Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lament for the Death of Reverend Archie Beaton

I had the distinct honour of seeing Natalie MacMaster in concert at the Sheldon this week.

In my pre-blog days, I wrote an inspired for the first time I saw her perform, with Jennifer. I am forever indebted to Jenn for introducing me to her music.

Growing up back home, my folks would go out and socialize every Saturday night. On that night, there were two constants: Hockey Night in Canada, and "the Hoe-down" on a local radio station: old school bluegrass and celtic music. Jigs and reels, you name it. Really old stuff.

I didn't really care for it at the time, but music is powerful stuff. Here, in the middle of the US, it is quite a thing to see a world-class performer play authentic Scottish music and entertain the crowd in a classic Maritime accent. To be 7 years old again.

This show wasn't as good as the first one. But it was still fantastic. The Sheldon is a lovely, intimate concert venue, tailor-made for Natalie's style. Natalie played fiddle, some other Maritimers played piano and bagpipes; a tremendous prodigy from Mississippi played cello (he is 14 years old and worthy of a post in his own right).

I wish everyone I know in St Louis could have been there. This stuff is where I come from. At times, it wasn't so much a concert for me, as it was a pilgrimage.

One such moment: Natalie explained a bit of the history of the Scot music, which goes back to the 1700s. She said that she has learned some 200+ tunes from others, or recordings, even reel-to-reels that no doubt were once used on shows like the Hoe-Down.

She said that this one was different: it came from a music book. It was a very old, slow Scottish air called Lament for the Death of Reverend Archie Beaton. Some fools laughed at the title, which was marginally forgivable because Natalie had been cracking jokes all evening.

This wasn't a joke. It was a gorgeous, slow melody by a virtuoso fiddler player (who knows that holding a note can be more poignant than 8 fluttering grace notes) accompanied by piano. It was transcendent. I wondered how proud her ancestors would be to know that their music was alive and well, after so much change, and to know it is played true and from the heart. I wondered about old Reverend Archie, and what he was like. He must have been a good man to evoke a melody that lasted centuries.


ps. Nat has a CD called "My Roots Are Showing". Perfect.


Hegemom said...

While not familiar with this artist, I know the feeling of dislike for one's parents' music until, suddenly, you realize you own it. It's a part of you. That's bluegrass for yours truly.

Mom, whose mother was a Tennessee native, loved a Sunday afternoon bluegrass program I loathed. Now if I come across some on KDHX or whatnot, I can't stop listening to and loving it.

Yes, to be seven years old again.


Binky said...

Having a seven year old puts a whole new sheen on everything musical.

A couple of examples:
We have had such a fun time with a Queen Greatest Hits CD I downloaded. Teaching them the words to Bohemian Rhapsody has been an amazing experience. Not a capital "H" heritage moment, but a musical legacy moment, just the same.

This morning we were playing a mixed CD in the car and the kids loved Heart of Gold by Neil Young. Lost in thought, our four year old asked "I wonder what colour his harmonica is."

Vic said...

Its always go to see you growing up. Soon you will release what the hell am I doing this far away from HOME. You can marry a nice local girl and begin your adult life.