, who wrote Three Witches in a Small Town;  and as-yet-unscheduled house concerts musicians Jamie Laval, Pete Clark and Ron Short.  We usually try to throw in an autumnal murder mystery,but this year we may have to punt.

A gifted storyteller and author, we remember Lyn most fondly from a house party in Ohio, when she ever so diplomatically persuaded another storyteller NOT to give a demonstration of ‘keening’ after we’d all had a few. We forward to a no less entertaining evening this time around as Lyn will have copies of her Afrilachian Folktales book for sale and signing.

Jamie is an old friend from our time on the staff of Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week. An award winning and very popular exponent of Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton fiddling (not to mention percussive foot tapping!), he will be with us for a full weekend so I can ‘try out’ as one of his guitar accompanists at his house concert.

Pete, from Dunkeld in Scotland, will be touring with accordionist Gregor Lowrie and also staying over a weekend. He is no stranger to Big Stone and will enjoy introducing Gregor to the delights of fishing at Lake Keokee. He has also toured and taught all over the world as the acknowledged expert in the fiddle style of Highland Perthshire.

Ron Short will be joined by Willie Dodson to provide an evening of immersion in the culture and music of this part of Appalachia. Strong connections link the cultures of my homeland of Scotland and this area – stories, songs and fiddle tunes as well as language and attitudes.

Somewhere in between all this we also need to handle the day-to-day requirements of running a retail business, which means relying on friends and neighbors to mind the store – we are eternally grateful to James Ryan, Erin Dalton, and David Hamrick for stepping into the Gap!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Let the Music Flow

We always enjoy emceeing the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, but this year the job had two big bonuses.

First, a combination of thoughtful performer choices, near-perfect weather, and on-the-day professionalism has made this year musically superior to others. Sigean, Maidens IV, Night Crossing, and the debut of the charismatic and very silly Kryss Dula and Taylor Morefield, along with whistle player Martha Egan, the Irish Skye Dancers and Sandra Parker on Celtic harp, has given the year a more acoustic and genteel flavor.

I wouldn’t say gentle, because there’s been plenty of hard-driving fiddle and a high energy bodhran or two, but the overall ethos has been people drawn together by the quality of the music rather than showmanship. This year has also lacked who’s-on-first band crap. That’s been very pleasant.

During his set Kryss spoke to the festival’s theme, Scottish Independence (election Sept. 18) and talked about the “civility of political discourse” he’d been watching when reporters asked people on the street whether they’d be voting for or against–and why. “We should have that kind of unscripted, friendly dialogue in America,” he says. “We’re all one people. We should talk to each other.”

It was that kind of call for community all day at the festival, and it was really answered. Audiences sang in harmony, clapped to rhythms, and helped get the tent sides back up quickly when a peal of thunder threatened our little corner of paradise with rain in the sound equipment.

A day of dwelling in harmony, indeed.

And then, last night at the concert, as the sun went down and we watched a thunderstorm pass us by the west, a bright yellow full moon began to rise above those storm clouds. Full moons have traditionally been thought to excite, but people listening to Night Crossing’s lovely vocals and smooth blend of whistle, fiddle, bodhran and guitar were wandering out of the tent with little smiles on their faces, some clutching a partner’s hand, to watch as peeking became rising became shining. Mare’s tail clouds wisped over its bright-pale surface as Denise, their lead vocalist, sang a haunting Irish lament.

In short, it was pretty near perfect.

moonriseSouls that need soothing enjoy music. Souls that are celebrating enjoy music. And a warm night with just enough breeze to make it comfortable, listening to performers who are contributing together to a successful community event–well, throw a beautiful moonrise on top of that, and we all went home happy.

If you missed yesterday but live near Elizabethton, Tennessee, you can still make today’s musical moments. The festival runs 10:30-5. And if you can’t make it here, don’t forget that Big Stone Celtic is Friday night Sept. 26 and all day Saturday Sept. 27.

And as I look forward to these days, I will treasure yesterday, Sept. 6, like a shining moon on a calming sea.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch