The Scots who left their homeland and came to the United States by way of Ulster, carried with them their belongings. They also brought something that didn’t need a suitcase: their traditional music.
A beautiful new books charts the movement of this music from Europe to Appalachia. It’s a movement of songs and generations.
The book is “Wayfaring Strangers,” authored by Fiona Ritchie – host of NPR’s “The Thistle and Shamrock,” which features traditional and contemporary Celtic music — and Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College.
The book comes with a CD of songs sung by artists including Pete Seeger, Doc Watson and Dolly Parton.
Ritchie only half-jokingly says Scottish songs are characterized by their melancholy.
“Scots do like to sing of broken hearts and sad songs of parting and of unrequited love, lost love, death, but also it has that sort of soul to it that comes from Scottish music and Irish music and Appalachian,” Ritchie told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.
The movement of peoples around the world goes on to this day, and we need to remind ourselves that they bring with them their stories, their homesickness for the old place.– Doug Orr
Ritchie says Woody Guthrie, the American folk legend, was inspired by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who traveled around Scotland collecting songs.
“Woody Guthrie really was of that same spirit,” Ritchie said. “He traveled around as a sort of troubador, tuning into traditions of the people he encountered. And most notably Bob Dylan, who reached back, having been inspired by Woody Guthrie — who in turn was inspired by Burns — Dylan reaches back to the Burnsian approach of picking up bits and pieces of ballads — even just ideas, little bits of tunes — and re-purposes them, recreates new songs for a new generation.”
Orr says the story of the Scottish immigrants is still being played out, by different people in different parts of the world.
“It’s a universal story in many ways,” Orr said. “The immigration, the movement of peoples around the world, goes on to this day, and we need to remind ourselves that they bring with them their stories, their homesickness for the old place. It’s a very human story.”
Music from the Segment
“Barbara Allen” performed by Dolly Parton and Altan
“The Winding River Roe” performed by Cara Dillon
“The Farmer’s Curst Wife” performed by Pete Seeger
“Shady Grove performed”by Doc Watson and David Holt
Also, “It Was a’ for Our Rightfu’ King” performed by Dougie MacLean and
“Benton’s Jig/Benton’s Dream” performed by Patrick Street
“Pretty Saro” performed by Bob Dylan
Fiona Ricthie and Doug Orr, co-authors of “Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage From Scotland And Ulster To Appalachia.” Fiona Ritchie hosts NPR’s “The Thistle And Shamrock.” Doug Orr is president emeritus of Warren Wilson College and the founder of the Sawannanoa Gathering music workshop. Fiona tweets @fiona_ritchie.