Monday, July 16, 2007

Goodnight Washington

We're back home again, tired but very happy. Settling in to life at home is nice, but it was a shame to have to leave Washington DC. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival was a fantastic experience, especially for four farm boys like us with such limited ability. I think we overcame our musical shortcomings though - I hope the faith, the humour, the history and the cultural connections stories that we told onstage helped the US audience make sense of what we're all about.

We honestly did grow up with old hillbilly and country gospel records in our homes, with grandparents who played fiddles, hammer dulcimers and mandolins. We all sang old evangelical revivalist hymns - and for hundreds of thousands of "Ulster Protestants" that was our upbringing, and it's an upbringing very familiar to American people even today.

A big thank you to all the Festival staff; especially to Mike Monseur and his mom Mary (for that huge package of CDs! I'm still working my way through them!); to Rosemary Black for her conversation and the CDs as well; to Gerald Anderson from SW Virginia for his CD; to Brien Fain the wonderful banjo player from SW Virginia (thanks for letting me play with y'all in the hotel that night!).

And a big thanks also to the dozens of American people who came over to talk to us either before or after our performances - you helped us really connect, and reinforced for me just how similar our cultural values are on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. We're Ulster-Scots, and you're Scotch-Irish - separated by a few thousand miles of water and yet connected by so much we have in common. We are proud to have met you all, to have shared our stories and to have made new friends.

In the early 1900s, The Carter Family made the hymn "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" famous in the USA. But before they recorded it, William MacEwan (the singing evangelist from Glasgow) recorded a slightly different version of it here in the British Isles.

Well, thanks to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, I think the Low Country Boys' Circle just got a whole lot bigger!


Anonymous said...


Glad you are safely home!

Could you send me an email sometime? I can't seem to find yours, and have a question.


Crawford Gribben