All you need to know about Scottish Ceilidh
Ceilidh is a Gaelic term, literally meaning ‘visit’, but nowadays understood to denote a session of traditional Scottish country dancing and other entertainment. Historically, the ‘visit’ in question might have been anything from a family betrothal or wedding to a full gathering of the clan, but the celebratory social nature of the occasion is a common thread with the present-day interpretation and practice.
The ancient tradition of ceilidh is still strongly maintained in Scotland and The Isles (meanwhile gaining immense popularity south of the border), and is the social entertainment of choice, especially at weddings, from Berwick to Kirkwall and beyond.
An unbeatable finale to a wedding celebration
Find out more about booking Scottish ceilidh bands for weddings and parties.
Ceilidh dancing is inclusive, interactive and great fun. At a typical wedding party, often involving two disparate groups of people who may never even have met before, it is an unbeatable icebreaker, overcoming potential barriers of nationality, language, dialect, gender and class at a stroke by promoting carefree, exhilarating fun with a strong binding element of teamwork.
The dances at a Scottish ceilidh follow a time-honoured tradition, the accompanying music likewise. Reels, hornpipes, strathspeys, jigs and other set-dances are differentiated by their rhythm-patterns and speeds, provided and maintained by a group of musicians, anything from a duet to a ten-piece, drawing from a vast repertoire of tunes handed down from father to son over countless generations.
Typical instrumentation would include a combination of fiddle, piano-accordion, drums, guitar, double-bass and piano. Like the bagpipes in another context, it is the distinctive sound and texture of the accordion that gives this line-up its signature ‘Scottish’ flavour compared against its English and Irish counterparts, and the frequent inclusion of a full drumkit also sets it apart. However, much of the repertoire of tunes is common to all three nations in a shared Celtic tradition.
Scottish Ceilidh for ‘Sassenachs’!
In parts of Scotland where the tradition is unbroken, the favourite dances at a ceilidh are so familiar as to not require any supervision – everybody just gets on with it! Elsewhere, however, this is not generally the case, so the musicians will include in their ranks a specialist ‘dance-caller’ who will explain and demonstrate to the uninitiated the steps and moves for each successive dance before the music begins.
So you don’t necessarily have to be a Scot, or even in Scotland, to enjoy a good old-fashioned traditional Scottish Ceilidh. It really doesn’t matter if nobody at your party has ever done it before – besides, tripping over each other’s feet and getting it wrong is all part of the fun!
Ceilidh is popular throughout the UK
There are many enthusiastic and energetic traditional ceilidh bands operating throughout the UK, and almost all of them will either routinely or on request include a significant proportion of the Scottish repertoire of tunes and dances in a typical evening’s entertainment. You can readily expect to be regaled with iconic items like ‘The Gay Gordons’, ‘Haste To The Wedding’ and ‘Stripping The Willow’ along with a sterling mixture of other Scottish favourites.
So there it is – all you need to know about Scottish Ceilidh (but were afraid to ask!). For further information, please see previous (and future) relevant articles on the Hop Till You Drop website. Likewise, if you have any comments, feel free to add them in the space below.