Celia Ramsay

Vocalist, Dance Caller, Songwriter, Teacher

Snatched From the Flames!

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Our workshop has been snatched from the flames! Libby and I were feeling pretty defeated about not having enough registrants to justify hosting two of our workshops (because they're good!) and no sooner than I'd formally canceled the first one, then I was contacted by Joe Christiano - the local Berkeley gent who hosts HOOT!. Joe describes HOOT! as a new take on the traditional hootenanny. In addition to his "collective performances", Joe is also hosting workshops on various singing topics - how to avoid stage fright, accompaniment and collaboration, and...HARMONY!

This is where Libby and I come in. Someone recommended us to Joe to teach his HOOT Camp on harmony singing, et voilá! We have a new audience, and this time, IT'S FREE! Feel like coming? Be sure to click on the poster to go to the reservation page. I think this whole development is the very definition of 'serendipity'!


PLEASE NOTE: On Saturday, April 27 from 2 - 4:00pm, Libby and I will still offer our "advanced" workshop at my place in North Berkeley for $75 - with a changed name: Create Your Own Harmonies. (We worry that calling it "advanced" sounds scary and hard, and it's not--it's just fun!) Email to reserve your seat!

Photo by Dana Dubinsky

Photo by Dana Dubinsky


Lark is my life, more like? I'm talking about Lark Camp - my favorite summertime music camp in the Mendocino Woodlands. I've been attending for more than 15 years, and teaching there for the last three, but here's a recent development: Lark's founder, Mickie Zekley, decided it was time to make a transition and have Lark Camp be run by a new nonprofit that will be called Lark Traditional Arts. I'm on its newly forming board of directors, and also working as part of a team of three that includes Dana Dubinsky (who took the photo of singers) and Lila Burns. We write and design Lark's newsletters, brochures, and eventually we'll improve the website.


Let me know—I’ll send you one! Not sure what the allure of Lark Camp is? Doug Plummer, who is a very fine photographer, came for his first Lark Camp experience in 2018. He made this video about his experience in Camp One, and it beautifully captures what the week is about. This is only one of the three themed camps!


I have the CDs in hand! Go here to listen to samples and to purchase.

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It's All My Fault!

My beautiful faux tarot card by Calvaleigh Rasmussen

My beautiful faux tarot card by Calvaleigh Rasmussen

My recording engineer, Derek Bianchi, and I have finished the recording, editing, and mixing; the mastering is done and the master copy in hand. But I'm not done yet! Now, I begin the task of producing artifacts. After all the writing, arranging, recording with wonderful people, and massaging these songs to life, I must pour them into a format so people can listen - a CD! (Cue the trumpet fanfare and radiant beams shining from a silver disc!) An album cover must be produced! Text describing the songs and crediting all who helped me bring them into being needs to be generated. Images have to be imagined, made real, and then incorporated into a format that allows a manufacturer to make replicated copies of YOUR FOOL!

And so, in the name of progress, I'm excited to share the image for the front cover of the album. I turned to the song titles for naming-inspiration, hoping to find something that sort of bound the songs together, and also suggest an image to use on the cover. Your Fool, one of the songs, conjured all sorts of ideas. I could be considered a fool for creating such an anti-thematic album of songs! Then, I thought of the Rider-Waite tarot card of The Fool, with the youth perched on the precipice (see below). This got me to thinking of the many interpretations for the meaning of this card in a tarot reading: depending on the influence of other cards laid out with it, it can signify new beginnings, the need to not take life too seriously, or even...RECKLESSNESS. All these seem to be in play for me with this album, so I asked my artist-daughter, Calvaleigh Rasmussen, if she could create a watercolor of a mock-tarot card. She included my "totem animal" the raven, a red rose was substituted for the white one on the real card (because red is better), a woman (who coincidentally looks a bit like me) has hurled herself into the risks of the future, and the lacy sock from the song is also in the picture. (You'll have to listen to find out about the sock!) I love it, and several other little images that you'll find on the album, once I've got the text and images combined!

Lastly, I spent most of an afternoon filing for copyrights to all the songs for the album. They're all original - lyrics and music - except for one, a poem that I put to music. You may remember that I wrote about Violet Jacob (1843-1946), a Scottish makar (look it up), who wrote "songs" and poems in Lowland Scots, and wrote a wonderful novel called Flemington. I borrowed her poem, Heid Horseman to set to music. But everything else? Well, it's ALL my fault!


An Embarrassment of Riches


Last night, I was rehearsing with Shay Black for an upcoming class (Monday, Sept. 10) he's teaching (actually, he's performing with a cast of many) at the Freight & Salvage. Earlier in the week I got together with Eamonn Flynn to work out our September 16 house concert plans (have YOU reserved your seat, yet?) Last week I led the dancing at Valley of the Moon Fiddle Camp (thanks to Trish Strain for the right-hand photo of fiddlers learning to bourée), bracketed by calling dances in Hayward and Nevada City. Tomorrow, I'll drive to Reno to call the contra dance there with my Fortunate Strangers bandmates, Kathy & Joe, and fine fiddler, Holly Sternberg. I'm happy to have all this lovely work! Such riches put me in mind of a documentary film I saw about Bob McQuillen-- the East Coast contra dance piano man who passed away in 2014. The film was called "Paid to Eat Ice Cream", and that was Bob's own way of describing the work of playing for dances. Of course, no one gets rich calling/playing for dances; most of us do it for the sheer pleasure of helping people get out on the dance floor. But the point about actually getting paid to do something you love still applies.

Together, all of these events mean an embarrassment of riches for you, too! Between my next house concert (see below), three harmony workshops with Libby McLaren (see below), and two house concerts on the not too distant horizon (see below), there is much to enjoy - together! So what are you waiting for?



I'm excited to be performing with Eamonn Flynn, the amazing keyboard man for the Black Brothers. In addition to his Irish music oeuvre, he's a mighty fine song writer with a New Orleans vibe. Much of this performance will be original music, but there will be a sprinkling of our respective trad stuff, too! We'll perform one long set (no intermission) followed up by wine and snacks (gratis!) so you can be home at a reasonable hour - because it is school night, after all!
Suggested donation of $20 per person. Plenty of seats left at the moment, but please reserve in advance, and if you need further information, email me!

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!


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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