Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's A Small World

Last Saturday, in the McCarthy Performing Arts Center at St. Mike's, we held the ninth annual Concert for S. Patrick; and what an evening it was. Designed to shift the focus away from the traditional binge drinking associated with this particular US celebration, the Concert for St. Patrick brings together the best in internationally recognized Irish musicians with the best SMC Irish performers in the form of the Celtic Knights Dance group. The local Irish scene is also represented in each concert by the McFadden Irish Dance studio.

The headliners this year were the Alan Kelly Gang who brought us a selection of Celtic songs and  tunes from a variety Celtic  places up and down the west coast of Europe from the Shetlands in the north all the way down to Normandy in north-west France. Their music blends the wonderful traditional familiarity of the old Irish tunes with a more contemporary interpretation of the sounds of music.

On the personal level, the most remarkable event of the evening was my conversation with Alasdair White, the fiddler in the band, after the concert was over. During the concert he had mentioned how he had performed in the Shetland Isles but was more familiar with a part of Scotland further to the west. Knowing the area well this could only mean one thing, the island of  Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

I asked Alasdair if he had played at the Stornoway Folk festival to which he replied that he had many times. I then asked him if he knew my brother Alastair Whiteford. "Oh, you mean Ali? Yes, of course, I grew up in Stornoway and went to the Nicholson Institute where he used to teach. Now, he fixes my fiddle when it needs fixing. I know his three daughters really well too".

It doesn't happen very often but when you meet someone who has intimate knowledge of the people and placed one grew up in many thousands of miles away it gives you a great sense of connection and grounding and makes the world seem so much smaller and more intimate. Ever since emigrating in 1977 I have missed most the people and places I knew rather than the lifestyle or anything else associated with life in general in the UK. I especially don't miss the rain but I do miss the wonderful Spring which is happening there right now. It's what I call the Robert Browning syndrome.

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