July 21, 2010 at 4:55 AM
The week following my birthday was rough. I was not feeling well all week. Air quality was and continues to be terrible, and so has my asthma. I felt tired and depressed. One morning, while waiting for my first student, I fell asleep on the sofa. When he knocked on the door, I got up to meet him, trying my best to look well rested and healthy. I didn't fool him. The first thing he said to me was, "I think I had better reschedule this lesson." I agreed. "Before I go," he said, "I want to give you your birthday present." He handed me a book of sheet music, gave me a birthday hug, and left.
He had chosen my gift carefully. He knew that it was just what I wanted. A few weeks earlier, he had shown me a pile of music books that his wife had bought for him. The one that particularly interested me was The Celtic Fake Book, a large book of songs with lyrics from several different Celtic cultures. I told him that I often learn fiddle tunes as tunes, not songs, and I only find out that there are lyrics when I play the tune and people sing along. I told him that I was especially interested in this songbook, and he bought me my own copy as a birthday gift. Wow!
The combination of a new book of sheet music and an unexpected gift from a friend turned my whole day around. Somehow, I got the energy to look at the songs and to play a lot of them on my violin. The songs were from several Celtic cultures, and many of them were from the Hebrides. I knew that the islands of the Outer Hebrides are a very harsh environment for human habitation. One of them, St. Kilda, is considered the last outpost of civilization in that region. Many songs from St. Kilda are bright and happy. In spite of the harsh environment there, the people had warmth and joy within themselves, and they expressed these feelings in song. Those songs are an affirmation and a celebration of life. That book was just the right thing for me when I was feeling down and out.
Fiddle and cello are a traditional duo for Scottish music. In this clip, the group String Cheese, consisting of a fiddle and an electric cello with guitar backup, plays St. Kilda's Wedding. This will put a bounce in your step.
The songs in my gift book are easier than this, and they all have lyrics. However, I have played and taught St. Kilda's Wedding in the past. I'll get it out and play it solo again while I wait for a cellist who plays Scottish music. Meanwhile, I have a wealth of Celtic tunes in my new gift book to explore.
I hope you're feeling better soon, Pauline! Sometimes for me, playing the violin can get rid of headaches.
Thanks, Karen. That will be a fun thing to try.
Great story! Celtic music is always fun :D
Corey, I love Celtic music, too. It is not always easy to play. Have you tried J. Scott Skinner? His works are technical, flashy, and fun.
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