I suppose with a name like mine, it shouldn't come as any surprise that Scotland figures prominently in my background. As I grew up, my family would regularly head off to see the touring military pipe bands from Scotland, like the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and the Black Watch. We would go to Scottish games and see gigantic men toss telephone poles in fields. And there was always a picture somewhere in our house of Eilean Donan Castle, the legendary base of the Clan MacRae. (I've heard that it's the most photographed castle in Scotland, something I have no trouble believing. The image at the left comes from photoeverywhere.co.uk.) I even own a kilt.
It all had a grandeur and majesty about it, to the degree that even after I realized that the chances were slim that I had any direct connection to anyone who ever lived in any castle, just the image of that particular place still held a great deal of power for me. I remember very clearly being in Scotland, driving along the road next to Loch Alsh and coming around a bend that brought the castle into view for the first time. It was breathtaking.
The roots I can actually confirm have nothing to do with castles. My great-grandfather came to the US from Ayrshire, in southwestern Scotland, leaving behind a life as a joiner (sort of a low-end carpenter). And while it's easy to romanticize such a beautiful place, it's also easy to understand why he and countless others left it behind. Opportunity was clearly in short supply, and what little there was can't be considered in the same breath as what we in the US think of as opportunity. Clearly a farm in Minnesota was the better choice for him.
But that beauty... It inspired lots of composers, and on St. Andrew's Day, between 2 and 4pm, we'll see where that inspiration took some of them.
I wonder if you have particularly strong feelings about music from your homeland or ancestry. Feel free to leave a comment below; let me know about music that connects you to your roots. Who knows? Maybe we can even make a radio show out of it.