Unless our math is off, this is the 10th anniversary of the birth of the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School – OK, maybe not. But whether it’s the 10th, 11th or 1011th, the BHSFS will convene tomorrow out on Thompson Island for what is sure to be another memorable seven days of learning and loving Scottish music.
Sponsored by the Folk Arts Center of New England, the school is an all-ages, all-instruments, all-levels affair, with a particular focus on Scottish and Cape Breton music. Over these 10 (11?) years, there’s been an impressive line-up of faculty from Scotland, Cape Breton or other farther-flung places, including Jerry Holland, Adam Sutherland, Catherine Fraser, John Campbell, Ryan McKasson, Laura Risk, Stan Chapman, Natalie Haas, Kimberley Fraser, Gregor Borland and Troy MacGillivray, among others. But the school also features folks from a more local locale (Boston, New England/New York), notably BHSFS founder Barbara McOwen and husband Robert McOwen, Hanneke Cassel, Laura Cortese, Keith Murphy, Calum Pasqua, Janine Randall, Rodney Miller and Ariel Friedman, to name a few.
Of course, the classes are only part of what makes BHSFS such a draw. When you’re tucked away on an island with a bunch of other musicians, whattaya gonna do in your spare time but jam, jam and jam some more? Oh, yes, there are opportunities for Scottish dancing, and other kinds of merriment, too, which you can see for yourself in the photo gallery from last year’s school.
Talk to someone’s been there, and they’ll tell you how, during that week while musical inspiration and creativity run rampant, new friendships are formed and old friendships affirmed. Chances are you’ll not only emerge a better musician, but enriched in other aspects of your life.
What’s exciting to behold is how, with a decade under its belt, the school is seeing some of its former students assume leadership roles — not just in the school but the music community itself, and some have made their presence known at BCMFest. This year’s faculty includes fiddler Katie McNally (recently seen performing, and cavorting, with Carlos Nunez at the Boston Summer Arts Weekend) and guitarist Eamon Sefton — part of the exciting quartet Chasing Redbird, BHSFS alumni all — as well as one-time ’80s rocker turned Celtic multi-instrumentalist Bob Jennings, who will be sharing his talents on cello. That, folks, is how the trad music scene not only survives, but thrives: through constant replenishment of the ranks of those who care enough about the music to help others to learn and enjoy it.
Katie, Eamon and Bob are joined on the BHSFS faculty by pianist Beth Murray, Scottish-style fiddlers Anne Hooper, Alistair McCulloch, Catherine Fraser, Shetland fiddler Kevin Henderson and piper Lezlie Webster.
If you want to see for yourself a little of what BHSFS is all about, the school offers a “Visitors’ Day,” which includes a barbecue, a faculty concert, session and dancing (What’s more you’re treated to a musical welcome you’ll seldom experience anywhere else.) Nobody’s advocating stowing away, mind you, but you can be forgiven for not wanting to take the ferry back to the South Boston dock.