Last night, Elaine and I (Kindred Spirit Duo) headed off to the Hampshire village of Headley, to their annual Burns Supper.
We arrived just as the haggis was being piped in, but around setting up still managed to be well fed (soup, haggis, neeps, tatties and pudding – a veritable feast!) before playing. Now I’ve been to a few Burns nights before (credit particularly to St Columba’s URC, Oxford, which I went to as a student and had a contingent of diehard Scottish nationalists years before the SNP was cool … ) and danced at many a ceilidh (they’re particularly popular with slightly geeky weddings, though I’ve been to others too, and will always get my vote over a DJ attempting to incite dancing round handbags!). But if memory serves me right, this was the first time I’d been hired as a musician to play for either.
So the weeks between new year and the day of the bard, when not occupied with a recital, an orchestra concert, starting to revive my classical viola technique and booking in other work, saw me on one hand learning Elaine’s selection of Scottish songs (several with Robbie Burns texts and several with decidedly anti-English lyrics!) to sing while the dancers got their breath back. On the other, going through caller Liz’s list of suggested dances, allocating suitable tunes at least one of us has played before to each, making sure Elaine had the relevant chords (I have a bit of a fixation on doing my own harmonisation of British folk tunes, which are generally not written with chords in mind, not relying on published versions), and getting my fingers around the tunes that I didn’t know taken from the ceilidh pad of a previous violinist of hers!
All of which said, despite not rehearsing any of the dancing material together or with Liz, things went off with barely a hitch for the dancers (I think even the points where we had to swap tunes in from a different dance because the dance list got added to and subtracted from were fitted into the time taken walking the dancers through). And I managed to contain my desire to be down on the dancefloor, though it did feel a little like being left out!
Anyway it must have gone to the locals’ satisfaction, as the committee hope to ask us back for another ceilidh later in the year. And having done one, I’m confident within reason of being able to put together tunes and effectively be ‘musical director’ for other ceilidhs and barn dances, given a caller who knows what they’re doing and a bit of advance notice of the dance list. Add that to your list of my available skills and contexts, and I await the flood of bookings for wedding receptions and ramblers’ association annual socials (I didn’t make that up) (other kinds of events will be considered) (in fact I don’t care what the pretext is, have a barn dance at your nan’s wake if she would have liked the idea).
Coming up: function string ensembles, session Americana recording, and returns to orchestral and wedding band gigging …
[PS I don’t know much better than you do what the title means; I copied and pasted it from an Aberdonian so it’s either right good Scots or a prank on the English]