Celia Ramsay

Vocalist, Dance Caller, Songwriter, Teacher

Fall Weather and Falling Ashes

What a strange time of year, is fall. It's my favorite season, but it brings a mixture of nostalgia for earlier months, accompanied by the realization that the year is nearly over. (And how the hell did THAT happen so fast?) Fall brings that lovely cool air around your ankles while the sun deliciously embraces the shoulders when you sit outdoors. I love having coffee at the table outside my kitchen door this time of year.

Speaking of fall, also known as Harvest Time, did you know that my husband of thirty-one years, Kent Rasmussen, and I earn our living making wine? I would have indulged my musical side much earlier had I the financial security to do so, but living needs $$, and things weren't very easy in my early years "B.K." (before Kent). He and I worked our tails off starting the winery in a garage in 1986, and the hard work, paired with a healthy dollop of plain, old- fashioned luck, paid off. It's lovely to have succeeded in being self-employed, and now, to be able to relax a bit and do some of the things that give pleasure in our (cough, cough) "silver years".

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Knowing this, you can guess we've had a lot of anxiety for friends and colleagues in Napa and Sonoma Counties since Sunday night when the fires started. Our winemaking facility is not in danger, but at this writing, many homes and businesses are still in the fire's path. I'm hearing several things about how best to help: you can donate to the Red Cross, to local food pantries and one I personally trust and have donated to, Napa Community Foundation Disaster Relief. The ashes aren't falling today in Berkeley, but there are a lot of fallen hearts out there. I wish I could reach out and gather them all into my arms.

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INTRO TO HARMONY WORKSHOP FULL! Our November 11 Intro to Harmony workshop is full! However, registration for the intermediate workshop, One Song Learned Well, has been quite the opposite, so we will postpone that workshop until Spring.

WHICH OF THESE SHOULD I FORGET? The song now has verses and a bridge! If you are still interested in the progress of this song, click this link to listen to a very rough little test flight of the lyrics, with a little (rough) piano to give you some chordal context. Still lots of work to do, but thought you might like to hear how it's progressing!

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WHAT'S NEW WITH FORTUNATE STRANGERS? Our new EP is almost done, and the cover design is coming along nicely. It'll be two to four weeks before we have it in hand, but it will be grand to have something representing the work that Kathy,

Joe and I are doing together. By the way, "EP" stands for "Extended Play" and hearkens back to the days of 45rpm "singles". An EP was longer than a single track, but didn't contain enough tracks to be an "album". And may I just say - if you have any idea what I'm talking about, you are officially old!

Our gig at Reno Celtic was a lot of fun. It has all the components you'd expect to find, including pipe bands, dancers, music and booths. The new addition this year was a booth that sold men's grooming products. Mustache wax!

On Saturday, October 14, we will be at the Reno Contra Dance. I'll be calling, and Kathy and Joe will be playing the tunes with the help of their Cíana bandmate, Holly Sternberg, the Nevada State Fiddling Champion, so spread the word and come join us! OH, AND CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE! (I made it myself!)

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Scotland Sojourn

BY THE TIME YOU GET TO READ THIS . . . we'll be there! In Scotland! (Sorry! Making a Glen Campbell By the Time I Get to Phoenix reference is a bit of a reach - especially since the Campbells were from the west!) Husband-Kent and I will be in Scotland to film myself as I chase down the sites where my favorite songs originate. Why am I doing this? Partly as a framework for visiting places that are not strictly on the well-worn tourist path, but mostly to satisfy my deep curiosity to see the places where these songs - that sort of possess me - come from. 

I've spent quite a bit of time visiting Scotland before, but this time we'll tour the northeast. We're very much looking forward to a visit with Jim and Susie Malcolm in Perth and I'm hoping they will help me review my "game plan" and point out any major flaws. Then from Dundee, we can drive out to places like Blairgowrie, Pitlochry, and Noran Water. From there, we'll move in an anti- clockwise direction up around through Aberdeen and Elgin, looping back to the River Spey, because ...DISTILLERIES ARE IN SPEYSIDE! We'll also head west to see Glasgow and visit Alloway - Robert Burns' birthplace. In each place, I'll make some videos of me singing in situ. I'm not sure what will come from this videographic documentation - perhaps a demo video to show what I'd like to offer as a

class on the origins of these songs in the future? More things to share with you in newsletters? Much will be revealed - to me, as well as you! 

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! It's likely you're reading this after the fact, but as a mother, I want to wish all a Happy Mother's Day! If you are a mother, you share the experiences of both delight and fear that this job carries with it. If you are not a mother, you have undoubtedly had one, and the role of being a child carries its own comforts and anxieties over the course of your life with your parents. I am grateful to have two amazing, smart, beautifully different people to call my children. Also, one cannot be a mother without the father who helped you, erm, get into that condition, and I am very lucky to have my Kent, father of Calvaleigh and Webster. 

WHY MORE DANCE? In my previous newsletter, I gave some reasons why you might consider learning to dance and provided a video of how live music can make it irresistible. I know many people worry that they can't learn to dance, but I bet, once you try it--AND do it more than once (because as with all things, learning something new requires practice!) you'll be able to shut down that little judge on your shoulder. It's one of the reasons I like Contra Dance; if you just shut out that voice of judgement, you find it's actually easy to do. And at all Contra Dances, there is a lesson for beginners, then each individual dance is taught. Even if you don't remember what you just learned, the teacher (caller) calls out the figures to help you along till it's clear the dancers are comfortably on track! Watch the video - you'll see!

Sixty Years and Still Learning New Tricks!

I am writing this on my birthday, and hoo-boy, it's a big 'un! Today I turn 60, and there's definitely some creaky-crunchy stuff going on, but hey - I'm glad to be on the planet, and I know that I'm in good company!

 Bill Downs, Celia, Stan Dye and Vern Flock

Bill Downs, Celia, Stan Dye and Vern Flock

Birthdays with a zero in the one's place tend to provide cause for reflection. As you can see from this photo of me when I was sixTEEN years old, I've been singing for a long time, but there was a sizable gap in my musical life from about 26 till after I had kids. In fact, I was singing to our daughter when Kent admitted he'd never heard me sing before. I was content to sing lullabies for a while because kids and a fledgling business made it hard to indulge any musical desires. But one night, Kent nudged me to go to an open mic, and it was there that I met Stan Dye and Vern Flock, who asked me to sing in their Bluegrass band with Bill Downs in Napa. I was about 35 years old, then. I had quite an awakening of old yearnings to sing and perform, and those guys helped me bcome confident enough to do that. I honestly think if it weren't for them and some nudging from dance pal, Carlo Calabi, I wouldn't have had the nerve to start calling dances, let alone get in front of a microphone to sing again.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that not only does life continue to present beauty and challenges, but with four CD projects in five years (with number five under way) I continue to learn more about music and dance, teaching and performing, and all along the way I am building beautiful friendships. There's so much here to play with - and I'm glad to be in the game with all of you!

SPEAKING OF PERFORMANCES

You may still be in a position to join Fortunate Strangers at the Moneky House on Saturday, April 15, at 7:30pm, and the suggested donation is $20. Just come to 1638 University Avenue (near Sacramento) in Berkeley - doors will open at 7:00pm. I'm pretty sure we'll have space for you, but if you want to be sure, you can buy a ticket!

WHY LEARN TO DANCE?

I've been so excited about singing gigs lately, that aside from a recent mention of Family Dances, I've given short shrift to Contra Dance. And having worked as a caller for fifteen years, I feel I should do better. So: why might you want to elarn to danc? There's a veritable laundry list of answers! First the physical reasons: dancing increases stamina, coordination, balance, exercises your heart, releases endorphins, and helps you sleep. There are emotional reasons: dancing creates and maintains community, builds individual confidence, and provides sheer pleasure in freedom of movement. And finally, there are the social reasons: you get to hang out with people, you cooperate with humor, you learn compassion for other dancers and how to be fair & kind to yourself, and you have fun. Oh, and there's this, too (watch the video):

The Place the Songs Come From

My travel-hungry husband has us planning our next trip abroad, and I voted for a trip to Scotland! "Where in Scotland?" said he, and I replied, "To the places where the songs come from!"

YEARS AGO, we needed to Get Out of Dodge, so Kent, the kids, and I went on a Laura Ingalls Wilder "literary pilgrimage". We'd read all of her books backwards and forwards, and thought it would be interesting to visit the places where Laura had lived. That trip still ranks among our favorites, because we saw places we'd never have reason to visit otherwise - and they were rewarding and fascinating!

SO MY BIG IDEA

for this trip, is to visit places in northeast Scotland that are named in the songs I love to sing, and record video of me singing the songs in each of them. This "song itinerary" will definitely bring us to small, un-touristed (and hopefully interesting) locations, but I'm excited that I will get to explore the places the songs come from.

SIXTEEN SOULS SANG SIX SONGS SWEETLY

What a wonderful workshop we had on March 4th! Libby McLaren and I had a blast and by all reports, everyone else did, too! Some people have asked us to next do a more advanced workshop, so we'll work on making that happen. We have to do some schedule work to find out when we can do the next one, but likely it will be in early summer. Folks at the workshop who'd already bought a copy of Carmony reported that they love it! You can find ordering information below. 

SPEAKING OF COOL SINGING, Libby and her partner in life and music, Robin Flower, have a show coming up at the Freight and Salvage.It's on Saturday, April 8, and you won't want to miss it, because Robin and Libby have a wonderful, joyous energy when they perform that just makes you smile. Oh, and I'll be there singing backup harmonies along with Mary Ford and Danny Carnahan, and with Peter Maund on percussion, and Jan Martinelli on bass.

FORTUNATE STRANGERS PLAYED TO A FULL HOUSE!

Wow! Our Carson City gig was delightfully full and commensurately fun. (It also has netted us a sweet gig at the Nevada Governor's Mansion in November! More about that when I have more to tell.) Filling the Brewery Arts Center was no small thing, because on the day before the concert there was serious flooding in the Carson Valley. But that didn't keep anyone away and folks heartily joined in on our sing-alongs. Joe's voice was in fine form and he was great on flute and whistles, and Kathy's rock solid guitar playing kept everything tied together with a bow. Honestly, the unsung guitarists of the world deserve a major shout-out. They provide unfailing rhythm when they aren't shining on lead parts, and for the vocalists and other instruments, they're the bedrock of the band. Our Kathy is all of that for us, and it's a tall job!

NEXT UP, FORTUNATE STRANGERS is set to perform at Berkeley's own Monkey House on Saturday, April 15.Look for a separate reminder, closer to the date, for details!