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Still the chief of Celtic music: The Chieftains at 57

Local York Scots Bagpipers Brigade joined local York Chorale members and then audience members with The Chieftains and the Piltazke Brothers in a long snake dance that ended the performance

The local York, PA, bagpipers all dressed up in their Scottish tartans, participating with The Chieftains in a typical sharing of Celtic culture and music, to the audience’s delight

Last night the Princess of Patience and I ventured not too far down the road to the Appell-Strand Theater in York, Pennsylvania. It is a venue we have visited over the years for a variety of music types for the adults, and high-end children’s entertainment for the kids. It is a clean, pretty, historic place right in historic downtown York, easy to access, lots of free parking, and when you are done, it is easy to leave. Fellow patrons are easy, chatty, friendly, happy, and the lady I sat next to, a Lori Sims of Hanover, PA, cheerily shared gardening tips with me and disclosed her yearning for Spring to finally arrive so her garden could get under way. Then again, no wonder: she has a TWO-ACRE GARDEN.

What we witnessed last night is one of those rare moments where, if you have been lacking in faith in humanity for whatever reason, it would be restored immediately. We watched The Chieftains do what they do best: Play sweet Celtic music combined with amazing Irish dance, and incorporating local talent in a pub-like atmosphere of fellow music chums just kind of jamming along with each other in the spirit of the moment. It would be the best of what you would find at the Temple Bar today.

So here is Chieftains founding father, Paddy Moloney, who must easily be in his 80s, alternately playing both the chipper and then humorously gruff oldster commenter, as well as his own penny whistle and Irish pipes: “Oh sure, ya show-offs,” as the Pilatzke Brothers perform amazing amazing amazing Irish tap dance routines that leave the audience exhausted from the intensity and skill. Serious world-class talent.

Now in 2019, The Chieftains are celebrating their 57th anniversary. Think about that. Fifty-seven years as inspiring performers of not just music, per se, but keepers of traditional culture, Gaelic language, ancient musical instruments, and the music and the rural, undeveloped, natural Irish landscape that binds all that together. It is quite a gift to all of us that they provide. At 57 years of live musical-cultural performances, The Chieftains are an institution, a world heritage institution.

Despite having a stack of Chieftains CDs, I can never really get enough of them, and last night my mind drifted back to one evening in the summer of 1992, during the Celtic Festival at Wolf Trap, in Virginia. The Princess of Patience and I were about to be engaged to be married, and our long-time friend Lori encouraged us to join her at Wolf Trap for that evening. The weather was perfect, the music was perfect, the musicians and performers were perfect, our snacks and wine were perfect, the audience was rapt and enthusiastic. It was all quite perfect. And there they were, now 27 years ago, The Chieftains up on stage, looking a hell of a lot younger than now, and probably having a few more teeth then than now. But still flawlessly performing the same beautiful, inspiring music.

That was the same evening I heard the best-ever joke about the bagpipes, and it is a surprisingly unknown quip, because whenever I pass it along, people respond with great mirth, as if they have never heard it before. I will disclose it here, because I know the three people who read this blog have zero interest in Celtic anything and they will immediately forget this secret to being the star at any dinner party attended by Irish or Scots.

This joke arose as an Irish pipes player dueled with a bagpipes player on stage that evening at Wolf Trap. When played correctly, the Irish pipes are of course the most heart-tugging sound the human ear will encounter. Squared off against the blaring, loud, military-oriented bagpipes, the Irish pipes are like a gentle, sweet whisper versus an aggressive, loud shout.

So after their duel on stage, during which he had played the most mournful, beautiful, inspiring sounds, the Irish pipes player said to his Scotsman counterpart: “You do know, the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots. And the Scots never got the joke.”

Cue uproarious audience response and a big grin from the Scotsman. Audience participation in Celtic music is expected, and it is given, as is good-natured banter among the performers.

So, on that same beautiful summer eve 27 years ago, into this good-natured banter with Celtic music and culture stepped The Chieftains, playing with humble passion on the stage at Wolf Trap. And literally over twice as many years later, The Chieftains are still chief, tops among Celtic bands. Thank you for a wonderful night of happy moment after happy moment, guys. Cheers to you, Paddy Moloney, may you see a hundred years, ’cause God knows, why not, you about look it already.

 

Celebrating Whiteness, with Antlers and Runes

As much as real, tangible racism was in free fall and thankfully a long way out of style throughout America and Europe, Liberals could not live without it, and so they brought it back and breathed life into it like a Frankenstein monster. Newly created by the past president, Black Lives Matter is “the Klan with a tan.”

Racism and race consciousness (they are the same) is a powerful accelerant for liberals’ ever-offended victimhood, and a driver of demands for coercive Marxist “social justice” wealth redistribution and forced equal outcomes (not equality via equal opportunity, which is meritocracy).

Put another way, racialism is a powerful drug. Take a racial supremacy pill and you are on top of the world, feeling good about yourself simply for existing inside your own skin color; but take a racially aggrieved pill along with the first pill and you are ready to lay waste to the world in the name and image of your skin color. You feel personally righteous and motivated. Witness the BLM and ANTIFA street violence, the murderous hate of Jeremiah Wright’s followers, neo-Nazi Storm Front. True jihad.

For every Yin there is a Yang.

For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.

For every black supremacist Louis Farrakhan and BLM kook and tone deaf NAACP functionary, there is now or will end up being a Neo Nazi or sympathizer, just as equally filled with foolish hatred, racialist supremacy, and racial grievance as their mirror image.

I do not know what “white” skin is, and neither do the strongest proponents of “whiteness” nor its  enemies and modern creators, the black supremacists like Black Lives Matter, Louis Farrakhan, Democrat leader Keith Ellison, or celebrated jihadia Linda Sarsour, et al.

There is simply no quantifiable or operational definition for whiteness, or blackness. But racism’s artificiality does not stop people from using racist ideas for political gain or personal aggrandizement.

A recent vacation trip through several once-sovereign nations in Europe showed that, like America, most “whites” there have accepted the idea that racist/racialist discrimination is a bad thing. This is a repeated empirical observation where one meets a friendly young mixed race German couple: the She is milk chocolate brown, herself of racially mixed parentage, and the He is a supremely blonde and genuinely “white” Teuton, what we jokingly refer to as the ‘Hitler Jugen’ in our own family. Together they are happily affectionate and in love, oblivious to the artificial divide that Black Lives Matter demands of them.

Repeat this scene a thousand times, as we did across the three nations, and the takeaway lesson is that the “whites” got it; they got the memo on being racially accepting. It seems they are alone, however, as the pendulum is swinging the other way now, driven by BLM’s fake racial grievance industry, enabled by the establishment media, as well as South Africa’s latest non-news African anti-Caucasian genocide.

An interesting child born of the Left’s destructive efforts to artificially separate humans, break them out, and pit them against one another along skin color lines are those Caucasians returning to early Norse language, religion, and identity. Now this is really, honestly, truly Caucasian in every way, and if you had to point to something and say “Yeah, this is what we would call ‘white’,” this would be it.

It is an affirmation of historic roots.

It is not symbolic of Aryan supremacy. Yet.

Fascinatingly and in a way frighteningly, because it is so contrary to America’s Biblical idea of color-blindness, which I myself exalt (even in the face of BLM and NAACP racism), this is something quietly growing in the shade between the glaring extremes of BLM and Storm Front’s 21 marching members. It is this truly authentic “white” identity, increasingly celebrated in real song and historically accurate, authentic costume, rooted in Scandinavia, Dane-Land, Germania, the true home area of Caucasian “whites.”

These resurrected ancient symbols send a strong signal to modern lost souls; a chill up the spine tells them they are back home, after a long absence.

These are Caucasians working their way back to a proto-Caucasian, pre-Christian tribal identity, something organic with and naturally arising out of the Western European and Scandinavian landscape, even before Beowulf. It is very much a part of their DNA heritage. At least of what they know of it, or think they know of it. But that is enough for this new identity.

This nascent identity movement ironically started with the 1980s nativist Celtic music revival. But it is now its own thing, complete with a signature public face, a highly literate music style based on old Norse poetry and Viking history, Old High German and Old Danish literature and myths, the use of runes, and native music emitting from natural Iron Age objects, plants, and animal parts. And those totemic tattoos!

Call it “Viking Rock.” Their musical style is a big Viking tent, encompassing chants, to entirely primitive instruments, to electronic everything, and all of that together. One thing for sure, it is energetic, mostly aggressive, very much a product of the Norse beginnings. We know this from archaeology and history.

With this activity we are approaching a clearer and more honest “white” identity that is probably irrefutable, if also unnecessary in my happy, peaceful, color-blind American life. Shallow Storm Front, it ain’t.

We had thought the Vikings were all buried in the shallow inland sands of the North Sea and the barrows and dolmens of England, and now today seen only in documentaries, but in fact they walk among us once again. An entire genre of music, language, religion, exemplified simply by old Norse tattoos, are emerging from Europeans participating in their own natural, organic responses to artificial demands of racial identification.

Perhaps the most visually gripping band is the newest, Heilung (and photos and music videos below).

Early Caucasian people did and said and danced and wrote and sang these things playing out on stage, while today in America we barbecue outside and throw a baseball to relax, instead of beating war drums.

Where this goes is anyone’s guess. Neo-Nazis have already tried to claim some of this turf, now harkening to Odin for aid and comfort and decrying Christianity as a ‘Jewish plot’. But there is a tremendous amount of well-intentioned bleed-over into fascinated onlookers and others justifiably fed up with being told over and over that they are racist bad people simply because of their skin color, or lack of it. Other adherents are just fed up with modern materialism and consumerism, and are looking for what can only be called authenticity. This movement is going to take hold and sink roots in different places.

If we must view this ‘PaleoScando’ style as something purely racial, then one question that immediately comes to mind is this: Can the other “whites,” i.e. the Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Eastern Europeans also participate in this Viking celebration of whiteness? What if you are a typical American and you have a bunch of German, Austrian, and Irish DNA floating around in your veins? Under white racialism, these Celtic and Saxon strands are at war with one another. Do they cancel themselves out? Do you then cease to exist as a racial symbol? Should you be taken to a remote place and shot, or gassed, thereby removed from the gene pool? Or should you just shoot yourself?

A recent DNA-driven facial reconstruction of the 9,000-year-old “Cheddar Man” skeleton from southern England (near Stonehenge) gave him black skin and blue eyes, with a definitely unmistakable Irish mug. An Irishman with a deep tan. But wait, aren’t the Irish and English white?

Do any of these people above also qualify as ‘white’? Should they also be celebrating their whiteness with the modern Vikings? Or are they just onlookers, or cheerleaders, or cannon fodder and stepping stones?

The movement’s music and visuals are powerfully suggestive, and moving. If the Vikings and their incredibly creative, powerful, often merciless successful descendants were any indication, this movement will go somewhere. Hopefully it goes for good. God, I hope for good.

Some representative examples:

“Krigsgaldr” (“War-Magic,” a song or play about cruel Vikings getting some payback)

 

Will the real Ireland please get up, stand up?

Tramping the Temple Bar in Dublin with old friends, we were in search of native music, and a cold Guinness. Despite our best efforts, we could not find one authentic Celtic pub, that was open at lunch time, anyhow. Every place we went was either blaring the same exact mix of John Denver, U2, the Beatles, and Neil Diamond, or had someone playing those same songs on a guitar. Really loudly.

This was not the real deal Ireland we came to see and experience.

What the hell is all that incongruous music doing on native Celtic soil? So out of place was this alien cacophonous tumult that we finally fled to what we thought was a quiet spot, only to have the talking-level ambience be detonated by just one guy with a guitar. Singing John Denver, Beatles, U2, and Neil Diamond songs. Really loudly. So loudly that we could not speak to one another at the table, except in between his songs. And believe it or not, this pub had run out of Guinness.

No Irish music and no Guinness in this Temple Bar Irish pub….the heart and soul of Ireland. Supposedly.

This arrangement was, to us, utterly bizarre and not at all what these Americans wanted to hear, or experience. We had traveled back to the old country to hear the heart-felt authentic sound of the old country, either old or modern, not modern, plastic inversions from and for the New World. We put up with it and enjoyed each other’s company for a while, and then fled to greener pastures.

Now about that old time Irish religion…every Catholic church we visited there was a museum. They all had small charity shops, selling post cards. Dark and uninhabited, after a thousand years for some, they now sit mute. How sad to see the backbone of Irish morality, spirituality, and identity cast aside so abruptly.

While talking to anyone who would share their views with us about this, which included at least a dozen natives, from taxi drivers to cops on the street to the barber Seamus who cut me hair, we heard the following themes: The Catholic church overplayed its hand and alienated the very flock under its care. By being part and parcel of the public schools, the Church had a lot of control over people’s lives. But instead of being a positive force, the Irish we spoke to said that when they saw a priest coming, they ducked the other way. Their schooling was unhappy, not inspiring. The Church did not have to compete for the people’s trust and allegiance; it took them for granted and treated them like a captive audience.

And then there was the same molestation issue as here, except that it was bigger, known longer, and covered up in plain sight much longer in Ireland than in America. One man, Martin, our taxi driver on the way to the ferry to Holyhead, said “And you loved Pope John Paul, right?”

To which I naturally answered “Of course! He was a powerful force for good on Planet Earth!”

To which Martin replied “Yes, of course you would say this. All the Americans say it. But did Pope John Paul, the greatest pope in modern history, ever apologize for the molestation problem, here or in America? No, he did not, and it caused most Irish to turn away from him and the Church. Including me.”

I was then reminded of Sinead O’Connor’s bizarre outburst on Saturday Night Live decades ago. “Fight the real enemy,” she shouted at a picture of the Pope. Most Americans were stunned and unhappy about it, regardless of their religious affiliation or identity.

Apparently Sinead had a reason that the rest of us did not know. And at that time, Ireland was just an island a million miles away. We did not know what she was talking about, what Martin was telling us about. There were no social media to broadcast her message, just a brief appearance in front of a big TV audience. It was up to the audience members to dig deeper to find out what she meant.

Today, it appears that outside of the really rural areas, the Catholic Church in Ireland is being abandoned by the Irish. Like completely abandoned.

This terrifies those of us who believe in the supremacy of Western civilization. Without the Church, a cornerstone of Western Civilization, the whole falls. What fills that vacuum could be anything, and there are some powerful forces at play, playing for all the chips that spoiled, soft, fantasy-driven Westerners seem to be oblivious to. The Irish are not soft, or spoiled, but they are like children in a way. They are largely innocent children, in my eyes, unexposed to the harsh realities of the outside world, waiting to eat them up. Their guard is down, not up. The Irish are vulnerable, in the way that middle-income American kids are clueless and big hearted about the intentions of their enemies they call friends.

It is painful to see an Irishman drop his own music in Dublin, drop the source of his soul and family, and drop his guard when a fight for his culture is looming in his face.

Will Ireland please stand up? Will the real Ireland please get up? Yes, we know you are tired of fighting, but sadly, we all must fight to stay free. It is a constant thing. You Irish should know this better than everyone else.

For those who want to hear some authentic, modern, native Irish music, in the symbolic spirit of James Joyce; it is possible:

Movie review: “White Tiger”

When we think of Russia today and now, our mind might wander off into brutal poisonings of ex-spies across international borders, brutal assassinations of journalists inside Russia, brutal repressions of Chechen independence movements, brutal invasions of South Ossetia, Ukraine, and Georgia (THAT Georgia, not our Georgia), poorly chosen relationships with Iran and Syria, and the current czar riding around bare-chested on a horse with a rifle slung over his back.

Perhaps it was always thus. But if we think and search back a hundred years or more, we will stumble upon buried treasure in the farthest reaches of Russia.

Yes, it is true, Russia was not always just a military force to be reckoned with, it was also a significant cultural center of the very highest magnitude, the very highest achievement. World class music, literature, arts and crafts, poetry, ballet, and so on all were major hallmarks of the Russians.

Not of the oppressed Soviet satellite states, but the actual Russian people themselves.

Rachmaninoff, Dostoyesky, Faberge, and so on, so many great minds contributing in a singularly unique way, native to Russian culture.

Russians had this knack for art that you would not necessarily see if you looked at the simple surface of their culture or landscape. Behind the eightball on technology, Russian writers and poets and musicians bedazzled Westerners with their brilliance and inspiration.

That all started to die in fits and starts after the violent 1917 revolution led by the Democrat Party of that day and place, but nonetheless art persisted until the 1950s, when Soviet socialist control firmly held every thing and every person in its crushing grasp.

To dissent from all that big government with a pink pussy hat or with a snarky hashtag was unthinkable. Not that people wouldn’t try to do it, but the Soviet thought police, much the same as our own politically correct thought police in America today, would catch the thought crime even before it had taken physical form, and, as our own thought police openly wish they could do, WHOOSH, off to a starvation diet in Siberia went that ‘evil’ free thinker.

I am not sure that the Soviets used the words “sexist,” “racist,” homophobe,” “Islamophobe,” and other overdone American generalities meant to crush dialogue and debate, but if they could have used these terms, they would have. Different words then, but the same anti-democracy process then and now.

So for the past seventy years Russia has had an especially harsh Russian winter, art-wise, because of the Soviets and then their control freak successors, whatever Mr. Putin’s political party is named.

To be an artist in that Russian cultural winter was to walk around every day muzzled, daring not to say much less think your own creative thoughts. Too much was at stake.

But somewhere, somehow, that beautiful old Russian voice began to quietly break through the repressive walls. Finding acceptable subjects and means to convey them became a new form of creativity in and of itself.

Nationalism, patriotism, history are all legitimate subjects of artistic creativity, and so Russian artists have adapted. Very, very well. Albeit with throwback Soviet-style imagery, which is lamentable. Gosh, if the Russians could only be our friends…the things we could achieve together.

And so here we now have a truly artistic Russian movie we can all be proud of, in the mould of the old-time Russian artistic capacity. It is called White Tiger and debuted about 18 months ago. I have been wanting to write about it since watching it back then, but as we know, the past 18 months in America have been pretty intense.  Every time I thought I could breathe again, some new issue would pop up. There was more compelling competition for writing space and creativity of my own.

At least this is how I have experienced the past 18 months.

If you are afflicted with a love of liberty, as I am, then you have shared my somewhat anxious condition as the American “deep state,” or Obama holdovers, or career bureaucrats, or whatever you want to call them, have attempted to reverse the outcome of a presidential election they thought they would win and still cannot stomach the thought of losing, by any means necessary. Which means illegal, unethical, immoral, un-American, anti-democratic means.

That all seems to be unwinding now.

And so now, for this moment, I get to bask in the glow of art, thanks to the Russians. And I really mean it, thank you. Seeing this movie took me way back in time to when my own mind was creative and artistic.

Dear Russians, I lift my glass to you: Tvoye zdorovye!

White Tiger is on its face a war movie set in World War Two. It is about Russians versus Germans, good guys versus bad guys, the Eastern European version of cowboys versus Indians. It is also about tanks and heavy armor, about technological superiority versus the grass roots spirit to survive, and history. Lots of history. And lots of action.

At its core, this movie is mythological and Darwinian, with a lot of symbolism, not the least of which is the theme music, an artfully done refrain of Wagner’s pilgrim’s chorus.

If you care to pay careful attention, and walk a mile in a Russian tank tread, you will end up being impressed by this low-budget, high-performance film.

Briefly summed up with no spoilers, the unlikely (and yet so likely…there’s that symbolism thing) Russian hero is reborn, a plausible enough biological fluke consistent with species adapting.

He goes on to learn his enemy’s ways, to anticipate his next moves, and in the end, he goes on a ghostly chase into both past and future, bound up in one of Russia’s most enduring identities: Not German!

And speaking of German, Germany, and World War Two, no better representation of Adolf Hitler has been captured in cinema than the movie’s very last few minutes, where Satan’s boots on the ground has a heartfelt confession with his sponsor, who sits patiently listening in the shadow.

White Tiger.

And as an aperitif, try this Russian music to settle your soul before bed time.

Magic is in the air, and so is Spring

Today may be the first day of Spring, but you’d never know it, with all the snow that fell last night and today.  Despite freezing temperatures all over the east, however, there is magic in the air.  And it carries Spring on its wings.  We can take heart.  Nicer weather is indeed here.

Last night I stood way up north on a mountain side, surrounded by a silent, black, and deeply starry sky.  Suddenly faint and quiet song and voices reached my ears.  What started out as human sounds that put me on guard then became the distinctly identifiable gabble of migrating geese, high above, flying northward.

Magically migrating geese, ducks, raptors, and songbirds passing through our neighborhoods and yards tell us that Spring is here, even if our eyes and heating bills indicate otherwise. Migration is a mysterious thing.  Some of it is now understood by scientists, and appreciated by novice naturalists, but much of it remains shrouded in utter mystery.  How did these birds develop this pattern?  Was it after the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago, or was it after the previous Ice Age, 20,000 years ago?  And if it was after the first one, how did they hold onto their knowledge of where and when to fly, when they spent so much time not flying at Spring time?

Migrating birds have a very thin margin for error.  Go too far, too fast, and they run the risk of freezing to death, or starving, having burned too many precious calories to reach their Canadian and Arctic breeding grounds so far northward.  If they are too slow, they will reach their destinations with too little time to raise their chicks to a size sufficient to survive the trek south again, when the winds get heavy on the border lands just a few months from now.

Yesterday, hundreds of geese and ducks shared the quieter eddies of the Susquehanna River in Liverpool.

Today, all around the borough of Dauphin, migrating black-headed vultures took up roosting positions like hunch-shouldered sentinels of death, harbingers of gloom and dead carrion, on trees, car tops, house roofs, power poles, and street lamps.  This particular species of vulture is increasingly migrating into Pennsylvania in bigger numbers, and out-competing our more common (and “more” native) red-headed turkey vulture.

All of this magic is, to me, a sign of a the finger of God, with non-believers remaining perplexed, themselves, unable to draw upon human science alone to explain what is happening all around us.  Surely my distant skin-clad ancestors stood upon a receding ice sheet somewhere, spear in hand, eyes skyward, hearts leaping for joy, as they, too, knew that this magic presaged abundant food, rebirth, new life, a new beginning for all.

Don’t take this magic for granted.  Close your eyes at night and listen to the cries of the goose-honk music.  Be part of this ancient cycle, if only by letting your heart be lifted with those of the excited geese, at the knowledge of the coming of Spring.

Pete Seeger – gone

Pete Seeger died yesterday. I met Pete several times in the mid-1980s, when I worked for his brother, John, who was also a remarkable and influential person.  Although most of Pete Seeger’s politics were like his brother John’s — mostly vexing and at best confusing to me, he was a very gentle and nice man who made audiences laugh, sing from their hearts, and feel better by the end of the day. Planet Earth is now a little poorer. Fair sailing, Pete!

PS Pete Seeger was related to Alan Seeger, the namesake of a 90-acre patch of old-growth hemlock and pine on Seven Mountains, on the border of Mifflin and Centre counties.  This little patch of forest cathedral Heaven has been one of my favorite hideaways since my earliest childhood memories.  That a small brook running through it holds sparkly brook trout makes it magic, and not just Heavenly.

Entertainment with Meaning Part II

For those of us still living in the 20th Century, modern music like this may occasionally supersede Flatt & Scruggs. This song and artist certainly do:

Entertainment with Meaning

Embarrassing perhaps to admit that Barry Manilow and I agree on anything, but his opinion that people should listen to music that makes them happy, instead of angry, is a hard-edged opinion that’s hard to beat. To that end, I submit to your ears a song, style, and band that speaks to me in all its historicity.