Category Archives: Accordions

Vancouver Sun: Celtic Fest plumbs culture roots… Todd Wong mentioned

Vancouver Sun: Celtic Fest plumbs culture roots.
Great preview story in Vancouver Sun, Thursday March 10th.

Todd Wong is hosting the Afro-Celtic Dance Party on March 18th, Friday at the Edgewater Casino.  This is going to be a fantastic event as the performers are great.  Imagine putting high energy jigs and reels together with hypnotic African drum rhythms.

I am really excited that African guitarist and singer Alpha Yaya Diallo is involved.  He is going to be creating something wonderful with fiddler Stephanie Cadman and accordionist Amy Stephen.  I have always loved Amy's accordion work with Mad Pudding and Jou Tou.

Here is the excerpt from the Celticfest program:
AfroCeltic Dance Party March 18 at the Stadium Club at Edgewater Casino
A night made for dancing!
thrilling cross-cultural mash-up, as brilliant musicians and dancers
fuse the intoxicating grooves of Celtic and African music. It’s one
rhythm-filled night just made for dancing. If you caught the CelticSalsa
spirit in ’09, this is the show for you!

Alpha-Yaya-Diallo Artists include Alpha Yaya Diallo, Amy Stephen, Boris Favre & Allan Dionne (formerly of Mad Pudding), Stephanie Cadman, Boris Sichon, African dancer N’Nato Camera, and powerhouse percussionist Yoro Noukoussi.

to this Vancouver Sun story, about Celticfest… I now play bagpipes???
NOT!!! But… for CelticFest, I am hosting the Afro-Celtic Dance Party
on March 18th (NOT the 19th as printed)…. And I do now play Scottish
& Irish tunes on my accordion with the Black Bear Rebels celtic
ceilidh ensemble

Vancouverites worth their wellies will recognize what comedian Hal
Roach was saying when he declared of his homeland: “You know it's summer
in Ireland when the rain gets warmer.” Apart from our strikingly
similar weather, there are plenty of connections between Canada's Wet
Coast and Ireland's Wet Everything, especially now that the economic
meltdown back home has many young Irish men and women seeking a new
future here.

The buildup to St. Patrick's Day in Vancouver used to
consist of circling March 17 on the calendar and wearing something
green that's clean and ready to spill a drink on. Since CelticFest
arrived in 2004, however, booze takes a back seat.

“We try to stay
away from the myth of Celtic festivals, that you have to drink and get
drunk,” says executive producer Rita Albano. “It's not about that, it's
much more about the culture, the traditions and the artistic component.”

is building toward the big weekend of March 19 and 20, just past
Paddy's Day, when two blocks of Granville Street will be closed to
traffic during the day and a Sunday parade unfolds along Howe Street.
But CelticFest Vancouver 2011 actually kicks off this Friday.

when TV personality Fiona Forbes hosts the inaugural St. Patrick's Day
Luncheon, to be held in the Hotel Vancouver's historic Panorama Roof
Ballroom. The Ireland Fund of Canada sponsors this unique event, which
will see simulcast electronic links to similar luncheons in Toronto and
St. John's.

The next taste of festival events comes Tuesday when
the Colin Grant Band performs in a free lunchtime concert at Georgia and
Granville. Similar noonhour shows will take place all next week, and
the action spreads to places where you can indeed sing Whiskey in the
Jar with a whiskey in your hand: Ceili's Irish Pub, Doolin's Irish Pub
and Johnnie Fox's Irish Snug, all on and around Granville Street.

big day itself will be celebrated next Thursday night with what's
dubbed The World's Greatest St. Patrick's Day Céilidh. The Yale hosts
this traditional social gathering (pronounced KAY-lee), and a dozen
different performers, from Olympic opening ceremony fiddler Daniel Lapp
to Juno-winning fiddler Shona Le Mottée, will offer jigs, airs, reels,
polkas, ballads and singalongs.

Since founding CelticFest in 2004,
Albano has constantly sought new avenues to explore. The AfroCeltic
Dance party on Friday, March 19, certainly fits the bill.

we're creating a night made for dancing,” she says. “It's going to be
amazing -imagine a step-dancer and an African dancer, playing to boran
[Irish drum] and African percussion.”

Juno-winning West African
guitarist and singer Alpha Yaya Diallo will be joined by Irish and
African dancers and musicians. In keeping with the multicultural nature
of CelticFest, the show will be hosted by Todd Wong who, when wearing
his kilt and playing the bagpipes, is better known as Toddish McWong.

The annual St. Patrick's Day
parade takes place on Sunday March 20th.  Take in events before and
after the parade.  As usual, we will have a Gung Haggis Fat Choy parade
entry… past years have seen us put dragon boats on trailers into the
festival.  2 years ago we had a 5 person Chinese dragon boat walking
with the Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums during a snow storm.

Check out my story about the 2009 parade (2010 was canceled due to the Olympics & Paralympics games):
Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums & dragon boat paddlers… brave the snow in the Vancouver Celticfest St. Patrici's Day Parade

Accordion Flamenco – Todd Wong sits in with guitarist Rod Malkin and dancer Elin

Flamenco accordion player named “El Toddo Don Wong”

love flamenco music.  My usual claim to flamenco fame, is that I have twice had dinner with flamenco guitarist legend Paco Pena.

But on Thursday night at the La Zuppa restaurant in North Vancouver, I sat in with guitarist Rod Malkin and dancer Elen Ghulam.  I was walking by the restaurant on Lonsdale Avenue and decided to have a listen.  The music was lovely, the space was intimate and friendly.  I spoke with the restaurant operators Juan Carlos and Vicky. We talked about the restaurant and flamenco music. They introduced me to Rod and Elen, and told them I play accordion.

Rod invited me to sit in with them. I had never played with a flamenco guitarist before.  But they were keen that I had shared my knowledge about attending Paco Pena's Misa Flamenco concert in Vancouver, and that I knew of Al Mozaico Flamenco's productions of “Cafe de Chinatas”.  It was a big stretch for me to improvise
freely, and I gained confidence to add flourishes. It was good enough
that the dancer took to the platform. A wonderful experience musically

It was a big challenge… I have been playing with a Celtic Ceilidh
group since Christmas… and learning to play accompaniment and fills. I
still go into shock and panic when somebody says “Accordion Solo” – but
playing with Robert last night was very cool – lots of listening to
each other, and just taking it slow… working in some flourishes. And
they kept me playing with them! 🙂

While at the restaurant, I discovered postcards for Mozaico Flamenco – the company founded and directed by Oscar Nieto and Kasandra La China in 2002.  I reviewed their show “Cafe De Chinatas” in 2006 at the Norman Rothstein Theatre and in 2006 at Edie's Hats on Granville Island.  I am thrilled that “Mozaico Flamenco” is going to be perform again
in November at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Look what I just discovered!
Flamenco Guitar with Accordion and performed in Edinburgh, Scotland

Todd Wong performs at Accordion Noir Festival

It was Tuesday evening…
Accordion Noir Festival
Yaletown Trees organic coffee bar
1391 Richards St. @ Pacific Blvd

I played classical songs…
Bach's Toccata in D Minor – turning the high-ceilinged coffee shop into a
cavernous Church-like sound cave.

I chatted about using the
accordion as an instrument to interact with the public during the
historic Vancouver Library Strike of 07 – and played “hockey arena type
organ songs” to interact with the people walking past our strikeline, on
their way to see the Vancouver Canucks host the San Jose Sharks for an
exhibition game.

And leading into ballet goers going to the
Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts – I played this song: Strauss
Waltz Medley

I talked about my Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns
Dinner and how I enjoy playing intercultural events. A few weeks ago, I
performed at the Tart Boutique on Granville Island – not a sex shop –
but a Boudoir Salon – where the grand opening night had a Venetian
Masquerade theme… so I played Italian tunes… and for the audience – I
played a simple emotive version of O Solo Mio.

Todd Wong goes electric guitar

Dylan went electric…. Norah Jones has gone electric guitar now… 

Todd Wong shucks his accordion for a red electric guitar

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It was a friendly music night at the home of Vernon friends, Jeff and Carol.  Just before New Year's Eve on Dec 30, we had gone up for a music night of classic folk and rock tunes.  I had taken my accordion.  It was lots of fun, similar to the musical ceilidh of Christmas and celtic songs at the McMordie household before Christmas back in North Vancouver.

With my accordion we had played some Elvis tunes, blues tunes, folk tunes even classics like Four Strong Winds, Hotel California and Del Shannon's Runaway.  We even sang accapella for Stan Rogers' classic North West Passage.  I also played some celtic accordion tunes from my music books, as one of the musicians had led off on flute with The British Grenadiers.  I also tossed off my standards of Hungarian Dance #5 and O Solo Mio and Tourna A Sorrento. 

But I had left my music stand behind.  So on January 2nd, Deb and I returned to the house and found ourselves at another music night – but without my accordion.  Carol offered me her red electric guitar without even asking if I could play guitar – even before offering me the keyboard in the corner.

Wow!  I hadn't ever played an electric guitar before.  I have my own accoustic guitar that I have strummed occasionally since high school lessons – but never an electric hooked up to an amp, and with a session jam before!

My finger picking was decent and I tried out the chords to House of the Rising Sun.  We played through Annie's Song, as I used to play a lot of John Denver back in the 70's.  But I was hungry for some Johnny Cash music. 

I think we really need to play a version of Ring of Fire, at the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner since I discovered that Johnny Cash had Scottish ancestry.

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 053 Carol and Jeff's music house, with special guests Todd and Deb.

Olympic mascots go to Scotland with Toddish McWong

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Quatchi, Miga and Sumi go to Scotland with Toddish McWong and Quatchi brings back a kilt

2009 was Homecoming Year for Scotland.  It was an invitation to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns on January 25th, and went all through the year until November 30th St. Andrew's Day.

The year started with Visit Scotland CEO Philip Riddell bringing a special bottle of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky to auction off at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  By November, there was a photo exhibit at Scottish Parliament titled This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  It featured many Canadians of Scottish ancestry including Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong, who is not Scottish, but hosts the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver.

Exhibit creator Harry McGrath invited Todd to come attend the Homecoming Scotland finale weekend events and attend the Closing Reception for the exhibition.

Todd decided in the last days to attend the event, and quickly invited his friends Quatchi, Miga and Sumi to visit Scotland with him.

They arrived in Scotland, late on Saturday night, November 29th  in Glasgow.  They traveled to Edinburgh and visited many Robert Burns displays in the museums – but had lots of fun at the Scottish Parliament reception on St. Andrew's Day.  After the reception finished, they retired to a pub called Jenny Ha's – but Todd had to return to do a radio interview back to Vancouver BC on CBC Radio.

These pictures are their adventures exploring Scotland from Nov 29th to Dec 5th., 2009.

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Sumi Quatchi and Miga are excited to travel on the airplane

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We are excited to see a Harry Potter train on the Welcome to Scotland sign

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Todd and Sumi pose for a picture with the Visit Scotland display at the Scottish Parliment.

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There is a life-size picture of “Toddish McWong” featured in the Culture section of the exhibit “This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada” at Scottish Parliament.  Sumi attends the closing night reception with Todd.

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Harry McGrath (the tall dapper feller) is the creator of the This Is Who We Are exhibit.  Todd and Sumi pose with Harry's brother, niece and sister-in-law.  Harry started off the project simply by taking photos of same-named places in both Scotland and Canada.  You can find the project at

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George Anderson is almost the only other fellow wearing a kilt (besidess Harry McGrath's brother-in-law and a junior piper).  Todd had originally insisted on wearing a kilt every day in Scotland.  But he quickly found out that many Scots don't have kilts, or only wear them for special occasions.  After a few days in the Scotland cold Todd started sneezing and went back to wearing his jeans for the trip to Ayreshire.

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Sumi makes a new friend at Jenny Ha's pub, where we all head off to following the reception.

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Todd makes friends with a border collie and a black lab, beneath Arthur's Seat in Hollyrood Park.

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Todd visits the Telfer Wall – the old wall that used to surround Edinburgh city.

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Sumi finds a seat in the Telfer Wall, Edinburgh Castle is in the distant background.

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Sumi visits the pubs at The Grass Market.  Apparently this is where all the hen and stag parties happen, but we didn't see any animals.

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Finally!!!  A monument to an animal!  Sumi pays homage to the monument to Greyfriar's Bobby – the little Skye Terrier doggie that held a 14 year virgil, guarding his master's grave site, at the Greyfriar's kirkyard (church yard).

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Sumi visits the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  He really liked this ancient picture of a boar.

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Todd went to The Vaults – Scotch Whisky Tasting Society, and drank Sumi, Quatchi and Miga under the table.  They refuse to allow any of the pictures from that night to be published.

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Sumi doesn't have as much as a hangover as the others, but still feels a bit green.  He does agree to take a picture beside his two favorite single malt scotches from the tastings. 

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Off to the Edinburgh Castle.  Sumi, Miga and Quatchi enjoy the view from the cafeteria.  It's a very cold day so Miga decides to stay indoors, especially since she is still suffering a hang-over from the night before.

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Sumi poses on a ancient cannon at Edinburgh Castle.

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Not to be outdone, Quatchi enjoys the view from a cannon at Edinburgh Castle too!

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After the castle visit, we go to the Scotch Whisky Experience and meet poet Robert Burns.  Quatchi and Sumi enjoy the poems of Burns, especially A Man's A Man For A' That, and To A Mouse.  Miga is feeling much better and can actually stand the sight of whisky again.  She excitedly seats herself on Robbie's shoulder.

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It's been a good day visiting Old Edinburgh.  Miga, Quatchi and Sumi enjoy the music and company at #1 High Street, at The Tass.

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Todd always seems to find accordions somewhere.  A whole bunch of local musicans meet at The Tass every Wednesday Night.  Todd and this fellow talked and talked about accordions and Robert Burns.

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Jennifer works at The Cafe Royal, the oldest and best Victoria pub in Edinburgh.  She is originally from Victoria BC, and was very happy to meet some fellow BCers.

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Sumi, Quatchi and Miga met some new friends including a Highland Cow, and a local named Teddy McBear.  They tried to help fit Quatchi with a kilt.  This was a great little shop at the Christmas fair at The Princes St. Park beside Waverly Train Station.

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Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh.  She is originally from Singapore/Malaysia and spoke English the best of any other Asians that we met.  Probably because she grew up speaking English along with Malaysian and Chinese.

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We met Vicky at her father's hotel and restaurant in Ayr.  It's called the Glen Park Hotel with bar and restaurant.  Vicky actually lived in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighborhood for a year.

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We also went to the Two Dugs pub in Ayre.  Catherine was our bar server and she helped give us answers for that night's weekly Trivia Contest run by a fellow naed Pat.  Quatchi is emailing to Catherine.

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The Big Day!  We finally go visit Burns Cottage.  This is the birthplace of Robbie Burns just 250 years ago on January 25th 1759.  It is Burns' birth that is the inspiration for Homecoming Year Scotland.  The Alloway Post Office is in the background, across the street.

2009_Scotland6 082 click here for video
We were very lucky to have a short tour of the brand new renovated displays inside Burns Cottage with
Burns Heritage Park’s Manager Caroline Glenn.  The new displays at Burns Cottage opened to the public on Nov. 30th, St. Andrew's Day with a presentation by First Minister Alex Salmond (whom we saw at the This Is Who We Are reception).

Caroline Green says on the Burns Heritage Park website:
“The Living History school visits allow school children to get a real
sense of Robert Burns’ life and to hear expert commentary on his work.
It’s a pleasure to be able to continue to educate the public and Robert
Burns even 250 years after he was born and the new Robert Burns
Birthplace Museum will ensure that this tradition continues for many,
many years to come.”

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Inside the Burns Cottage gift shop, we made friends with “Rabbie Bearns” and his partner “Jean Armour”

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Sumi, Quatchi and Miga go to the Burns Monument Park and visit the Brig O'Doon – made famous in the Burns poem Tam O'Shanter.  It is on this bridge that Tam O'Shanter excapes the ghosts who can't catch him but only the tail of his grey mare.

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We discover a Chinese restaurant around the corner from the Burns statue in Ayr.  Todd immediately starts planning to create a future Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner for some time in the future.  The waiting staff is Caucasian – but the owner is Chinese from Northern China near Shanghai.  She tells Todd that for some reason, the Scots people don't seem to like eating seafood.  And they complain if you include the heads and tails of chicken, duck and fish on the plates.

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We hang out, while Todd speaks with the owner.  We can't stay for dinner because Todd forgot his passport in Edinburgh at the Cafe Royale, and we have to leave.

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On our last day of Scotland we have a traditional breakfast with marmalade. Todd remembers reading all about marmalade from books about Paddington the Bear.

Kilts culture in Vancouver: Kilts Night on Thursday + December ceildh on Sat night

Kilts Night at Doolin's Irish Pub + December Ceilidh at Scottish Cultural Centre.

Every 1st Thursday of each month, I usually meet with my kilted friends at Doolin's Irish Pub at Granville and Nelson St in Vancouver.   Free Music starts at 9pm with Halifax Wharf Rats – if there isn't a hockey game on.  It's always lots of fun, and a great way to meet people.  

Big Secret: Wear a Kilt and ask for a free pint of Guiness Beer.

Another monthly cultural event happens on Saturday. It's the December Ceilidh at the Scottish Cultural Centre. 

I like Scottish Country Dancing – I just wish I could get out to it more often.

After attending the Homecoming Scotland ceilidh here in Edinburgh at The Hub.  I am ready to go for another one.  It's really easy to do, as the callers give a demonstration and tell people what to do.  eg. turn left, grab the right hand, etc etc.

Here's a full message from Ron MacLeod

Greetings, a message from the Vancouver Gaelic Society and the Vancouver Gaelic Choir. Regards, the other Ron

1. WHAT:  December Ceilidh, an evening of entertainment.

WHERE: Scottish Cultural Centre, 8886 Hudson Street (at 73rd ), Vancouver, B.C.

WHEN: 8 P.M. Saturday, December 5, 2009. Doors open at 7 P.M.

COST: $12.00; students $6.00; under 12 years free. Tickets at the door.

Ed McIlwaine; Accordionist Sandy Black; and, Lillian Lind to lead the
audience through a Gaelic sing-along. Plus other entertainment.

OTHER: Bar service; tea, coffee and goodies.

Todd's first day in Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland:
A little bit of Glasgow and Edinburgh

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Welcome to Scotland – Gee that train looks very Harry Potterish!

It's been a busy few days in Scotland.  I first arrived late on Saturday night, after a 9 hour layover in Amsterdam's Schipol airport.  I took the train to central station and went for a walk through the touristy bits – where I also discovered both Chinatown and the Red Light District. 

2009_Amsterdam 045Dragon City Restaurant in Amsterdam.  I also discovered restaurants named Asiandam and Cafe Slutery Oost-West, and Eat Mode- Asian Fusion Kitchen.

2009_Amsterdam 052 It must be Chinatown.  The sign says China Town Supermarkt!

The Bulldog pub was toooo full, so I went to The Blarney Stone where I met an Englishman named Robin.  I drank Kilkenney and he drank Guinness.  I told him about our 1st Thursday Kilts Night where we recieve a pint of Guinness.  He told me it was his birthday, I asked the waitress to give him a free birthday beer.  Instant friends + the guy from Boston beside us.

Here are pictures from Amsterdam

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

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I flew into Glasgow late on Saturday night.  After all the locals breezed easily through customs, I was left with two people from China to fill out landing forms. (What are these?)  I was the last person through, and the service was very kind.  I changed some money, and took the bus into town where I soon found a hotel.  My plan was to check out the local nightlife.  But my shoulder and back were really hurting.  I had injured it on the weekend, then reinjured it again on Thursday.  This was part of the reason why I now was on holiday.  If I can't work… I'm going to Scotland for Homecoming.  I quickly fell asleep after taking more Motrin.

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Sunday morning.  I go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery down the street.  But
first I check into Beanscene – a local equivalent of Starbucks or
Blenz.  Inside the cafe I am greeted by a picture of Johnny Cash. 
There is a poster of Norah Jones's new album.  I am in the right place.

2009_Scotland_1 006 Todd eating Stoats porridge – a good Scottish breakfast that is having a revival.

I order up porridge and coffee.  I meet a local man who tells me about some of the local sights to see, after we discuss Johnny Cash.  He also tells me that Glasgow's Chinatown is nearby. 

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Next I meet a Chinese woman who is teaching architecture (or is it art) at the local Art Institute.  Ju-Li is from China and has lived in Scotland since 2004.  She has just married a man, who has had to go back to America, because he doesn't have a UK passport, even though his grandparents were from Scotland.  This man who's ancestors left Scotland for a better life in the USA, is trying to get back into Scotland to be with his Chinese bride.  We both laugh at the absurdity of it.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is amazing.  It's also part museum.  The Main hall on my left has lots of taxidermied animals.  There is an elephant, a giraffe, a moose, an ostrich… even a platypus and a cheetah. Suspended from the ceiling is a WW2 Spitfire fighter plane.

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It is a thing out of a Christopher Robin or Narnia Chronicles book or movie.  Upstairs I discover exhibits on Wild Bill's Wild West Show – when it came to Glasgow, as well as Robert Burns and dinosaurs. 

2009_Scotland_1 024 Supposedly the legendary Haggis is the taxidermied concoction above, set beside a culinary haggis for eating.

There is even a taxidermied haggis!  (photos to show after I return to Canada).

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2009_Scotland_1 035 The Burns exhibit features a picture of Burns as Latin American revolutionary Che Gevera– no doubt reflecting on Burns universality for freedom and equal rights.

I had really wanted to visit the Hunterian Museum, which is showing Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns as part of the Homecoming Scotland events.  But it is at Glasgow University and consequently closed – forcing me to return to Glasgow on Monday.  Anyways, I spend the afternoon at the Kelvingrove, where a Doctor Who exhibit is downstairs. 

2009_Scotland_1 046 People do wear kilts and play bagpipes in Scotland!

I get lost trying to find the train station to Edinburgh.  I get distracted by the sound of bagpipes, as I find myself on Nelson Mandela Walk.  Policemen lead a parade of pipers.  About 12 bobbies (policeman) in reflective yellow jackets escort 16 pipers.  I think these are the first kilts I see in Scotland.

2009_Scotland_1 049 Winter Shindig in square at Glasgow.

I discover the Winter Shindig that takes up an entire square.  There is
a stage for as one of the finale events for Homecoming Year.  But
nobody local seems to know who the band is.  There is a large outdoor
ice rink, and a ferris wheel.

2009_Scotland_1 054 These guys wore the biggest ugly-est sporrans I have ever seen.  They made it themselves, and they carry all their magic tricks to promote the Glasgow Science Centre.

I meet two young men wearing kilts.  They have HUMUNGOUS sporrans which are FILLED with THINGS.  They work for the Glasgow Science Centre.  They show me some of their tricks and offer to set my hand on fire.  It was cool… and it did not hurt.  Okay… I sort of knew the secret, and they confirmed it with me.  One of them took a video – very cool… look carefully because it appears that after the flash – a pigeon flys out of above my hand. (video coming after I return to Canada).

2009_Scotland_1 053 Click for video to see a pigeon fly out of a burst of flame from my hand! Courtesy of the wild and kilted guys from the Glasgow Science Centre.

Did I say I get lost trying to get to the Train Station?  People have been so helpful.  But unfortunately I end up at the Central Station where I ask for Edinburgh, and the ticket seller hears Hellensburg.  Fortunately I don't get on that train, and go back for a refund.  Eventually I find myself on a crowded train to Edinburgh where I spy a man wearing a rugby shirt that says “Famous Grouse.”  As Famous Grouse was a whisky sponsor at our 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, I have to go ask about his like for Famous Grouse.  Surprise!  There is an empty seat beside him, which he offers me.  We have a good time talking about rugby, Famous Grouse, as I explain the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner to him, and the lady across from me.  His name is Roy Dewar, the lady is Hellen.  Roy buys me a Tennent's beer for our 50 minute train ride.

2009_Scotland_1 066 A friendly Scot buys me a Tennant's beer to celebrate my first full day in Scotland.

It's Sunday in Edinburgh.  I check into my lodging at Salisbury Centre – a holistic health centre, run by a woman whose auntie is a friend of mine in Vancouver.  For the evening, I decide to walk into town in search of Homecoming events.  I discover the free Caille (traditional dancing) event at The Hub.  The band is called Whiskey Kiss. 
2009_Scotland_1 084 Whiskey Kiss played the St. Andrew's Day Ceilidh to celebrate the Homecoming Finale – click on the picture for video.

They are led by an  accordion player.  I like the band instantly – even though he plays button accordion.  They have a comely lass playing fiddle and a braw fellow on the drums.  A fellow also plays on the penny whistle flute and bagpipes.  But the big surprise is the additional of a dj who adds in ambient sounds and scratches – very cool.  I love their versions of Van Morrison's Blue Eyed Girl and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.  But they also lead traditional country dances that include The Canadian Bar Dance, and The Virginia Reel.

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How to start a ceilidh.  Everybody waits on the dance floor while the
ceilidh leaders gives dance instructions, then the band gets going, and
the dance leaders start the dancing off!  Too much fun!

2009_Scotland_1 083 People are dancing and really having lots of fun! – click here for video
2009_Scotland_1 085 This is a great little video of the dancing – look for the big guy in a kilt – he's not afraid of a little kilt swirl!  Also look for the Asian woman who seems to really be enjoying herself!

Another surprise, there are Asians dancing.  Most turn out to be students from university.  They are from Taiwan or China. 

2009_Scotland_1 088 Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh!

I chat with some of the young Scots and ask then if they think that St. Andrew's Day should be a national holiday.  They agree, but say that St. Andrews' events are slow to catch on. 

2009_Scotland_1 094 Young Scots enjoy the Ceilidh, and actually wore kilts!

The patron saint of Scotland is certainly not as big as the patron
saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.  I meet a young Scots woman whose
kilted boyfriend is missing a sporan… and kilt socks.  He is actually
originally from Bulgaria… but he loves Scottish music and Scottish
women – okay… just one woman in particular.

3 Days of Accordion Noir Festival – playing circles, films, concerts + more

Accordions, Accordions & more accordions at Accordion Noir Festival – Sept 10,11 & 12.
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Accordions “Squeeze Box Circle” is led by Rowan Lipkovits (front right with big red accordion) at Spartacus Books.  Usually the 1st Thursday of the month – this session was Sept 10th as a special part of the Accordion Noir Festival. Out-of-towners came from Lasqueti Island BC, and Bellingham WA.  I didn't bring my big Titano accordion – but I did play somebody else's Faoro accordion.

2nd Annual Accordion Noir Festival happens this weekend Sept 11,12,13

It's the 2nd Annual Accordion Noir Festival
September 11,12,13


Here is information from Rowan Lipkovits

Exhaustive information about all three festival days should be up at , but to summarize:

Friday night, Sept 11th, Geoff Berner will be a guest on the Accordion
Noir radio show at CFRO 102.7 fm from 9:30 through 10:30 pm. 

Meanwhile, up Main street at Cafe Montmartre (4362 Main Street), Rowan
will be hosting a varied program of virtuous squeezebox players in
small groups from 8 pm through closing time (after midnight), featuring
the ivory-tickling of Joanna Chapman-Smith, Barbara Adler, Dawn Zoe,
Tina Tew, Andy Fielding, with Mezamazing and the Creaking Planks
closing things out.  By donation.

* Saturday, Sept 12th, at 4
pm, an accordion parade will be departing (weather permitting) from the
southeast corner of Grandview Park (Commercial Drive at Charles Street)
to squeeze along the seven blocks to the day's venue, the WISE Hall
(1882 Adanac Street at Victoria Drive).

45-minute workshops begin at
4:15 pm, starting with an accordion repair and maintenance session led
by Rickey Mann, then an accordion composing session led by Andy
Fielding, and closing with an accordion history talk by Bruce Triggs of
Accordion Noir! 

An accordion film festival of sorts should get
underway around 6:30 pm, and close to 8 pm, we should be beginning the
main evening performances: Story from the Maritimes, Jason Webley of
Washington State (though he does spend a lot of time touring in Russia)
and Vancouver's own Geoff Berner. 

The evening promises further
surprises and special guests, but you'll just have to come out to know
for sure what they're going to be!  All-day tickets for Saturday will
be $20 at the door, or $15 for just the closing concert portion.

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy performs at Vancouver Library on Chinese New Year Day

2009_January 230 by you.

Monday night was the 6th Annual World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy Gala.  This event was first created when I noticed there were no readings of Robbie Burns at the library… I contacted Ariadne Sawyer of the World Poetry Reading series to collaborate for this now popular program.

Just before our 7:30 start time, I chatted with the audience, explaining the origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and sharing some of the events that happened the night before at the big Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and at our small ceremony at the Robert Burns statue in Stanley Park – to celebrate the 250th Birthday of Robbie Burns.

We bring together the elements of Gung Haggis Fat Choy within a world context.  We feature poetry of Robbie Burns, China, as well as contemporary Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian poets.  And sometimes we add in music and dance and of course… singalongs.

This year's program was a lot of fun.  It was hosted by Ariadne Sawyer, Diego Bastianutti and myself.

We featured poet James Mullin and myself reading poetry by Robbie Burns.  I also brought my accordion to play some tunes too.

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Rita Wong, the 2008 BC Book Prize Poetry winner, read from her books
Monkey Puzzle and Forage.  With the World Poetry theme, Rita even read
a poem by Pablo Neruda, which Diego read in Spanish afterwards.

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Tommy Tao, explained how he ended up doing poetry translations of 9th
and 15th Century poetry, and how he has come to love it.  He read a few
poems about food and celebrations.I talked about some of the similarities about Chinese New Year and Scottish Hogmanay. 

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I read the Burns poem “A Man's A Man For A' That”, then later performed “Address to A Haggis.”

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James Mullin led a group of four volunteers to dance my parade dragon around the room while I played “Scotland the Brave” on my accordion.

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There were a number of Korean ESL students in the audience, and they really had a lot of fun.

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My earlier attempt at playing and singing “My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose” was easily redeemed by my playing of Scotland the Brave, and leading the audience in a group singalong of “Auld Lang Syne”

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Evrerybody really got into the spirit of the evening.  This photo features poets James Mullin, Tommy Tao along with a Korean language student and Peter Clark originally from the U.K.

Check out more photos:

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy @ VPL

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy Gala