Tag Archives: Sigean

It’s that time of Year Again

pipersThere are certain events that mark the calendar year for our bookshop, a literary liturgical year. We have the Epiphany Service gathering community churches in January, followed by the annual Burns Supper, the February Dreadful Date (ghostly love stories) and the St. Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Dance. Then we set aside events as the summer season picks up. Throughout those “quiet” (ha!) summer months, we’re in planning mode for the Celtic Festival, always the fourth Friday evening and all day Saturday in September.

As summer progresses, planning increases, and now we are in full final get-er-done mode. Jack has barricaded himself behind book boxes to finalize the parade planning, while our ever-faithful chairwoman Darinda makes a final round with the indefatigable Rhonda, who heads the merchants association. Elizabeth is figuring out where to put the many vendors who will be selling stuff with us, and Randy has the bagpipe band tuning.

It takes awhile to tune bagpipes. :]

A lot of work, a lot of stress, but every year when the band strikes up and the seven Celtic Nation flags fly, and the Breton association at the school dance in their black and white costumes, it’s worth it. I get a lump in my throat as the people on the sidewalk wave at the people in the parade. Because it’s more than a festival. It’s a town, coming to together to celebrate its past and its future. It’s a whole lot of cooperation and believing in a world that’s short on both. It’s a small town that’s proud of itself.

And that’s no small thing.

For a schedule of events Sept. 23 and 24, visit Big Stone Celtic Day on Facebook. The sheepdogs and Barbara Dickson’s concert are not to be missed!

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, 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.

 

2 Comments

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

OK, THAT WAS FUN!

pipe band

It was a lovely time. Behold the happy events that made up Big Stone Celtic, from the pipers above who fronted the parade to the little helmeted kids on bikes who formed the rear guard.

lady big stoneLady Big Stone Barbara Polly, and her escort, musician Doug Bischoff.

french club - Copy flags - Copy dar - Copy little bike kids

A day of music and merriment, from the Fox House acoustic stage, through the Celtic Kitchen, the mining museum, and the Sacred Stage, to the mainstage music at the downtown theatre. ron and beth joseph - Copy irish skye - Copy high school - Copy choir - Copy

And of course the glories of the evening dance!

dance finish - Copy dance - Copy

To see video of people dancing, and visit the rest of Big Stone Celtic Day’s photos, head over to the facebook page linked below.

https://www.facebook.com/BigStoneCelticDay

The newly-added children’s events – a bike safety course, Highland games light, and a few other fun bits – brought smiles all ’round.

redhead baby kids bikes - Copy caber toss 2 - Copy caber toss - Copy bouncy castle - Copy

And let’s not forget the lovely, elegant, lively, vibrant Friday night concert.

jack and me - Copy iona - Copy

Or that Bob Dylan, our foster cat, went home with the base player from Iona (on the left in the blue shirt). We’ve had an email saying he likes his new digs very much, and plans to work with the band on the acoustic-to-electric thing in the near future. Iona 2boby dylan - Copy

3 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA

Haste Ye Back!

As the year rolls around we have personal ‘seasons’. For me that includes ‘Festival Prep Season’ when I spend a month or so going around with little post-it-notes on every surface of the bookstore plus virtual ones in my head, all for the sake of Big Stone Celtic, our annual celebration of all things Celtic.

Now in its sixth year BSC, as it’s affectionately known, aims to make the connection between the ‘Scotch-Irish’ of Appalachia and their Celtic forbears. It’s unusual for two big reasons: modeled on traditional music festivals in Scotland, Ireland and Brittany it takes place downtown, using a variety of venues all within 5 minutes’ walk of each other; and it incorporates music, song, stories, workshops, dance, games and food to reflect the culture of all 7 Celtic Nations – Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, The Isle of Man, Cornwall and Galicia.

This year we are introducing an evening concert on Friday Sept. 27 up at Mountain Empire Community College, and then a full day of events on Saturday Sept. 28. Saturday kicks off as usual with a 26 mile bike race (The Tour de Crackers Neck). There are five music venues (up from three last year!):  The June Tolliver Theater, The Farmers’ Market, The Presbyterian Church, The Mining Museum and The Fox House.

Coinciding with the bike race is a gentler ‘fun bike’ for kids around the town Greenbelt, following the two rivers and meandering past the faces carved into the trees at our local campground. Workshops will be in our bookstore and samples of Celtic food (including Haggis, Cornish Pasties and Irish Potato Pie) will be served at the Presbyterian Church hall.

As if that wasn’t enough the library will also be hosting children’s activities throughout the afternoon, as will Miner’s Park; the ones at the park involve tossing lightweight cabers and getting dirty; the ones at the library involve crayons and music.

Everything is free except the food at the church hall, which is our festival’s biggest fundraiser; food is $5 per plate. Outside this, we are dependent on donations to pay for everything and are especially grateful to the many businesses and individuals who have donated once again this year, economic up-down swings and all.

All the flags in one!

All the flags in one!

The latest iteration of our schedule is up on the festival website but continues to be subject to revision – www.bigstoneceltic.com

Our main guest this year is Iona, a wonderful and very authentic group who play music from all the Celtic Nations. (And we are very grateful that a regional arts organization, PRO ART, has sponsored them!) As usual they will be supported by a wide range of other artists, including our ‘house-band’ Sigean and Doug Bischoff (of former Coyote Run fame). Doug’s wife Heather will be giving a workshop on creative writing.

Finally – not many people get the joke in the festival’s name. Most of the Celtic lands have ancient stone circles or individual ‘standing stones’ dotted around the countryside – big stones!

Y’all come. It’s going to be grand!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

A Little Help from our Friends

gutted buildingEvery year in September Jack and I trot happily off to emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Tennessee. This year the chaos of getting away from a busy time at the shop and in my new book prep had us flying out the door Friday at 5 pm, shouting “and don’t forget to give Bert his pill” to Thom, the poor lad we’d sucked in at 10 that morning to shopsit the rest of the day. Since we’d be back Sunday and the animals have feeders and water jugs, and the yard is fenced, we weren’t worried. We got to our luxury hotel, bounced on the king sized sleigh bed a few times, and went out to grab an Indian meal.burning 2

When we awoke next morning to Facebook postings from home about the building downtown that had burned, you can imagine the luxuriated, lazy blood in my veins turning to jelly.

The building was a block away; no one was in it; all is as well as it can be. But I panicked, thinking about our three staff cats (one of whom resides by choice outside) two staff dogs (Bert the Terrier is terrified of loud noises) and three foster cats, sojourning with us until their forever families find them. Would Bert have dug under the fence to get away from an event so reminiscent of the dreaded thunderstorm? Would Beulah (outside greeter) be run over in the chaos of downtown fire traffic? Ernest Hemingway, our newest foster, landed with us Friday morning. He’d never even spent a night in our house; we took him straight from the shelter to have his balls cut off, thence home to abandon him for two days, and the firetrucks came. burning 1

(“Call this a rescue?” I could hear Ernie thinking. “Take me back to the shelter! I’ll take my chances!”)

So I did what any modern American woman panicking does: got on Facebook and begged our Saturday shopsitters Wes and Rachael to let me know as soon as they got there if everything was okay. And here’s what happened

2 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA