Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Star Folk Club

Entry for 24 July 2007:

Diane’s sister and her husband Rich was here visiting last week, sight-seeing every day. This schedule proved to be a bit too intense for Diane, who began to flag under the effort. The weather turned authentic last week, so they got to see Scotland at its midsummer grimmest, overcast & rainy almost every day. We wouldn’t want them to get a false impression of the place!

For better or worse, I had ducked out of most of this, on the first Sunday managing a trip to Alloway, Robert Burns’ birthplace just south of Ayr, and on Saturday we went up to Kilmartin again, but for the rest of the time, I begged off, on the grounds that I was still trying to catch up from the previous week’s accumulated work (my unanswered email currently stands at 319). However, Nancy had expressed an interest in Scottish music, so on Thursday night, on top of a trip to Stirling they made, I dragged us all off to the Star Folk Club, which holds concerts every Thursday evening in St. Andrews-in-the-Square, a converted church which is now a space specializing in Scottish traditional culture, including concerts.

I had been wanting to go to a concert in this venue for ages, so this was a good opportunity to do so. The headliner was a Gordeanna and Adam McCulloch, a mother-son duo who performed mostly traditional music. There was an introductory act for each half, adding variety to the evening.

The venue is a late baroque greek revival structure with fancy ceiling; the sanctuary is dominated by a large wooden pulpit, leading to me to conclude that this had been a Presbyterian church. We say at tables lit with small votive candles, drank beer from the restaurant-pub downstairs, and listened to the music.

As I have noted before, folk music is not a spectator sport in Scotland. Wherever and whenever possible, the audience joined in, enthusiastically singing songs many of which we had never heard before, many apparently from their childhoods. During the break, the man who had introduced all the acts came up to chat with us, as if we were new attendees at a church, possible new recruits. At the end, he went up to the front one more time, and said, “And now, as always please blow out the candles and take your glasses downstairs. Goodnight!” I love the science fictional frisson of brushing up against deeply constructed but foreign culture. I hope we can find time to go back again soon!

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