>> Celtic Connections
The White Heather Club <<
As we move on into the shortest month, we look at two contrasting themes which represent Scotland’s relationship with its traditional music. One the one hand January’s Celtic Connections, Scotland’s biggest traditional music festival, which has a reputation for exploring new expressions of Celtic and roots music, and is a celebration of the cultural diversity linked – however remotely – to the traditional music of the country. By contrast, we look further back to the 1960s and earlier attempts to present the musical culture of Scotland, BBC television’s The White Heather Club (click link to see video), perhaps more akin to the sedate Caledonian Balls of London society than to any wild village ceilidh.
You Play the Melody
by Elizabeth Rimmer
You play the melody on the chanter (Martyn Bennett, Grit)
on street corners, in pubs, in concert halls,
the basements of churches and salons
in exclusive buildings, in all the forms.
Traditional is classic, and a mixing desk
brings boxes and puirt a beul and beats
to reels and travellers songs, and the conductor’s
voice breaks as he says it. You play the melody.
We play the melody, of course we do.
We’re Celts, an almost imaginary nation,
undefined in history, and known
without blood-lines or boundaries or map,
but recognised in an upbeat by the lack
of reverence for the things we cherish.
We can make them new, and keep them safe
in one burst of music. In January, in Glasgow,
anyone can be Celtic, and we’re all connected.
The White Heather Club
by Christine De Luca
For a growing lass veering between ‘Girl’ comic
and ‘Women’s Weekly’, there was something
about that predictable Hello! And welcome to
The White Heather Club! that set more than
feet tapping. This was better than dancing
with your sister. The YouTube version is grainy,
unsteady, and I’m cringing to think that we loved
our dose of that prancey-wancy, shankly-ankly
back, forward and bow, a dressage of dance;
the pretence at casual pairing off in sets,
the coiffured smiles. Who knows, they may
have been stabbing each other in the back
at the end of the show, creating havoc
in their hotel. And the music never let up
that insistent tiddily-diddily. But we tapped along,
were swept up by the men all brilliantined,
swirly kilted, as they Mucked out Geordie’s Byre,
not a speck of sharn on their wee pumps,
all pointy pas de bas-ing with only a douce hooch!
And we checked out the women too, admired
their flouncy dresses, wondered how they starched
their petticoats and how their back-combed hair
was motionless. It all seemed so wholesome,
so relentlessly cheery, so sexless and so Schottische.
Elizabeth Rimmer was born and educated in Liverpool and moved to Scotland in 1977. Poet, gardener and river-watcher, her roots are Catholic, radical, feminist and green. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Scotland, Northwords Now, Gutter, Brittle Star and Southlight. Her first full collection, Wherever We Live Now, was published by Red Squirrel in 2011, who also published her second, The Territory of Rain, in 2015. Currently she is working on poems about herbs, social and environmental upheaval, and strategies for responding to hard times.
Christine De Luca, who writes in both English and Shetlandic, is a native Shetlander who lives in Edinburgh. She was appointed Edinburgh’s Makar or poet laureate in 2014. She has had over a dozen books published, mainly poetry, but also a novel and some children’s stories. Her latest collection, Dat Trickster Sun (Mariscat, 2014) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Prize and an Italian bi-lingual edition, Questo sole furfante, has recently been published (Nuova Trauben, 2015). Her poems have been selected three times for the Best Scottish Poems of the Year (2006, 2010 and 2013) and her poetry has won awards in her native Shetland and internationally.