Wayfaring Strangers

 Jack’s weekly guest post –

Regulars will probably know that I have a certain interest in traditional music, which for me anyway, means music of particular cultures that has stood the test of time even while it is evolving and developing. It can be purely instrumental or ballads and songs and can be from anywhere, although my personal specialty is Scottish songs.

When I used to sing with my old band ‘Heritage’ we traveled ’round Europe over fifteen years playing festivals and doing regional tours and we heard wonderful music from all sorts of interesting cultural corners.

While I’ve been presenting my weekly music program ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ on WETS.fm from Johnson City in TN for the last five years, I’ve also been developing an understanding of the links between Appalachian music and its Celtic forebears. For six years I was a staff member on the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week at Warren-Wilson College near Asheville NC and that was a wonderful opportunity to engage with others, all of whom had an equal enthusiasm for those links.

More recently I’ve been fortunate to be part of the team organizing ‘Big Stone Celtic’ – our annual celebration of all the Celtic nations modeled on small town traditional festivals back in the ‘auld countries’.

So, what do I think this has to say to us in the age of electronics and fifty years after the last ‘folk-boom’? Maybe that there is still an appreciation for  music and songs that aren’t designed carefully to pick your pocket, or that do chime with a basic human need, or maybe that resonate with a distant memory buried deep within us.

Perhaps you can see from the above that I’m quite passionate about this. So I’m planning a weekend retreat down here from Friday April 25th through Sunday April 27th at the beautiful farmhouse of friends who live just outside Big Stone Gap. The focus will be Scottish ballads and songs and we’ll be working on repertoire, program balance, accompaniments, sources, sound systems and lots more. There’ll be comfortable accommodation, great food and a ceilidh at the bookstore. Although it’s aimed at singers we’ll make sure that non-singers will have plenty to interest them as well.

If you would like to know more – jbeck69087@aol.com or 276-523-5097

Celtic Christmas VI

Last night was one of our personal favorite events here at the bookstore: the annual Celtic Christmas celebration. This year was a bit more low-key than usual; planning often starts around Halloween, but with the book coming out in October we crowdsourced. Instead of making and freezing foods from Galicia, Brittany, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, we put out a “Come all ye” to regulars, who brought various foods. Our friends are great cooks, but their offerings required some spin once they landed on the table. On the one hand, Heather Richards’ beautiful mince pies easily represented Cornwall, but on the other we had oatmeal raisin cookies from the grocery.mincemeat pie

Galicia… they grow grapes there, right? And what could be more Scottish than oatmeal? So.

Organized chaos or not, it was a fun night with some regulars and some newbies; the mix it attracts is part of the fun of Celtic Christmas in the first place. The first-timers quickly settled in to the idea that they would be singing along in phonetically reproduced Irish Gaelic and Welsh, and a good time was had by all. Enjoy the photos; there are more on our FB page, taken by the talented Elissa Powers (who has her own FB photo page as elp6n. Her dachshund portraits are lovely.)

bud in harp


scots christmas story






dulcimer and guitar