Haggis Rampant

My favorite part of a Renaissance Faire is the music.  As Patricia Wrede said, “Music and magic are brother and sister.”

Brownlee pere et fille on the bagpipes, with Frieman the Minstrel playing the bodhran.
Haggis Rampant and Frieman the Minstrel leading the queen and her court to the main gate.

At the third annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire,  we are fortunate in having excellent musicians.

Haggis Rampant is not only one of my favorite RenFaire bands, but they include two of my three favorite pipers, Steve and Gillian Brownlee.  (The third is Eric Rigler of Bad Haggis.) Naturally, with a name like Susan Murrie Macdonald, a member of Clan Murray by birth and Clan Donald by marriage, it’s no surprise I like the bagpipes.

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Steve Brownlee

Who are Haggis Rampant?  They’re a bagpipe and bodhrán trio.  They’re a family playing together.  They’re music with an attitude.  And Heaven have mercy, are they loud!

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Haggis Rampant:  Pam, Steve, and Gillian Brownlee

Normally, Haggis Rampant is a trio consisting of father Steve Brownlee and daughter Gillian Brownlee on the bagpipes and mother Pam Brownlee on the drums, both bodhrán and big bass drum.  Daughter Morgan Brownlee sometimes accompanies them; Morgan is a dancer, a drummer, and a fiddler.

Pam and Gillian
Pam and Gillian Brownlee

They’ve been at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival since 2000, and at the Mid-South Renaissance Faire since 2015.  They have CDs for sale if you want to hear their music, and appear in the ABC book R is for Renaissance Faire if you want a pictorial souvenir.   They also perform at Highland Games, Celtic festivals, music competitions, weddings, funerals, boat christenings, inaugurations, etc.  They did an impromptu performance at the Parthenon in Nashville, TN after the eclipse., which led the crowd of eclipse-watchers into spontaneous dancing.

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Morgan, Pam, and Gillian Brownlee at the second annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire.

Steve Brownlee, an award winning piper,  has been playing bagpipes since 1996.  He has a wicked sense of humor, such as playing “Scotland the Brave” as he pipes the actress playing Queen Elizabeth of England to the front gate of the RenFaire, or playing “Rain, Rain, Go Away” during a shower.  (I’ve never heard that song on the bagpipes before, and I probably never will again.)  Pam Brownlee is an award winning bass drummer, who took up playing the bodhrán because accompanying Steve was the easiest way to spend time with her husband.  Gillian Brownlee has been a piper since 2003, when she was only a “wee beastie.” She plays the fiddle as well as the Great Highland Bagpipe, although her competition victories have been as a piper, not a fiddler.  Morgan Brownlee plays bodhrán, tenor drum, and violin, as well as dancing.  She’s won a competition or two herself for her solo drumming.  (What can I say?  They’re a family of overachievers, with talent to spare.)  Their shows include joking and teasing between the family members as well as great music.  Most of their music is traditional, but they do a bit of contemporary now and again.

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Morgan Brownlee on the tenor drum, accompanied by Steve Brownlee on the bagpipes

Their first album, Haggis Rampant (hard to find, may be out of print), is traditional, as is their third album, Trì.  Their second album, Wee Beastie, includes some of Steve’s own compositions as well as traditional Celtic music.  Their fourth album, The Silver Glens, is what they call their “quiet album” (or as quiet as a bagpipe CD can be).  “This album is a different mix for us. We’re usually playing music that makes our audiences want to jump up and shout “Freedom!” This time, to heck with creating energy; we wanted to record the music that stirs our souls.” Their fifth album, Burly!, includes Ken Petrie on the electric guitar and bass for a wild musical extravaganza.  Their sixth album is still in the planning stages, and they’ve not yet announced the theme of it.

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Frieman the Minstrel, with Haggis Rampant, at the 2nd annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire

If you’re lucky enough be to able to catch one of their performances, by all means do so.  If you live too far away to be able to hear them in person, check out their CDs. Remember, they’re the letter R in my alphabet book R is for Renaissance Faire, autographed copies available for sale at the Mid-South Renaissance Faire, unautographed copies available through Amazon.

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Susan Murrie Macdonald with R IS FOR RENAISSANCE FAIRE.

 

Photos by Tom Sweeney, R. B. Macdonald, Reggie V. Miller, and Susan Murrie Macdonald

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The Mid-South Renaissance Faire Is Coming To Millington!

If you live in Millington, TN, West Memphis, AR, Horn Lake, MS, Memphis, TN, or even Jonesboro, AR, you’ve probably seen the posters scattered around town. Maybe you picked up one of the discount postcards at the Millington Public Library. The third annual Mid-South Renaissance Faire is coming to Millington.

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The Mid-South Renaissance Faire has changed venue, and is moving from Shelby Farms Park in Memphis to USA Stadium in Millington. It will be here the last two weekends of August: 8/19, 8/20, 8/26, and 8/27. Hours are from 10:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.

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What is a Renaissance Faire? Why should you go, and what do you do there?

         A A Renaissance Faire, or RenFaire, is a chance to go time traveling without a DeLorean or a blue police call box. It’s a public, family-friendly, outdoor gathering that recreates the Renaissance era to entertain its guests. Part county fair, part living history display, and part fairy tale come to life, it’s an improvisational theater where the audience is invited, indeed, encouraged to participate.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, on stage and outdoorWhy should you come to the Mid-South Renaissance Faire? It’s fun and educational for the whole family, and less expensive than a trip to Discovery Park of America in Union City. It’s far less expensive than a trip to Six Flags in St. Louis. It’s also a chance to make new friends, as visitors will be coming to the Mid-South Renaissance Faire from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri. The entertainers and merchants are coming from all over the US: Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and more.

    

Why is the RenFaire coming to Millington a good thing?  Guests to the faire are coming from the entire Mid-South area. Entertainers are coming from the East Coast, Texas, and Louisiana. These people will sleep in Millington hotels and motels. They will eat in Millington restaurants. They will buy things at Millington stores. This will be good for the local economy.

         

If you’ve never been to a RenFaire (and the next nearest RenFaire is a four-hour drive away), you may not know what to expect. What do you do at a Renaissance Faire? Meet the queen and her court, and shout huzzah as Good Queen Bess parades through the village. Watch the knights jousting on horseback. Enjoy demonstrations of swordsmanship and archery, and maybe try it for yourself. Eat a turkey leg.

     

Play games like Giant Chess, Dunk the Dunce, Veggie Revenge, and Mini Tug of War. Climb Jacob’s Ladder. Listen to the minstrels: Haggis Rampant, John Ross, Melandra of the Woods, Frieman the Minstrel, Donal Hinely, and Memphis’ own Wood, Wind, and Wire. Watch the daring feats of aerialist Shelli Buttons and laugh at the comedy swordplay of the Lords of Adventure. The Mid-South Renaissance Faire also has a touch of magic: the Faerie Queen and her court, trolls, a leprechaun, and a dragon. There’s plenty of dancing, both dance troupes to amuse you and Elizabethan dance lessons where you can join in. Try your hand at brass rubbing. There are costume contests for dogs on Saturdays and humans and elves on Sundays. The pirates, alas, will only be there the second weekend.

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If you enjoy shopping, the RenFaire has plenty to tempt you: toys, clothing, goblets, fans, parasols, weaponry, leatherwork, autographed copies of R is for Renaissance Faire by local author Susan Macdonald, hats, baking mixes, jewelry, jam, candles, artwork, and more. If you come in 21st century clothing and decide you’d like to join into the fun, you can buy or rent RenFaire garb at the faire.

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There’s plenty to amuse the youngsters. In addition to the games and shows, there are two children’s quests. Boys and girls who complete either quest can be knighted by the queen. Listen to the storytellers. Meet the trolls. Buy ice cream from the Ice Cream Dragon.

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What is the setting of the Mid-South Renaissance Faire? The year is 1576.  Queen Elizabeth is on the throne.  Tired of the crowds of London, she and her court have come to the humble Shire of Shelby. The local villagers have organized a festival in the queen’s honor, inviting minstrels and merchants to come as they celebrate the royal visit.

    

Tickets are $10 for adults and teenagers, $5 for children ages 6-12, and $8 for senior citizens, students, and military personnel with proper ID. Children under five are admitted free. Parking is free.

          

If the Mid-South Renaissance Faire does well this year, it may choose Millington as its new home.  That would be a financial and cultural benefit to Millington.

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Wilt thou come to the Faire?

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Pictures by R. B. Macdonald and R. V. Miller.

 

 

Summer Solstice Music Festival

June 17, 2017, the Celtic Society of West Tennessee and the Jackson Area Music Society are presenting the Summer Solstice Music Festival in Parkers Crossroads, TN.  The music festival will go from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm in the city park in Parkers Crossroads (roughly a mile north of the McDonald’s).

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There will be a wide variety of music:  blues, bluegrass, gospel, rock, Celtic, and folk.  The park has a very nice playground where the youngsters can burn off some energy. There will be vendors:  Michelle Autry selling Limelight by Alcone makeup and skin care, Linda Piper with Perfectly Posh, Natalie’s Kitchen, Highland Heather Travel (my husband) answering your vacation planning questions, and me, selling R is for Renaissance Faire and Alternative Truths.  One of the food vendors will be selling Irn Bru, a Scottish soda pop which is frankly something of an acquired taste, but one of my husband’s favorite beverages.  There will also be arts and crafts, t-shirts, and CDs for sale.

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Schedule of Events (not carved in stone — something always gets changed or delayed)

Start Time 11 AM

11:00 AM Bobby Rainey 1

11:25 AM Bobby Rainey 2

11:55 AM Leather & Lace

12:30 PM Scott Myatt/Steve Short

1:20 PM Chase Antwine

1:55 PM Blair and Madison

2:45 PM Mike Needham

3:20 PM Bobby & Sue Bates

3:55 PM Hatchie Bottom Boys

4:45 PM Derrick Brantley

5:20 PM The Go-Tos

6:25 PM Dagger

7:25 PM Kat Deliriouz

7:45 PM Jupiter Stone

8:45 PM Kat Deliriouz

9:05 PM Damaged Soul Revival

10:00 PM Show End

So head down Hwy. 40, turn north at Exit 108, and come to the Summer Solstice Music Festival in historic Parkers Crossroads, TN.

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Susan Murrie Macdonald with R IS FOR RENAISSANCE FAIRE.
The Memphis St. Patrick's Parade featured leprechauns and dinosaurs.

St. Patrick’s Parade on Beale Street

Saturday, March 11, 2017, was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Memphis, TN.  (Okay, they were a little early.)  The official name was the 44th Annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  I marched in it as one of the members of the Mid-South Renaissance Faire group.

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This was my favorite parade participant, a Shriner hillbilly car that blew bubbles.

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One of the many musical groups was the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob.

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The Fire Museum of Memphis sent a firetruck.

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The Mid-South Buccaneers sent a boarding party, er, marching party.

Image may contain: 1 person, car and outdoor  Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorImage may contain: 2 people, people walking and outdoor                              Floats, cars, marchers, dancers, bagpipes, and more!

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Not every St. Patrick’s Day Parade can boast of dinosaurs!  The t-rex dancing in the tutu was my son’s favorite part of the parade.  Before the parade began, Good Queen Bess made new friends.  We’re not sure of they’re her new pets or the new royal guard.

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It looks like Jerry Lawler is running for mayor of Memphis again.

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Here’s the Mid-South Renaissance Faire group.  We have a new location this year, at USA Stadium in Millington, TN, so we wanted to make sure people were aware of the Faire.  It will be the last two weekends of August, 8/19-20 and 8/26-27.

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Before and after pictures:  me at the start of the parade, and me after the parade.  By the end, both my hoop skirt and my French hood were slipping. (Please note the green muffin cap beneath my French hood in honor of the day.)  The weather was cool and damp, although luckily the rain stopped in time for the parade.  The stroll was wearying, but we threw many toy coins, rings, and beads to the children along Beale Street.  The youngsters seemed to have a good time, and so did we.

Gramercy to my son Ian, who took all the photos but one, and gramercy to Lauren Rushdi, who took the picture of Queen Elizabeth with the dinosaurs.

Remember, the Mid-South Renaissance Faire will be August 19, 20, 26, and 27, 2017, at USA Stadium in Millington, TN, just off Hwy. 51.  You can buy  autographed copies of my book, R is for Renaissance Faire there, or you can buy unautographed copies through Amazon.

 

Celtic Fest 2016, Brownsville, TN

Celtic Fest 2016

September 17 and 18, 2016, was the 11th annual Celtic Fest.  The Celtic Society of West Tennessee has been hosting an autumn Celtic Fest for over a decade.  The date varies, the location varies, but every fall, there is a Celtic Fest in Tennessee somewhere between the Loosahatchie River and the Tennessee River. This year, for the first time, the festival was in Haywood County, at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville.

Music

The best part of Celtic Fest, in my opinion, is the music.  This year the performers included:

Tuatha Dea: Celtic/Appalachian/folk/rock/tribal fusion

Cara-Anne and the Minstrels: folk music

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North East Arkansas Caledonian Pipes bagpipes

Bobby and Sue Bates: Scottish and Irish folk songs

Medieval Lassie: storyteller and folksinger

Birdsong School of Music Harps:  religious and Celtic harp music

John and Vickie LeCroy, with Scott Myatt: Celtic and contemporary music

Rob Millette: contemporary and traditional Celtic

 

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Vendors and Performers

In addition to the musical performers listed above, Sarah Rohde demonstrated clog dancing, and later gave impromptu tap lessons to three girls. The Scottish Armoury sold dirks and other blades, as well as clan badges and journals.  Blue Goose Soaps and Gilded Lily both sold scented soaps and lotions.  Terrie K sold mugs, jewelry, and CDs.  Tuatha Dea sold five different CDs, t-shirts, and assorted fannish memorabilia.  The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce was selling t-shirts; Sue and Bobby Bates were selling CDs.  There were face painters, people selling tartan pillow cases and books, and a blacksmith.  One of the food vendors was selling Irn Bru, a Glaswegian soda pop that is something of an acquired taste, but which my husband loves.  (He bought a six-pack to take home.)  The other food vendor was the ResQ Cafe, with BBQ sandwiches, Cornish pasties, Irish stew, nachos, etc., with the money raised going to Loving Paws Rescue, a local animal charity.   There were some combat demonstrations by the SCA Saturday, but due to schedule conflicts, we were only able to attend on Sunday.

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Celtic Fest through the Years

Celtic Fest began in Jackson, TN, (Madison County) and for the first few years was at the Casey Jones Village, behind the Old Country Store.  That was a wonderful site:  lots of room, and a nearby playground where the kids could burn off energy.  In the early days, Celtic Fest had clan tents, vendors, heritage groups, and local high school and college students volunteering for community service hours.  Musicians came from as far away as Texas and Kentucky.  About three-four years ago, if I remember correctly, Celtic Fest moved from Jackson to Parkers Crossroads (Henderson County).  The city park where the festival took place had a nice stage, and there was a small playground for the kids. And this year, the festival took place for the first time in Brownsville (Haywood County).

Over the years, Celtic Fest has slowly shrunk.  First, the clan tents stopped coming, which meant the festival couldn’t have the traditional parade of the clans.  Then, fewer vendors came: a matter of economics, if people can’t afford to buy their goods, they can’t afford to come.  Not as many dancers come — it used to be Inis Acla School of Irish Dance sent their students, and I believe (going by memory here) that Scottish country dance groups used to come.  Local libraries and genealogy groups used to come.  But schedules got busy and budgets got tight, and each year the festival seems smaller and smaller. (I’ve heard similar complaints from other festivals.)

I like the new site.  I hope Celtic Fest stays here a few years, and I hope it starts to grow again.

West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center

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Brittany Hardaway of WBBJ Channel 7 interviewed Sue Bates and me, as well as some other people. As I told Ms. Hardaway, I liked the new site.

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The West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center had a nice grassy meadow behind their buildings, where the festival took place.  They had several mini-museums in their air-conditioned buildings, as well as real bathrooms.  The festival had port-a-potties, of course, but personally I’d rather walk a few yards further, especially when I’m wearing a hoop skirt, to use a real bathroom.  There were also three fast food restaurants in walking distance, for those who didn’t care for Cornish pasties or Irish stew.  (You can see Kentucky Fried Chicken in the background of the photo above.) The center had several small museums: the West Tennessee Cotton Museum, the West Tennessee Music Museum, the Hatchie River Museum, the “Sleepy John” Estes Home, and the Tina Turner Museum @Flagg Grove School.

“Sleepy John” Estes was a pioneer of blues music and his house is on the grounds, next to an old one-room country school. Flagg Grove School is where Tina Turner went to school, and is now the Tina Turner Museum. The front of the building displays several of her costumes and gold records.  The back of the building tells what “colored” schools were like in the early to mid-20th century.

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Thanks to the Sponsors and Volunteers of Celtic Fest 2016

Gramercy to the sponsors of Celtic Fest 2016: the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, the city of Jackson, TN, Hippie Radio 105.3, Walker’s Shortbread, Coca-Cola of Lexington, TN, the Jackson Arts Council, Tennessee Concert Sound, and Great Scot International.  Tapadh leibh to the volunteers and organizers, Sue Bates and her gallant but overworked crew.

And for Celtic Fest 2017?

I’d love to see Celtic Fest regain its former glory.  I’d love to see more clan tents and Scottish American Military Society and Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and St. Andrew’s societies and sister-city groups that are paired with Scottish towns.  I’d love to see genealogy societies and crafts demonstrations.  House of Douglas Scottish Bakery, luthier Kelly Amsden and jewelry-maker Susan Amsden, Hamish’s Dreck, Celtic Realms, aye, I’m talking to you.  (Please note:  this is my personal desire.  I do not represent Celtic Society of West Tennessee, nor do I have the authority to speak for them.)  I know the Clan Donald USA conveners are in eastern Tennessee and the Murray Clan Society of North America are in central Tennessee, so it’s a long drive for either of them, but surely there must be some clan associations in western Tennessee or northern Mississippi.

I’d like to see more children’s activities:  coloring contests, cardboard caber tossing, carnival games, bounce castles, etc. This would mean more volunteers, and possibly more money.  Spending other people’s money is rather like belling the cat — easy in theory, harder in practice.  My kids would like more for teenagers to do, although they’ve been vague on what would interest teenagers.  Both liked going to the museums at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center for a break from the festival (and for the air conditioning and indoor plumbing).  My son liked the aquarium at the Hatchie River Museum and my daughter liked the costumes at the Tina Turner Museum.

Maybe next year Highland Heather Travel and Press will have a tent, for people who want to go on holiday to Scotland or Ireland or people who want to buy R is for Renaissance Faire.