Before I go any further, “ceilidh” (also spelt “céili” in Ireland), is pronounced “kaylee”. Or sometimes “kelly”. The word originally comes from the Gaelic for “visiting”.
There are two basics sorts of ceilidh: the traditional sort, and the 50s folk revival sort. The latter is the one with which people are more likely familiar: a night of dancing to a live band – a fiddle, a keyboard, pipes, etc. This is also the one most similar to a “Bush Dance” – the way I see it, an Australia ceilidh with a lagerphone.
The ceilidh I went to last night, however, was one of the traditional sort – there was a lot of sitting, watching, eating, and
gossiping talking. We were greeted at the door with mulled wine – of which, of course, I was not allowed to partake of (I’m still six months underage by Australian rules). I had orange juice instead. The others there said the mulled wine, aside from being diluted, had a very low alcohol content anyway, from being heated up. That didn’t stop a couple of the unaccompanied (and younger) men breaking out a couple of bottles of whisky and getting somewhat drunk.
After everyone had arrived, re-acquainted themselves with each other, and
gossiped talked for a little bit, the Chiefs were piped in. There were four or five: the Chief of the Strathalbyn Caledonian Society (and her husband), the Chief of the Royal Caledonian Society (and his wife), the Chief of the Port Adelaide Caledonian Society (and his wife), and the Chief of the Munno Para Caledonian Society (and her husband). The Chief of the Mount Barker Caledonian Society sent his apologies – apparently there was another event up there last night. There was also the Chief of some rural Caledonian Society that I can’t remember, as well as the Member for that council area.
Then there were the required words of welcome, and a couple of performances: first, the Country Folk Dancers. They were pretty good. I used to dance with them from time to time. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to one of their teachers, who talked the entire time. But it was still fun to watch.
Then we had the first bracket of pipers. I tell you what, four pipes and three drums in a tiny little hall like that one? Big noise. Oh, well. They were amazing! Seriously! At this point, I’m just going to spruik for them: the Doecke Family Pipers, people. You can read about them here: http://doeckefamilypipers.wordpress.com/ . They’re very good. It’s an entire family, all ages. I believe the youngest, a drummer, was about nine. But they’re pretty spectacular.
After that, we had supper: potato and leak soup. No haggis. The Strathalbyn Caledonian Society decided that haggis is overdone. I sort of have to agree – it’s served at just about every “Scottish” event held in South Australia. The soup was a nice change. They’d done their research: apparently potato and leak soup is a traditional meal served in the middle of winter (this makes sense). There was even a separate Address to go with it – traditional, not Robert Burns.
Then we had the “nibbles to share”. I hadn’t taken any, but there was more than enough, all the same.
Then there was more piping and dancing. My favourite dance was one with two people. Apparently it was originally written for a male and a female, but they’d altered it slightly so it could be danced with two females. But you could still tell it was meant to be a love story. It started off slow, and they were over the opposite sides of the room, and then gradually the music got faster and happier, and they got closer. It’s hard to describe – you’ll just have to see it for yourself!
Then that was pretty much it. Margo, who’d picked me up and taken me, wanted to leave at 10, so we did. It went on for another half hour or so – so we missed out on singing “Auld Lang Syne”. No great loss, really, since I’ve sung it thousands of times before.
So, there you have it: a traditional ceilidh. I might talk about the other sort another time.