My View of The Recent Scottish Ceilidh
by Ed Stern
I heard about it via Andy McCracken’s email to the Branch “. . . see the Gunn Slingers in a free concert at Celtic Junction. . . If you have never been to a Scottish Highland Ceilidh this is a must! It is a night of dancing . . . Neil Gunn is a young accordion player that has recently moved to the Twin Cities from Scotland and has been playing for ceilidh dancing since he was a child.“ It was held on December 17th; I was intrigued; I went and was glad I did.
I had a lot of fun dancing, and I watched some amazing spontaneous “performances” during the band’s breaks. The dances were all very approachable; several were variations on dances we do in the Branch (Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, Gay Gordons), but done in a fashion I think would be more familiar to those who grew up in Scotland or who have lived there for some time. One fun dance was introduced as “Hooligans’ Reel” and had four people in a single straight line; as soon as Neil Gunn started to describe what we were supposed to do I recognized it as a variant of the Reel of Tulloch, an alternation
of swinging in pairs and of setting; another name for this dance is the Hullachan Reel which I imagine easily evolved into Hooligans’ Reel. Not totally limited to Scottish dances, we also did a Virginia Reel, and the Cumberland Square Eight which is English.
The one thing lacking was Branch dancers: less than half dozen current Branch dancers were there, plus a few others who had danced with the Branch some years back. On the other hand, since it was at Celtic Junction there were scads of Irish dancers who made it very interesting because they all used Irish steps and styling. It was a raucous Celtic mixture of wonderful impurity. Since it was a Scottish band leading Scottish dancing, it would have been nice to see a higher proportion of Scottish dancers. The next time
one of these comes up it would be great to see lots of Branch members in attendance, helping to show the Scottish styling off a bit more. Be mindful, though, that it’s not the formal atmosphere of an RSCDS Ball, and they are likely to do quite a few couple dances (Canadian Barn Dance, Military Two-Step). But if you let your hair down I’ll bet that you’ll have a great time. I know I’ll be going back for more Gunn Slingers Ceilidh fun.