Monday, May 07, 2007

A Ceili in Almonte

The whole and proper title for the event was the Open Up The Summer Kitchen Ceili.

What's a Ceili, you ask? First, it's usually spelled Celidh in my experience, but, since the dh is silent (it's pronounced kay-lee), the shorter variation works well. Basically, it's a Scottish party involving dancing and traditional instruments such as fiddles. We didn't dance yesterday, but, as the picture (below) demonstrates, there were loads of fiddles.

Summer Kitchen Ceili

Although you can't see them all in this photo and the number did change slightly from time to time, I believe there were 17 fiddlers on the stage in this grand finale. Amazingly, they kept this finale going for the best part of a half hour. The guy in the shorts in the center would keep going from piece to piece and everybody would just follow along, all from memory, even though they had probably never played together before. There were several sets of step dancers who would come out from time to time during this finale until they could manage no more. It was quite impressive.

Getting back to Ceilis, I don't suppose you'd find too many gatherings of this ilk in too many places anymore. Traditionally, there has been a lot of fiddling in the Ottawa Valley, and, lately, it's revived some in popularity, led by fiddlers such as Natalie McMaster from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Spurred on by the renaissance of Celic music from Cape Breton and abroad, certain people in Almonte (the town near to ours) are doing their best to keep these traditions alive by organizing events such as this.

As for the summer kitchen part of the title, I don't think I've ever seen one, but in the past some farm houses would have just that, a summer kitchen, in a separate structure off the main house. The idea was probably to get as close to the outdoors as possible in the nice weather — kind of like a barbecue on the patio these days, I suppose. Anyway, when the nice spring weather began to take hold, they'd air out the house (notice the laundry on the line in the photo) and open up the summer kitchen and maybe have a party ... or ceilidh.

I hope that picques your interest to take a look at this video clip of the Fusion Step Dancers with the Kyle Felhaver Band in the background.


Pam said...

There are old homes in Vermont with summer kitchens. And we still have fiddling festivals. I am very fond of the music and have danced to some terrific local bands with fine fiddlers

Heather said...

Growing up, my best friend lived in an old house with a summer kitchen and a screened in verandah. They mostly just used the summer kitchen for storage by that time, but it was a great place to play in as a kid. I lived in a boring old bungalow, so I was always jealous of their older and much more interesting house.

Dale said...

I married a girl from Cape Breton. Donna was her name. Together, we enjoyed the music of her friends and family. I met some semi-famous musicians and singers, among them was Natalie MacMaster. She was VERY good and just getting started on her professional career. Yeah, I've attended lots of ceilidhs and drunk lots of beer and danced like a crazy man. Donna sure knew how to have fun. I miss that woman, dammit. And I miss that music.

Thanks for sharing it.