Happy December! I’m being politically correct here, there are so many holidays this month, celebrated by so many groups and I don’t want to slight anyone by not mentioning their holiday. Sound the crotchety old man alert! All you kids get off my lawn! I don’t know why the holiday season does this to me. Definitely need more egg nog, and cowbell.
Pipe Major Ian Swinton Retires
After 34 years of leading the Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band, Pipe Major Ian Swinton has announced his retirement. Mind, this is the second time Ian has stepped down since I’ve known him and he’s still a young man, next to me anyway. I expect he’ll continue to judge at piping competitions as he is still an active member of the MidWest Pipe Band Association Adjudicator Panel. So we have not seen the last of Ian Swinton and frankly I hope we never do.
The new Pipe Major of Midlothian is Pipe Major Adrian Melvin from Dundee, Scotland. I wish him all the luck and success in the coming competition season.
Ann Arbor Pipes And Drums
Malinky has released a new CD called Flower and Iron that shows how enjoyable trad music is, when it’s done right. My favorite cut? Tough call but I’m partial to track 8, “The Drunken Duck” probably for the history of the tune and the visions it inspires. This band gets better and better. Fiona Hunter’s vocals are superb.
I received a play copy of a recording that I probably wouldn’t have ordered had I not heard it. La Musga_a is a group from Spain that has been performing for 20 years and, I had never heard of them. They play Latin folk and traditional baroque featuring hurdy-gurdy, accordion, clay drum, pipes, flutes and lutes. Rather like Blowzabella but from Madrid. This CD, 20, features cuts from all of their CDs from the last 20 years. Good listening and highlights the Celtic influence in Spanish folk.
Top Ten Christmas CDs
We’ve sort of started a tradition of listing our top ten Christmas CDs, but, I have made a couple provisos. First off, the CD has to be in print. I’ve got some lovely bits in my personal collection that will never come into circulation again, what good does it do to tell you about them if you can’t get a copy for yourself?
Secondly, I’ve got eleven that I think deserve mention, so here goes… in no particular order…
1. bo-Ho-Ho-hola, by Bohola, new this year from one of Chicago’s finest trad bands, it has everything; laughter, tears and fine music.
2. Goodwill to Men, by Seamus Kennedy. I’ve written often about how much I like Seamus’ music, is it any wonder that his Christmas CD is a winner?
3. An Nollaig, An Irish Christmas, by Eileen Ivers. Featuring Eileen’s magic violin and the incomparable voice of Tommy MacDonnel, it was a best seller last year.
4. Noel, a BC Christmas!, by Brigid’s Cross. The same joy that Paul, Peggy and Richie share with their audience is here on their Christmas CD. Lots of non-traditional fun and heart-felt sincerity.
5. Christmas Carols, by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Recorded live in the cathedral, this CD gives you the big church sound that brings a lump to your throat and makes you resolve to be a better person.
6. Gentle Christmas, by Gavin Coyle. Can this boy sing! My favorite tenor, he turns these traditional carols and Christmas songs into works of art. If you haven’t heard Gavin sing, be nice to yourself and give him a listen.
7. On Christmas Night, by Cherish the Ladies. A CD you’ll certainly cherish by one of the finest traditional Irish bands around.
8. A Celtic Christmas, by Iain MacHarg. One of the finest pipers in the US, Iain MacHarg put together this lovely collection of popular tunes performed on pipes, flute and whistle. A beautiful Christmas instrumental by this Vermont piper.
9. Tommy Makem’s Christmas by who else. Do you still feel the pain of missing Tommy’s voice? I do. This lovely recording, his only Christmas CD, takes away some of the hurt and brings back great memories of seeing the man who dug the well perform.
10. Duan Nollaig, by Fiona MacKenzie. Here’s one that could give voice lessons to the angels. This 2 CD set of carols sung in Scots Gaelic came out last year on Greentrax and it’s been one of our favorites since.
11. Bah! Humbug, the Alternative Christmas Album, by various demented artists. Got to have some fun at Christmas and this one is the best. Contains Eric Bogle’s “Santa Bloody Claus” and Robin Laing’s “I’m the Man Who Slits the Turkey’s Throats at Christmas” and others just as strange. It has been called “the thinking man’s Christmas CD”, it’s also been called “bloody bizarre”, you make up your own mind. We enjoy it and I think you will too.
We saw some new and wonderful things this year and some strange and not-so-wonderful things. We’ve got a new President who graduated at the top of his class. I wish him well. I sure wouldn’t want his job. I hope that you’ll all have a happy & healthy holiday season and that you’ll come by and visit us in the store. Please go to the Irish American Heritage Center for the Christmas Festival on Sunday December 7th, one of the best Christmas Shopping opportunities you’ll have and it all goes to help the Center. Slainte!
Catch up with me at Rampant Lion Celtic Traders, 47 S. Villa Avenue, Villa Park, IL 60181 or give me a call at 630-834-8108.