The Newton Stewart Traditional Scottish Music Festival July 6-8, 2018






Dear Friends,

I just got back to my hotel room after the final concert on Saturday, July 7. It is 12:30 am on the 8th now. Tomorrow I will be heading to London so this is my last night in Scotland. In my last post I was trying to find my musical and family identity here and hoping that some Scottish music might do the trick. I don’t know why I thought that since I’ve never ever heard traditional Scottish music. Gaelic is guess is a better term.

Here is what I did and learned at the Newton Stewart Music Festival.

  • Singing and dancing go together
  • There are songs from the mouth (Puirt a beul) that are meant for dancing when there are no instruments – they are very fast (no place to breathe) and usually have silly nonsense words
  • The main instruments are: the pipe (a recorder/flute), the box (like a kind of accordian), the violin, guitar or another stringed guitar-like instrument, bagpipes, drums of all sorts, and voice or voices in any combination.
  • Many songs are sung in Gaelic. This language is spoken by few people but there is a real push to keep it alive among the youth. There is also a language called Scotts. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language (as is Irish and Manx).
  • There is a Scottish snap in almost every traditional piece. It is a regular figure in both instrumental and vocal music.
  • There are lots of Scottish folk dancing – I had a short workshop in Scottish Step Dancing. Today there was a Highland Dancing contest for youths.
  • I heard the following performers:
    • Hannah Rarity*
    • Tim Edey
    • LAS*
    • Took a Gaelic Singing workshop with Joy Dunlop of LAS
    • Took a Scottish Step Dancing workshop with Joy Dunlop
    • The Lost B oys (aka Sgiol Chiuil Na Gaidhealtachd)*
    • Kim Carnie
    • Clive Carrol*
    • Old Blind Dogs
  • I especially loved the ones that are starred.
  • I loved meeting my new friends Rob and Barbara.
  • I loved meeting Ashling, from Ireland, and Lynn, and Elain, and Katherine from Boston with her husband Julian who have a bed and breakfast here.
  • I enjoyed speaking with Nathan and his wife, who ran the festival.
  • I enjoyed speaking with Joy Dunlop about Patreon and Amanda Palmer.

I’m sure there is more that will sink in after a few days. Scotland is beautiful. I loved Glasgow’s West End and would go back in a heartbeat. I wish I had been able to catch more music there. All the names seemed quite familiar and I realize that, indeed, most of my family names are Scottish and British. The Scots came through Northern Ireland and onto America. Many British came to America as well. I’ll be interested to see if I can recognize any family names or traditions coming from the Alsace region.

Musically, notes to myself:

  • play with more quiet singing
  • experiment with standing quite still while singing – putting all my energy towards singing
  • find some Scottish melodies – sing them slowly and quietly at first and then go into a lively rhythmic rendition of them
  • many artists change, its ok to move to another musical challenge – keep working with old melodies (Indian ragas, Gaelic melodies, British melodies…)
  • Maybe even learn a bit of Gaelic.
  • Songs come down to us from other people. Grandma gave me Mockinbird Hill, Little Teddy Bear, and At the Fair

I don’t know what form this new direction will take. I do know that I really need to listen to my heart and keep after it seriously. My original songs, old American songs with uke, European songbook songs. Sing songs, give them to other singers too. Write them down in Dorico. Sing them online and live.

I really love the idea of traditional America music for me. We don’t really have Trad music here but I’ve been saying I do European and American songbook for awhile. Oh, I’m too tired to come up with anything wise tonight.

We ended the night tonight with dancing. Any night that ends with dancing is wonderful. Actually my day started with dancing and ended with it too. While I was listening and dancing tonight, many times, my Grandma Miller and my mom came to mind. They would have loved it.

I love Scotland and hope to return one day. Meanwhile I will listen to more of this amazing music and adopt what I feel called to sing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.