|Volume 34 #4||January/February 2018|
I have just a few thoughts as we enter the last hours of this eventful year.
We have just arrived home from the Betwixt-n-Between party, our Branch's final event of 2017. We are still smiling and remembering the dancing, the snacks, the ceilidh acts, and everyone else smiling, too. What a delightful afternoon, spent with delightful people!
And 2018 is just around the corner, with classes starting up again on January 2nd. With the classes and dances all over Oregon and Southwest Washington -- be sure to check the Calendar -- I'm looking forward to more dancing with all of you, my dancing friends; and also spreading the word about "Scotland's best kept secret" and making new dancing friends.
I wish you all a safe and warm holiday.
Happy New Year, and Happy Dancing!
I became aware that there exist two distinct cultures of Scottish dance music in the world: accordion band and fiddle & piano instrumentation. I attended my first Scottish dance in the UK at the January 2015 Trinity Ball and enjoyed listening to the accordion band with "box", keyboard, and drum musicians. This compares with my experience at home with all fiddle & piano Scottish dance music that has a significantly different sound. We observe that the RSCDS numbered books music is recorded exclusively with accordion band. I suggested to RSCDS that they also record RSCDS numbered books music with fiddle & piano instruments in order to capture additional sales, but there has been low interest so far.
I observed some possible evidence of the two music cultures while examining lists of frequently danced dances,
maintained by Campbell Tyler from Cape Town, South Africa:
The website displays a master list of 500 most frequent dances in all the programmes recorded, plus regional programme lists from USA, Canada, Scotland, Great Britain excluding Scotland, Europe excluding Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
The high-energy dance titled Da Rain Dancin' features fiddle & piano music by Muriel Johnstone and Keith Smith. We can listen to an excerpt at http://www.rscds-swws.org/news/stories/DaRainDancin.mp3 The dance ranks 209 in the list of 500 most frequent dances. The dance ranks 80 in the USA list of 147 dances, and ranks 34 in the Europe excluding Great Britain list of 94 dances. However Da Rain Dancin' fails to appear in any of the other regional lists where accordion band music is dominant.
This past Thanksgiving 2017 weekend, after enjoying a visit with family in the Poulsbo, Washington area, we jumped across the border into Vancouver, B.C. to take in a Scottish Ceilidh dance and class at the Scottish Cultural Centre. We were curious as well as looking for a means of mitigating the effects of too much Thanksgiving eating.
The ceilidh dances and classes are held at the Scottish Cultural Centre in Vancouver, B.C. on Hudson Street. Upon looking around at the walls of the venue I discovered, indicated by plaques on two of the walls was that one of the huge advantages that this area has were the immigration of many Scottish people to this area, especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These pioneers all established various clubs and organizations to support their history and culture. Examples of this are The Sons of Scotland, Comunn Gàidhlig Bhancoubhair The Gaelic Society of Vancouver, The St. Andrews and Caledonian Society of Vancouver, B.C. and, of course, The Vancouver Branch of The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
We learned of this group at TAC Summer School, 2017 from a Duncan MacKenzie, no relation to our little twig of the MacKenzies. To learn more about the group, visit: http://www.vancouverceilidh.org/
We learned that before a ceilidh dance, a class is held to get beginners up to scratch. The class is quite basic so that anyone can join in and most of the dances that will be danced are taught in the class. This reminded me a bit of the kinds of beginner's classes that are often held before a contra dance. Both Duncan MacKenzie and Alison Moen, without fuss or stress, ably guided the new dancers and old hands through their paces and prepared everyone for the dance soon to follow. Everyone was very kind and friendly and the two aforementioned leaders but especially Duncan made sure that everyone that wanted to dance had a partner before beginning each dance. All dances are walked through at least once and the dancing is a simple walking step with no special attire required. As an aside, we also learned that this is a kind of feeder system for the Vancouver RSCDS branch for individuals interested in learning more and challenging themselves beyond this more basic style of dance.
To see and hear what this is like if you are interested in attending at some point, visit:
We first met George Flett at the March 2003 Scottish Country Dance week in Hawaii. We can read the newsletter item titled Scottish Country Dancing, Hawaiian-Style: http://www.rscds-swws.org/news/200305/vol19-6.htm
I was delighted to receive an email from George in October explaining, "For something like 15 years I have been saying I’d like to attend the Asilomar weekend. I’m going to do so this year and had the idea of also having a holiday in the area North of San Francisco which I have never visited. My idea is simply to meander from San Francisco north just exploring the area. I managed to persuade two of my SCD friends to join me in this venture, Chris Harris from Switzerland and Muriel Wilson who dances in the same local club as me in Maidenhead. I also made the suggestion that we might find local SCD groups on our journey where we might do dancing some evening."
They planned to attend a dance evening hosted by the Seattle Branch, so I informed George about Scottish dance activities in the Vancouver-Portland area, and invited the group to stay in the Halpenny home. They happily accepted the invitation and visited two Vancouver dance classes and one Portland dance class.
George is one of the founding leaders of the RSCDS International Branch in 2004. Chris supports the branch website and has been the quarterly newsletter editor in
recent years. The branch purpose within RSCDS has been to provide a home and dance events for members who are too far from local branches and who have no
representation at the RSCDS Annual General Meeting. The branch enjoys a growing membership with 434 total members, composed of 165 primary members and
269 secondary members who are primary members from other RSCDS branches. The branch holds its AGM online for one week during the first week in December.
We can visit the branch website at
http://www.rscds-ib.org/ and Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/18658220904 to learn more.
A key practice in order to reinforce identity amongst branch members is to take a photo of International Branch members who attend Scottish dance events worldwide. We recorded a photo of dancers at Marge's November 14 Dancing Through the Ages class and the International Branch members who attended.
Thank you George, Chris, and Muriel for your delightful company, and we look forward to visiting with you again in the future!
January is the time when people make New Year resolutions to improve their lifestyle, and we are likely to consider some sort of diet and exercise improvement. I viewed a TED Talk in which the presenter studied the factors for living a long life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptIecdCZ3dg I thought it would be interesting to relate the results to the health benefits of Scottish dancing.
A bar chart was displayed that compares the significant factors of a 7-year study for staying alive. The highest factors are related to social relationships, and are more significant than diet and exercise. Close Relationships are people you are close to and you can depend on. Social Integration are people you interact with as you move through your day, with both weak and strong bonds
In-person contact is more effective compared with online contact. Face-to-face contact releases a cascade of neurotransmitters, increases oxytocin and lowers cortisol levels and stress. Dopamine is generated which gives us a little high and kills pain.
This is good news for us Scottish dancers. We have the physical health benefit of aerobic activity and the mental health benefit from practicing our ability to spatially move within the set with our fellow dancers. But more significant is the stress relief associated with social interaction with friends. Happy New Year!
Friday, June 23
We got up the next morning, had a bit of breakfast, and went to find that pesky castle. Holly guided us there. It had rained overnight, and was still pretty cool and windy, but we did find the castle – a fairly modern and privately-owned sort of manor house – as well as more carved stumps, and saw a lot of people out walking their dogs. Very enjoyable. We checked out of the Inn, and walked another very enjoyable five miles along the beautifully maintained footpath beside the River Leven – very clear and fast moving – from Loch Lomond to Dumbarton. We stopped at the first pub we came to, as we were all ready for some lunch. It was called the Glen Cairn Lounge, and it was absolutely packed, even though it was well after 1:00pm. We decided we would rather do sight-seeing without our packs, so made our way to the east end of town to the Dumbuck Hotel before proceeding. The Dumbuck is very old, with odd hills and valleys in the floor. We got checked in and were taking a wee rest when Holly knocked on our door to inform us that the castle was going to close at 5:30 and she was headed that way. We debated for a moment or two before deciding we would take the bus to get closer to the castle. Sally opted for a nap. The bus only took us 3 stops closer to the castle, which was still a good long walk once we got off the bus. But it was totally worth the effort. Dumbarton Castle sits on top of a large hill overlooking the Leven and the Clyde Rivers. It was a long walk up to the top, and it was super windy up there, but we were impressed with fabulous views from the top, and by the historical significance of the location. We caught up with Holly at the top, but didn’t see her for long, as she was off again in pursuit of the great photo. We agreed to walk back to the Hotel, since the bus hadn’t really done us that much good. We all had dinner together at the hotel restaurant, played a game of Quiddler, and went to bed.
Saturday, June 24
Saturday morning we walked to the train station and caught the 9:13 train to Glasgow. The weather had turned quite cold and windy. We got off the train at Hyndland station and walked about 2.5 miles through the University district, admiring all the cool architecture, to the Botanic Gardens. At the gardens we scattered, and spent a couple of delightful hours communing with the plants. At noon, we met up with Muriel Bone, the chair of the Glasgow Branch of the RSCDS, and she brought a few members of the Executive Committee with her, Helen (the quiet), Helen (the well-travelled), and Penelope. We all went to lunch together in a converted ancient church. We sat at a long table with the two groups completely mixed, so everyone had a different lunch experience depending on who they were sitting next to, but it was a lively, social lunch. We were invited (pressured?) to a dance that evening, but as there was three hours of travel involved, the program was unfamiliar, and the dances would not be briefed, we eventually declined. We were unable to look at any more of the church because there was a wedding going on, so after pictures together, we said our goodbyes to Penelope and the Helen’s. Then Muriel took us on an amazing tour of the University – she actually went to University there and was a wealth of knowledge, taking us around the entire campus. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the Great Hall because of another wedding. We did get to see the Mackintosh House, which was a bit disappointing, as there wasn’t as much to it as I had hoped, but still cool, because… Mackintosh! We said our goodbyes to Muriel, who kindly pointed us in the right direction through Kelvingrove Park, and headed off. On the way, we decided to skip the Kelvingrove Museum, as we had been carrying packs for the better part of the day, and had been well museumed by then. We stopped for a moment in the park, distracted by ‘something’ going on – men in matching kilts hanging about, and boys in matching outfits getting lined up on risers on a stage. We were invited in by one of the security guards, and informed that it was a choir competition. We watched from outside for a few more disorganized minutes, but only heard the angelic voices of the boys choir in the distance as we wandered forth. We found our way to the Hampton Court Guesthouse, which sounds FAR grander than it actually was. It was among a block of similar guesthouses with similarly grand names – Othello’s, Ophelia’s, etc. We were shown to our two rooms in the basement with a shared bath (and a funny smell). The rooms were tiny, and the lot summarily renamed “The Dungeon”. It was clean, though, and we weren’t there for the great accommodations. We got settled and ventured out to Sauchie Hall Street, bustling on a Saturday evening, and a bit more exciting than we really wanted. We continued on toward the George Square area, where it was a bit more touristy and low key. We decided on Molly Malone’s for dinner (something Irish, instead of the usual Scottish fare). The food was quite good. Sally said that was the best dinner she had had so far. On the way back to the Guesthouse, we stopped at the store for some supplies, but were happy to settle into the Dungeon for the night and not participate in the Glasgow Saturday night life. More Quiddler, too!
Sunday, June 25
We had a nice breakfast at the Guesthouse, and ventured out again. We retraced our steps from the previous evening, this time walking all the way to George Square through the still sleeping city, seeing evidence of the fun that was had he night before. We appreciated the statues in George Square, made our way to the River Clyde, and walked along first the north bank, and then crossed on a foot bridge to the south bank, where it is a whole different world. The immigrants, it seems have all settled south of the river. There were lots of small flats, grit, no lawns, or really plants at all, and lots of small shops with signs in languages that I don’t know. We walked to the Science Museum, which turned out to be rather geared toward children, and with a pretty steep entrance fee. There was a Starbuck’s on the property though, so we stopped in to enjoy a cup of coffee (or mocha, yum!) out of the cold and wind. There was an observation tower that we wanted to go up on, but if the wind speed at ground level was more than 25 mph, and it was, the tower was closed. We observed that it must be closed a lot, and the museum official we were talking to said, “No comment.” So, bummer. Off we went again, suffering through the high winds to our next stop, the GoGlasgow Urban Hotel. It was like an oasis! The rooms were light and spacious, the beds comfortable, the towels big and fluffy! Everyone had a wee nap when we got there. We decided we needed a bite to eat before sight-seeing, which was a bit of a mistake, because it took almost an hour to get a bowl of soup! On the schedule it said we were supposed to go to the Pollock House, but our first stop was at the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. This Park celebrates all forms of art and was very cool! Unfortunately, at the House for an Art Lover they were having, you guessed it, a wedding, so all we got to do was shop in the gift shop and envy the people who were enjoying lunch in the little café. If only we had known. We wandered through the gardens a bit together, then Holly and Sally went off to find the Walled Garden, and Patrick and I sauntered among the statues on the grounds until we decided that what we really needed was an attitude adjustment. Lots of places are closed on Sunday in Glasgow, and eventually, after being rained upon slightly, we found ourselves back at the hotel. We had a lovely beverage at the hotel bar. Then, not wanting to repeat the lunch fiasco, but very much wanting nothing more than to hang out in our beautiful room, we went down to the local Co-Op and bought groceries for our dinner. We took them back to our room and snacked heartily while alternately watching TV and snoozing on the comfy bed. Holly and Sally had a similar ‘evening at home’.
Monday, June 26
On Monday morning we were much restored and off walking again, headed for Paisley. It was a nice morning for walking, and although we were in morning traffic for awhile and dodging Mom’s trying to get their weekend-addled children to school, eventually, we got onto a footpath through the woods along a creek called The White Cart Water. This brought us into Paisley and to the Watermill Hotel. They allowed us early check-in, so we were able to ditch the packs, and once again had to wait a good long time for our lunch, but it was deliciously worth the wait! After lunch we explored Paisley. It’s a lovely little town with a lot of good history, which seems largely unappreciated now – very few tourists. The abbey was marvelous. The museum, unfortunately, was closed on Mondays, as were many restaurants. But the architecture was excellent, and the feel was of a friendly, small town. After a consultation with the map, Holly decided she had to go back the 3.5 miles to find the ruins of a walled castle that we had accidentally bypassed on our morning walk. Sally, Patrick, and I went to see if we could actually cross the rail yard where Google said we could so that we could walk to the airport the next morning. Once we had determined that we could indeed cross the tracks, we found the most interesting part of town to wander through, and within it, a most quaint and charming pub, The Steershead, which we could not resist going into. We met Holly back at the hotel at 5:00pm, got cleaned up and headed out for our last dinner together. To make it memorable, we opted for Indian food at Multan Tandoori. The food was excellent, but there was WAY too much of it. We took what we could with us, but regretfully had to leave much of it behind. There was another pub Patrick wanted to go to after dinner called Kennedy’s. Patrick, Sally, and I went to the pub, while Holly, taking advantage of the evening light, went to take pictures. Back at the hotel, I went over to Holly and Sally’s room for a last game of Quiddler, and when I came back, Patrick was sound asleep “watching” a movie on his phone. Seemed like a good idea – sleep.
Tuesday, June 27
Tuesday morning, our last morning, was very rainy. Sally and Holly went over to the Abbey gift shop to pick up a few remaining items. Patrick and I arranged for a taxi to the airport. It would have been nice to do the final walk, but perhaps not so nice to sit on an airplane for 12 hours in wet clothes. We also observed that it might have been difficult to walk to the terminal building, as there was all kinds of crazy traffic that we would have had to go through and no sidewalks. Sally was so happy to check her pack at the airport. The flight to Reykjavik was uneventful. We did, once again, park out in the middle of nowhere and took a bus to the terminal. The terminal was very full of people, and there were not enough chairs for everyone. We stood around for almost an hour, until they announced that our flight was going to be delayed for an hour. Then we sat on the floor for another hour, watching other people board their planes, until they announced that our flight was delayed for another hour. Then they told us we could have food vouchers, and that, by the way, our flight was delayed for another 3 hours. By this time, the people on our flight pretty much had the whole terminal building to ourselves. There was plenty of room for everyone to sit, or walk around, or take up three seats for a nap, or, if you were an exhausted toddler unable to go to sleep, have a complete meltdown. Finally, we got a plane at 10:00pm, and flew in brilliant sunshine for 7 hours to arrive in Portland at 11:00ish. We shuffled through customs. Patrick and I were anxious to get out, so said our goodbyes and high-fives to Holly and Sally while they were waiting for their luggage. Then we exited the customs area and What?! We had to get on a bus to go to the actual terminal! I thought it was hilarious, and I’m sure Holly would have been laughing with me if she had been there. Janice was waiting for us at the gate, along with Martin, who said he couldn’t sleep, so just came to be a greeter. We left him there to greet Sally and Holly, who had their own arrangements for transport, and gratefully allowed Janice to drive us home. It’s good to be home.
I researched RSCDS membership trends while serving on the Management Board. Global membership has been gradually declining at a 2-3 percent rate over the past 25 years. The continuing membership decline is the highest risk to the Society's future. The RSCDS branches have the responsibility to recruit and retain Scottish dancers and RSCDS members.
How has the Southwest Washington State Branch been doing? We can view a chart of the primary Branch members 2010-2017. The Branch membership is stable in the 25-member range after an initial growth period. Another chart compares the annual members increase 2013-2017 for all 158 branches and shows the SWWS Branch rank with a Gold Star. Thirty percent of branches have increased membership. However we can visually observe a higher decrease in membership compared with increase.
Calendar of Events