Castle/Cemetery/Fiddle Tunes tour of Scotland

I have been playing “Calum’s Road” with my young friend, Kipling, since she was seven years old. She’s twelve now. Her older sister is in medical school in St. Andrews. Her father suggested I go with him to Scotland. So Ruth and I went with Rod and Kipling to join Akela, Kipling’s older sister, and travel to Calum’s Road to play “Calum’s Road”.
I didn’t realize how famous this tune is until I talked to a Scots lass in an hostello in Milan. She told me they play the tune at all the dances now. Calum was a fellow who wanted a road to his village. When the county wouldn’t pay for it, he got some books on engineering, a pick and a shovel, and went to work. Years later the road is behind us here and inspired this tune.

So here we are. Playing Calum’s Road on “Calum’s Road

Then I realized that we were staying in Staffin, with Staffin Island just off the coast. So of course we had to play “Hut on Staffin Island”.

And of course if you’re going to the Isle of Skye you need to play “Over the Sea to Sky”

And for good measure, here’s “Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife”

And of course, once we got back to Edinburgh, it had to be “Flowers of Edinburgh” I didn’t realize how cold Kipling was until just now when I looked at the video.

All in all an amazing trip.

What’s Happening on Planet Zale

My last couple of posts have been about having cancer, and the side effects of the hormone therapy. Since this is my homepage on my browser, every time I fire up this computer I’ve been greeted with the headline: I’m Growing Tits Now. That’s getting to be a drag. Not that I’m likely to forget the fact.

While having cancer is always on my mind, like the background hum from the big bang that we hear as radio static, it’s far from the most important fact of my life. I shall make a list:

  1. Today I bought a new router bit. I’m putting a chair back together for Sadie, my former sister in law. It fell apart because somebody left it out in the weather. I’ve glued the seat back together, but don’t trust it to not crack at the glue joints. That seat was originally built in the factory from nice blocks of oak, with four parallel surfaces, which made gluing it easy. Now that it’s contoured, it’s difficult to clamp without having gaps at the joints. I bought the router bit to let me inlay a piece of hardwood on the underside. That should guarantee that it won’t split. I’ll spare you the details, but this turned out to be more complicated than I hoped, and it still isn’t completed.
  2. We had had another Stagefright Cafe open mic night at Wellington Hall this week. Ruth and I put that together once a month, recreating a 1965 coffee house. Every event has been different and great fun. We sell coffee at ten cents a cup. I bake banana bread and Ruth bakes chocolate chip cookies.
  3. We replaced the roof on my workshop shed this week. It was leaking slightly, and that kind of thing has to be stopped. So we bought corrugated steel sheets and covered it. Ruth did the work on the roof. I did the cutting and handing stuff up to her.
  4. I had a rehearsal with the new Vacant Lot Band. The name is reclaimed from my jug band in the sixties. Great rehearsal. I’m excited about getting a group going again.
  5. The rehearsal was followed by a drive to Qualicum Beach to play with the Oceanside Jammers, my fiddle group.
  6. I’m getting excited about the trip to Scotland. That happens this coming Thursday and will keep us away until December 26.

All in all, there’s a lot going on in my life. Each item on the list above deserves more details and pictures. Maybe later. For now, this gets rid of the headline that I didn’t like.

Wellington Hall Open Mic Night

Here’s my latest attempt to bloom where I’m planted.  I’ve been organizing an open mic night at Wellington Hall in Nanaimo.And wonder of wonders, this wordpress is finally starting to add pictures again, after refusing to for months.  That’s great.

Hey, the open mic night is going to be great fun.  Come and perform.  Come and be an audience.  Come and eat grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade banana bread with ice cream.  We’ll have a good time and if this seems to be appreciated, maybe we can make it a regular event.

We would start it a bit earlier, but that hall is infested with Brownies until 7:30.

The LaoWise Getting More Gigs

Ruth and I perform as the LaoWise, which is a pun on the Chinese word for foreigner, “Lao Wai”.  Of course the Chinese do not add an “s” to pluralized a word,  “Lao” means old or venerable.  So we’re assuming that LaoWise means “venerable and wise”.

Anyway, to get to the point, we performed once again this year at the combination Robbie Burns Day/Chinese New Year celebration, our third such performance.  This is always great wacky fun, with haggis won tons and a lion sword dance.  We did a three Chinese song set before inviting my young friend Kipling, eight years old, on stage to play a Scots jig with me on the violin. As a finale we were joined on stage by an accordionist from China, a young pipa player, and a singer who joined Ruth in singing Auld Lange Syne in Chinese and English while I played the erhu.

A couple of weeks later we did a performance at Aspen Grove school, at the invitation of the music teacher who provided these photographs and testimonial.

027 LaoWise scaled LaoWise scaled2Testimonial:
Laowise is a performance/education experience I would recommend to anybody. Ruth and Zale really know how to put on an entertaining show for kids while also giving a real sense of what life is like for children in China. Their many years of experience living there learning the language from scratch, like children, makes them a valuable resource. Their upbeat songs and audience participation style keep kids engaged. I especially liked their use of traditional Chinese instruments to accompany themselves and provide atmosphere. If you engage them for your next cultural event at school or even a birthday party, you won’t be sorry!
– Cathryn Gunn, Music Teacher, Aspen Grove School, Nanaimo

More recently we did a forty minute set for the Retired Provincial Employees Association.  We talked about our experiences in China, reading Chinese characters, how Chinese children learn language, all with Chinese songs and stories.

I don’t think we’ll ever hit prime time as performers, but we do get a great reaction to the shows we put on, and are often invited back.  This was our second time for the Retired Provincial Employees Association.

Ear Worms, Nostalgia and Nonsense or Why I Love the Internet

Ruth and I are digging out the basement under our home.  Every morning, as I work, I seem to be afflicted with a new and unpredictable ear worm, a melody from my past that plays over and over until I consciously choose another tune to drown it out.

As I said, these are unpredictable.  Most are stupid. Snatches of songs I should have forgotten.  The other morning it was a couple of lines my father used to sing as we rode in his car to church. “While the organ peeled potatoes and the choir rendered lard, someone lit the church on fire.  Holy smoke the preacher shouted as his wig flew in the air.  And his head resembled heaven for there was no parting there.”  This got me curious enough to Google the lines and come up with this:

Turns out dad had both the words and melody wrong, which isn’t surprising.  What impresses me about this song, recorded in 1928, is how many of the jokes are probably inaccessible to the youth of today.  Do millennials know what it means to render lard, or that songs also used to be rendered? I suddenly feel old.

But how wonderful that the Internet can give me this music and these words, which my long departed father would have been at a total loss to supply.  Just one more reason why I love the Internet.

The other day we were in a grocery store and I happened to see cream of tartar on a shelf.  What the heck is “cream of tartar”.  I knew it was a thing, and had something to do with cooking.  But beyond that, not a clue.  So out came the smart phone, up with Google again, and there it is. Tartaric acid, a by product of wine making, used to stabilize eggs when whipping them. I’m so happy to have lived long enough to have answers to every question in my pocket.

The Little Red Hen Wants a Rooster, Plus the Fiddle Workshop with Rodney Miller

I’m not sure why I find this so amusing.  Maybe because, at my age, anything requesting that I become intimate with it is kind of… sweet.

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit kinky.  Here’s a couple of videos of Rodney Miller demonstrating the two fiddle tunes he taught us at last week’s workshop, hosted by Joyce and John Beaton in Qualicum Beach.
First up is the Blue Jig.

Followed by Trip to Dingle.  I’m very fond of this simple tune.

 

 

Oceanside Jammers in Rehearsal

I play with the Oceanside Jammers every Thursday, and whenever they have a performance, which will happen this evening.

Here are three clips of the Jammers in rehearsal.  I’d be playing with them, but I’m behind the camera.  This first one is called “Saltspring”, named after the island where my son and his kids live.  I’m not fond of the melody, but I have to admit that the Jammers give it a lot of life.

This next one is just the tail and of “One Hundred Pipers”.  I like this choon, but I wasn’t fast enough to get the tune that leads into it, “Cock of the North”, and could only catch the tail end of this one.

And here are two of my favourites.  “Senneca Square Dance” followed by “Chattanooga”.

The little girl in the center of the group is named Kipling.  She’s the daughter of friends and I take her to our fiddle sessions now, since she plays as well or better than most of the adults.