Tag Archives: scottish ballads

FRIENDS OLD AND NEW

Jack’s weekly guest blog comes from Scotland this time, as Jack finishes leading his annual tour of Scotland and Ireland.

doune-castleIt’s always interesting to be in Scotland with my annual tour group. The group almost always includes new folk, folk I already know, and ‘returnees’ from previous tours. This year is no exception – David and Susan are both old friends and returnees, while our newish friend Joe came with his fiancee Amy (who I hadn’t met and is delightful). The newbies in every sense are Phil and Wanda, who heard about the tour from my radio show.

The tour started strong, as what might have been a disaster was averted by our new booking agent. We found that there was going to be a ferry strike on the day we were booked to sail to Mull, where were booked to spend the night in Tobermory. At very late notice the redoubtable Irene, travel agent genius, got us booked into a hotel in Oban and our ferry booking moved to the next morning; all was well!

The weather proved kind and we had hardly any rain, even quite a few bright sunny days. We were able to see Castle Stalker and Doune Castle – both settings for ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (Doune is also the setting for ‘Outlander’) and then retire to fabulous hotel food at night.

I was able to find most of the requested items to bring back with me for friends back home, ranging from whisky to flat caps. My old friends Liz Weir and Pete Clark did us proud representing the music and story culture of Ireland and Scotland. As I write this another old friend, Doli McLennan, is preparing to welcome us to her home in Edinburgh on our last night, and waxing lyrically on Facebook about the prospect.

For logistical reasons, I had more opportunity to catch up with friends and relations before the tour started this year, about a week longer than usual. That was great, but I ended up feeling a bit homesick for Big Stone for the first time. Very strange!

But it’s great to see my homeland through other people’s eyes each year and be reminded what a beautiful and remarkable country I came from.

For information on Jack’s annual tours, contact him via jbeck69087@aol.com. Pictures from this year will be available later at a site yet to be named.

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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

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