Capital District Scottish Clan Dinner and Ceilidh

Friday evening found me in Altamont, for the Capital District Scottish Clan Dinner and Ceilidh (a ceilidh is a social gathering that includes entertaintment in the form of music, storytelling, the recitation of poems, dancing, etc). I’m not Scottish, in fact, I might have gotten into trouble if all the Scots found out that I’m actually Irish, Italian, and Viennese… I was there because I was playing during the cocktail hour with the man I studied fiddle with, Ron Stewart, along with a friend of his named Kenny, who plays guitar. Also performing were Colin Grant-Adams and The Brigadoons. Although I’m not Scottish, as I already mentioned, there is such a rich history surrounding Scotland and it’s people that I can’t help but be captivated, and I can really relate to the culture through it’s music and dance.

The organizers of the clan dinner actually had to reject people who didn’t send their registrations in until after the deadline had passed… Even so, there were at least 13 different clans there, and all in all a total of about 119 people. After the cocktail hour was over, the Haggis was brought out! That was big ordeal… Keeping in Scottish tradition, there was a proccesion which included a bagpiper, a person carrying the Haggis on a silver tray, a couple of swordbearers, someone carrying a bottle of whiskey, and someone to recite Robert Burns’ poem, “Address to a Haggis.” Yes, Robert Burns wrote an ode to Haggis… Curious? Here you go:

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

After the poem was recited, the Haggis was served, and the whiskey flowed. The bottle of whiskey that was brought out during the procession was opened. First the person who carried the Haggis got a drink, then the swordbearers, then the whiskey carrier himself, until finally the person who recited the poem (that was Mr Stewart) got a drink. You know, that was my second time eating Haggis, and I definitely enjoyed it more than the first time. Maybe it’s growing on me… (Scary thought). As everyone enjoyed their Haggis, they also enjoyed music by Colin Grant-Adams. Although I think he’s a decent singer and guitarist, he thankfully only played a few songs. I don’t know how much of his music I could take at one time… It tends to get on my nerves after a while.

That brought us to dinner, after which an announcer called out the names of the clan’s present at the dinner. After they called out each name, a representative of that clan would stand up to say a few words, and to announce how many members of their clan were in attendance. One clan representative in particular got a chuckle out of everyone… When his time came to stand up and announce how many of his clan were at the dinner, he said, “Two are here, the other fifty couldn’t make it. They’re drunk at home.” (He was kidding. I think…)

Also during the course of the evening, Mr. Stewart treated us to a performance of “Jake the Peg.” Jake the Peg was a fictional three legged man, created by musician/singer/composer/painter/television host Rolf Harris in the 60’s. Rolf Harris wrote a song about Jake the Peg with Frank Roosen in ’66, and frequently performed a dance routine as the character. You can find Mr. Stewart’s rendition from Friday night here.

Toward the end of the evening, the Canadian band The Brigadoons took the stage to sing and play a bunch of traditional Scottish songs. They brought the night to an end, as is tradition at Scottish dinners and gatherings, by singing Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne,” to which everyone held hands and sang along.

Auld Lang Syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

I had a great time playing, eating, dancing, and just being around the fantastic Scottish culture and it’s people. They really know how to live life to it’s fullest, and music is very important to them. Maybe I’m part Scottish after all….

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