Andy M. Stewart–A Tribute

Damn! Damn! Damn! Yesterday, I was listening to Andy M. Stewart’s version of ‘The Loch Tay Boat Song” on YouTube and then later cranked it up for “The Queen of Argyll.” I hadn’t played any Silly Wizard for a long time, and I missed the music. I started reading the YouTube comments. One person wrote: “RIP Andy.” I wanted to cry. I did not know until I read this obit from TheScotsman that he passed away on December 27, 2015 after numerous health problems. He was only 63.

I discovered Silly Wizard’s recordings just a few years after they disbanded. It all started at a Schooner Fare concert during their Signs of Home tour. That CD has a gorgeous  cover of “Golden,Golden.” Before they performed it, Steve Romanoff asked, “Has anyone ever heard of Andy M. Stewart, the Scottish folk singer?” I hadn’t, but after the song I decided to find out. That led to owning all of Silly Wizard’s recordings, his own By the Hush. and Johnny Cunningham’s Fair Warning. I still have them.  Stewart’s version of “Golden, Golden” is best; after all, he wrote it.

It wasn’t just his interviews, his humor, or the beauty of his singing voice. His concert with Manus Lunny was the first concert I attended by myself–ever. It was November 1990, and I heard they would be appearing at Ireland’s Four Provinces, a pub in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (This location closed several years ago; now there’s one near where I live.) Anyway, they were doing two shows–at 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. I wanted to go to the early show.

I was 26, so I knew I would likely be okay because I tried my best to be watchful and wise. However, as a motorized wheelchair user and a woman, so many people feared (and still fear) for my safety at night. I told my aunt of my plans, and she was against it. We had a prolonged disagreement for about three days. But I couldn’t let go. She didn’t want to go with me, and no one else was available to ask. No way could I manufacture a boyfriend out of thin air to go with me. I thought about hiring a bodyguard, and then wondered exactly how to do that. I knew it was up to me. The next day at work, I made the arrangements. That evening at dinner, I told my aunt: “I’m going to the show.” She didn’t like it, but relented.  “For God’s sake, be careful!” she said as she hugged me on concert day.

The workday was typical. After I left the office I rode the Metro to Cleveland Park. It was raining, but I had my red rain cape.The line was long getting in, but several people assisted me with directions and answered my questions. I went in, put my purse, cape and the novel I was reading on a nearby chair and looked around. It was crowded, but felt very homey. A server handed me a menu. I ordered an Irish coffee–for the one and only time–with dinner. I chatted about folk music and Celtic instruments with the people around me.

Then the show started. It was great seeing Andy in person!  He did many of the familiar songs, including “Dublin Lady” and Silly Wizard songs, but much of the program was from the new recording, At It Again. I bought a copy, and I still have it, too. He was so funny!  My only regret is not attempting to approach him to say hello and “great job!” Once the show ended, I gathered my stuff, went to the Metro to ride to my bus stop to get the bus home.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. My aunt enjoyed my running commentary, and said she was glad I had a good time. That led to many other concerts, plays, night classes and events by myself. But I liked it better going with my aunt and other people. As a friend says, “Concerts are better shared.” A few years later, my aunt and I saw Andy M. Stewart again–this time with Gerry O’Beirne–as part of Wolf Trap’s Irish Festival.

I also miss his bandmate Johnny Cunningham, whom I had seen at The Barns of Wolf Trap once, with Christian LeMaitre and the fiddler from The Chieftains.. Johnny appeared with his brother, Phil, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which would have been around 2001. Johnny died in 2003.

Here’s a recording of “Golden, Golden”:


Here’s Silly Wizard’s 1988 live performance of “The Banks of the Bann/Willie Archer.” The other day while doing errands, tunes from Live Wizardry were in my head as I went up and down the sidewalk.

My own concert days are limited now for various reasons. But I still would like to go to something special one day again. I would love to go to a concert with my aunt again, but it’s not something she finds enjoyable now. But I keep hoping…

And I also think of the Righteous Brothers’ song about rock-and-roll heaven. Much sadness and loss is happening in the wider world these days. Music may not heal in some situations. But it is comforting to think that musicians who are no longer here of every stripe have a hell of a band.


Waltz with Me!

I like waltz music, especially those from the Strauss family, I still have my one CD and record album.

Here are four waltzes I especially enjoy from different composers.

The first is “The Skater’s Waltz, Op. 183” by Émile Waldteufel in 1882. I don’t recall this one from my childhood. I heard it on the radio this morning and thought it very pretty:

Next is “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky. I like the flowers and nature photos and paintings throughout this video. I first heard it on a kids’ program years ago. When I was in high school, I got my own complete recording of the ballet. I saw it onstage at Lisner Auditorium with friends, Earlier that night, we had gone to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree and concert.

“The Carousel Waltz” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I have a collection of carousel horse music boxes, and one of them plays this tune. That’s where I first heard it.

And “Tales from the Vienna Woods” by Johann Strauss II.

“The Blue Danube” is a close second.

Here’s a montage of waltz music:




“The Merry Widow” Production

“The Merry Widow” looks like fun. I have never seen it. Here is more information. Enjoy!

A New Song to Enjoy

Yesterday, my aunt and I shared peach cobbler and coffee at Dogwood Tavern. It’s a sports bar, but they also have music going. One song caught my ear because I liked the melody. An Internet search led me to the band–the Gin Blossoms. The song is “Follow You Down.” I had never heard of the band or the song before now. They are a 1990s band. They formed in 1987, actually. Apparently they have undergone personnel changes and have done solo projects, but it’s good to know they are still recording and performing. I don’t think the 1990s qualify as classic, but I’ll add it anyway. Here’s the video, and then one that showcases the words:


I listened to another of their songs, “Found Out About You,” which also sounds good:

Gin Blossoms – Found Out About You – YouTube.

Music and Art: A Great Pairing

As I listened to tonight’s “Front Row Washington” on Classical WETA 90.9, I was happy to hear The Vivaldi Project concert  in connection with the National Gallery of Art exhibit “Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals,” which runs through May 30, 2011.  I did not know about the February 20th concert in time to go see it, so I am glad I didn’t miss this. I hope to see the exhibit soon. I also got on the National Gallery of Art’s concert list. I hope I can see at least one, with the rest on podcast.

I am happy to learn that The Vivaldi Project is based in Northern Virginia, so they are not too far away. I will ask the director when the next concert is.

And because I can’t get enough of Vivaldi, here is Cleveland’s Apollo’s Fire performing Vivaldi’s “La Folia, the Trio Sonata in D Minor, RV 63″ from a January 15, 2009 performance. I found them through a Web search.”La Folia” was the last selection on tonight’s program, but I forgot who the musicians were here.

GRACE Offers Discounts to Readers!

The Greater Reston Arts Center has an exciting new Preschool Program! And the organization is offering discounts to readers. Here is more information:

GRACE (Greater Reston Arts Center) would like to offer a special discount to your readers!  We are proud to announce another stimulating and innovative series of workshops for preschoolers (3-6 years old)!

By mentioning upon registration, your reader will receive a 10% discount off of the entire series of The Preschool Program.

The Preschool Program – Quick Facts

  • Dates:  Fridays, January 7, 14, 21, 28
  • Times:  1:15pm – 2:00pm
  • Listed Fee: GRACE members ($60 for series of 4 workshops), nonmembers ($72 for series of 4 workshops)
  • Reader Discount:  GRACE members ($54 for series of 4 workshops), nonmembers ($64.80 for series of 4 workshops)
  • To register: Call GRACE at 703.471.9242, be sure to mention the discount!

Thanks for your continued support of GRACE!

Stacie Kirby
Social Media Director
Greater Reston Arts Center

Here’s more information on the GRACE blog. Also enjoy the main GRACE website.

Loudoun Lyric Opera’s Halloween Offering

One of my former bosses loved opera a lot and was lucky enough to have season tickets to The Met. She traveled to New York by train often for weekend matinee performances. “La Boheme” had been a favorite. From her, I learned about the basic stories, the composers, the music, and famous tenors and divas. As great as “The Phantom of the Opera” musical is and how I still love it, it is not the same thing as grand opera. I liked “Carmen” from a middle-school music appreciation class, but that’s about as far as it went. By the time I got to college-level music appreciation, I couldn’t tell an aria from an ensemble performance, and they all sounded alike in listening tests.

I learned a lot from my former boss. In recent years I decided opera wasn’t my favorite, because everyone dies in the end. My interest was revived when I learned about the Loudoun Lyric Opera Company. From October 29 to the 31st, the group will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Ruddigore — or the Witch’s Curse.” Sounds like a swashbuckling adventure, to quote from the advertising material. Gilbert & Sullivan’s works are actually operettas. From what I remember, there are many plot twists throughout. Enjoy the Loudoun Lyric Opera FAQs by Dave Butler!

Indulge Your Inner Artist, Musician, and Listener!

I first heard about Round Hill Arts Center as I researched and wrote a survey magazine article on area classes and workshops. It’s an arduous journey for me, because public transportation doesn’t go out that far in Virginia. I’d have to get a ride.

For those who can get there, Round Hill Arts Center offers an array of classes in watercolor and oil painting, drawing, jewelry making, pottery, printmaking and fiber arts, music, singing, song writing, and much more. Many courses explore the business side of creative careers. Some music classes are online.

You don’t need to be a professional to enjoy the classes. Families, teens, and children also have many opportunities to explore the arts and get better at what they love doing, including writing, drama, and art.

And for avid concert-goers, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will be appearing for the second time at Franklin Park Art Center Saturday, October 23, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. I wish I had known about this much earlier, so that I could have made arrangements. We saw him at The Birchmere a number of years ago and have always been familiar with his music. My aunt and I are also great fans of his memoir, Man of Constant Sorrow. Many other folk singers have performed in connection with RHAC, and classes are available in performing folk music. I know this isn’t strictly a classical post, but it’s another great local venue to enjoy. If you go, have a great time!