We had a great year with Chelle Fulk. Chelle was the consummate musician, and with her along, our musicianship and professionalism improved by leaps and bounds. Chelle showed us what we could be, and we all rose to her challenge. But we're all semi-pro/amateur musicians with day jobs, but Chelle's a real pro, and she needed a band that gigged a lot more than we did, and - combined with a move from Reston to Gaithersburg (and the vast longer commute to practice in Alexandria that entailed) - to our great regret, Chelle left the band in fall 2012, just as her other Celtic band, Keltish, was ramping up its performing and touring schedule. We hated to see her go, but before she left, Chelle recommended a new fiddler for us, Susan MacIntosh-Worrell.
Susan hails from New Zealand, by way of the Caribbean, and grew up doing Highland and Scottish Country Dance, and though she'd performed in a lot of genres, had never played Scottish music until she played with us. She was a quick study, and we were up and running in our 2.5.0 version of the band very quickly.
We had some great and memorable gigs in this incarnation. The most memorable was the Burns Supper for the Glasgow University Alumni Club, at which Bonnie Rideout was an honored guest (who rocked out to our music all evening, which was very flattering!). Liz Donaldson joined us for that gig, as well as a Law School graduation party ceilidh. We also played for the birthday party for one of the instructors at the Culkin School of Irish Dance. In these three gigs, we got the chance to really hone our skills playing for dancers, but playing for the Irish dancers was a unique treat for this Scottish band (and the were all very wonderful and friendly and made us feel very welcome!).
Another memorable gig was at the 2013 Virginia Scottish Games when Clandestine's EJ Jones joined us on stage as my wife Amy and I sang Whaur Will We Gang, which we had first performed at our wedding reception six weeks earlier.
But after a year with us, Susan regretfully left the band after the 2013 Virginia Scottish Games because of family obligations and scheduling conflicts, and right now we're searching for a replacement fiddler; ideally I'd like someone who can play piano as well.
The question is, where will the band go from here? Will we be 2.6.0, or will we make real changes to our format to become 3.0?
We have seen one change to our format: my lovely new wife, Amy Gray, is joining us more and more on backup vocals, and there may be a bombarde and some an dros at some point in her future! But we still need a 2nd string player, to provide fiddle for songs, and for when I'm playing the pipes.
We'll see more emphasis on the pipe sets, and a little less on the fiddle-only sets. We'll be doing some more jigs and hornpipes, and some sets that start off as competitions MSRs before going into round reels. We're singing more in Gaelic; so far we've got Hi Ri Him Bo and Là Dhomh 's mi a 'm Beinn a' Cheathaich, and I'll probably add a few more, like Tha Tigh'n Fodham Eiridh.
In the interim, this coming November through January, we'll finally finish recording the first album, and probably lay down tracks for the next while we're at it. I will play some of the fiddle tracks on the pipe instrumentals, and we're likely to hire Chelle to join us for the songs.
With any luck, we'll find the right fiddler, and you'll be seeing and hearing a lot more from us in 2014!