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Cuilionn What is a Céilidh (37) RE: What is a Céilidh 12 Jan 10


Simon-- just posted a response over on the blog, but of course I should have thought to check the Mudcat first!

My understanding of ceilidhs was formed by my experience in the Hebrides, particularly the islands of South Uist and Eriskay, as well as my experience in the community of Scottish Gaelic learners in the Pacific Northwest.

You observe that "The surprising thing is often the USA retains the original meaning when the UK has moved on..." In my experience, that has certainly seemed to be the case. I remember being rather shocked, on my first visit to my ancestral homeland of Scotland, to see that many of the "trad" performers leaned heavily on the use of electronic keyboards, complete with drum-machine or ambient sound effects. My U.S. Celtic friends are, by necessity, cultural reconstructionists. When we try to put together a "traditional-style" event, we tend to be a bit obsessive about reaching as far back towards our roots as possible, rejecting anything that seems too closely aligned with modern pop culture. I'm not saying we're slavish about it, but rather driven by an intense hunger for some envisioned "real thing" that emerges from the rough edges of our broken ancestral/linguistic/cultural links.


It's true that a traditional house ceilidh bears little resemblance to the various formal or pre-planned events that bear the same title. In the ceilidhs I've attended, there's a just as strong an emphasis on singing and storytelling as there is on instrumental tune-swapping. (There was some fine storytelling at the Ceilidh Palace, but I didn't happen to train my camera on it.) A ceilidh dance is yet another permutation of the concept, and Cape Breton does indeed have some splendid ceilidhs for dancing.

All forms of ceilidhs can be delightful, but it is the organic nature of the traditional house-ceilidh (or at least the traditional house ceilidh as I understand it) that most strongly appeals to me.


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