Tag Archives: Big Stone Celtic

Celtic Connections

Jack’s weekly guest blog ruminates on the connective threads of here, there, then, and now

Now that we’re back from Wisconsin, things are beginning to get busy around here. And they appear to be taking on a British Isles tinge, I might add.

Yesterday I started teaching a series of five weekly classes on Scottish ballads and folk songs at the Higher Ed Center in Abingdon. This is always enjoyable and I’ve been doing it semi-annually for a few years now.

At the same time I am gearing up for the annual small group tour that I conduct around Scotland every year at the end of June. Everything is pretty much in place as I write this. The tour is another ‘labor of love’ – something I enjoy doing that ends up introducing me to a most interesting and diverse group of people. Since I always go over a few days before the tour starts, I get to catch up with friends and family. This year Wendy will finally be joining me after it ends, something we’ve been hoping for since I started this crazy venture eight years ago.

On top of that, as one of the group that organizes Big Stone Celtic (Sept 26 and 27, so mark your calendars!) I’m beginning to put together the program. For the first time we have an internationally famous headliner, Barbara Dickson, making her debut this side of the Atlantic, so I’m in the throes of applying for her work visa – a steep learning curve! Who knew the American government would require so much paperwork?

Just in case that isn’t enough I continue to put together my weekly radio show Celtic Clanjamphry (known affectionately now as ‘ClanJam’). Now in its sixth year (whoda thunk it, as they say in Southwest Virginia) my ongoing quest is to cover as many of the Celtic Nations as possible via music ancient and modern.

And finally, of course there are our regular bookstore events. Irish storyteller (and our good friend) Liz Weir will be the centerpiece of our evening of Irish stories and food tonight. Second Story Cafe owner Kelley is preparing Beef and Guinness pie, Colcannon and Apple Crumble to complete the Irish feast.

Now, the great thing about all these happenings are the connections between them. Liz attended our wedding in Scotland, and she hosts my tour group every second year. Folk who listen to ClanJam come on the tour and folk who have been on the tour drop into the bookstore and come to our events. Others who attend my classes come to the bookstore, listen to the radio show and will be on this year’s tour. Big Stone Celtic fits right into all that and brings hundreds of visitors to our small town every year. It’s a nice circle, on a background of plaid and emerald green!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Haste Ye Back!

As the year rolls around we have personal ‘seasons’. For me that includes ‘Festival Prep Season’ when I spend a month or so going around with little post-it-notes on every surface of the bookstore plus virtual ones in my head, all for the sake of Big Stone Celtic, our annual celebration of all things Celtic.

Now in its sixth year BSC, as it’s affectionately known, aims to make the connection between the ‘Scotch-Irish’ of Appalachia and their Celtic forbears. It’s unusual for two big reasons: modeled on traditional music festivals in Scotland, Ireland and Brittany it takes place downtown, using a variety of venues all within 5 minutes’ walk of each other; and it incorporates music, song, stories, workshops, dance, games and food to reflect the culture of all 7 Celtic Nations – Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, The Isle of Man, Cornwall and Galicia.

This year we are introducing an evening concert on Friday Sept. 27 up at Mountain Empire Community College, and then a full day of events on Saturday Sept. 28. Saturday kicks off as usual with a 26 mile bike race (The Tour de Crackers Neck). There are five music venues (up from three last year!):  The June Tolliver Theater, The Farmers’ Market, The Presbyterian Church, The Mining Museum and The Fox House.

Coinciding with the bike race is a gentler ‘fun bike’ for kids around the town Greenbelt, following the two rivers and meandering past the faces carved into the trees at our local campground. Workshops will be in our bookstore and samples of Celtic food (including Haggis, Cornish Pasties and Irish Potato Pie) will be served at the Presbyterian Church hall.

As if that wasn’t enough the library will also be hosting children’s activities throughout the afternoon, as will Miner’s Park; the ones at the park involve tossing lightweight cabers and getting dirty; the ones at the library involve crayons and music.

Everything is free except the food at the church hall, which is our festival’s biggest fundraiser; food is $5 per plate. Outside this, we are dependent on donations to pay for everything and are especially grateful to the many businesses and individuals who have donated once again this year, economic up-down swings and all.

All the flags in one!

All the flags in one!

The latest iteration of our schedule is up on the festival website but continues to be subject to revision – www.bigstoneceltic.com

Our main guest this year is Iona, a wonderful and very authentic group who play music from all the Celtic Nations. (And we are very grateful that a regional arts organization, PRO ART, has sponsored them!) As usual they will be supported by a wide range of other artists, including our ‘house-band’ Sigean and Doug Bischoff (of former Coyote Run fame). Doug’s wife Heather will be giving a workshop on creative writing.

Finally – not many people get the joke in the festival’s name. Most of the Celtic lands have ancient stone circles or individual ‘standing stones’ dotted around the countryside – big stones!

Y’all come. It’s going to be grand!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing