Two organisations I belong to are are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, although in one case we’re running a bit late.

I have been a member of the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey Caledonian Society for almost 10 years (and the chairman for about 6 years).  Until very recently we thought that this year was our 60th anniversary, although a bit of research by one of our members has now shown us that the society was actually formed in 1953 (i.e. 61 years ago), so we’ve missed the boat slightly – although arguably a 61st anniversary should be even more cause to celebrate than a 60th!

I’ve mentioned the Caledonian Society on several previous occasions (most recently here) on this blog but, in case you haven’t read those posts or have forgotten, here’s an executive summary of what we’re all about.  The group exists to promote Scottish culture and provide a meeting place for people of Scottish origin or with interest in Scotland.  For much longer than I’ve been on the scene, our main activity has been Scottish Country Dancing (not to be confused with Highland Dancing – an entirely different wee beastie), which we generally do in Bangor on Thursday nights between September and April (dr0p me a line if you want to know more).  Apart from that, our only other regular event these days is an annual Burns Night dinner (incidentally, at this year’s event, I performed a couple of Burns’ songs (on the ukulele), one of which was the song I’d quoted in my speech a couple of years ago).  I gather there used to be a wider range of activies in years gone by.

Apparently the dance classes started a few years after the society was formed (in about 1958 if my memory serves me), so we haven’t actually missed the 60th anniversary of dancing.  That’s just as well, as we’ve been working on a lovely dance called the Anniversary Reel and it will be good to get another excuse to dance it (not that we particularly need an excuse!).

The other group I’m in that’s celebrating a significant birthday this year is even older – in fact twice as old.  The Menai Bridge Brass Band started playing in 1894.  We have several things in the pipeline to celebrate our anniversary.  Perhaps the biggest one is a CD recording project, which we are aiming to complete in May.  The band is currently trying to raise money to pay for this and if you’d like to help you’re very welcome to do so. 🙂

We’re also hoping to hold at least one big concert some time this year (although the exact timing depends on things like whether we do sufficiently well in the regional band competition this weekend to get through to the national final later in the year) and possibly a series of open-air concerts in Menai Bridge during the summer, as the band used to do regularly in its early years (usually performing at least 8 complete concerts per season without ever playing the same piece twice).


More (or Less) Toast

Ordinarily at this time on a Thursday evening, at least during the winter months, I’d be out at Scottish Dancing with the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey Caledonian Society (of which I am the chairman).  This week, however, we have a different activity taking place tomorrow so there is no dancing tonight.

The alternative activity in question is our Burns Night dinner, which this year is actually taking place on Burns Night as it happens to fall on a Friday (I’m not sure why we always have our dinner on a Friday, but that’s the way it is).  Unlike last year, I’m not due to be giving any of the toasts (probably just as well as I’m still recovering from having lost my voice due to a bad cold the other week), but in my role as chairman I will get the pleasure of introducing them as well as the after-dinner speaker.  I don’t yet know who is doing the toasts, or who the speaker is, so those will be nice surprises.  I am expecting that, as usual, Lyn (our dance teacher and the president of the Society) will be reciting Burns’ ode to the haggis at the start of the meal, which is always one of my highlights of the evening (as is eating the haggis, washed down with a wee dram of whisky and accompanied by neeps and tatties).

Incidentally, dancing will be restarting next Thursday night and is due to run every week until Easter (and then a few beyond).  It starts at 7:30pm and takes place at Canolfan Penrallt in Bangor.  We’re always happy to welcome new people along so if you’re in the Bangor area and fancy giving it a go you’d be very welcome.

Still in the chair

Last night was the AGM of the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey Caledonian Society.  It was a nice short meeting, at just under 30 minutes (which left plenty of time for dancing later in the evening) and, as expected, I was re-elected as chairman for another year.

As chairmanships go, this one is a bit of a sinecure.  Apart from chairing the AGM (and any meeting which allows itself to be finished in less than half an hour can’t be too bad!), pretty much the only duties involve welcoming people to our two annual dance events and introducing the speakers at our Burns Night (this year was unusual as I was one of the speakers – I was introduced by our secretary, rather than having to introduce myself).


Dancing Vikings

I have been a member of the Caernarfonshire and Anglesey Caledonian Society for several years now (probably about 7;  as mentioned in my recent post about this year’s Burns Night celebrations, I’ve been the chairman for about 3 years).   I gather that in the past, the society used to do quite a range of activities, all geared towards celebrating Scottish culture and bringing Scottish expats and other interested parties together.  In recent years, however, the main focus has been on Scottish Country Dancing.  In fact, apart from the Burns Night dinner, this is about our only regular activity (and it was the reason I joined in the first place).

We meet for dancing on Thursday evenings during the autumn, winter and spring (taking a long summer break, usually from May to mid-September) at Canolfan Penrallt in Bangor.  Our main aim, which we usually achieve, is to have lots of fun while dancing, rather than to do all the dances perfectly (although we do try and make them look reasonably nice).

As well as working through our regular repertoire of dances and trying out occasional new dances (or ones so old and long-forgotten that they are effectively new to us), we often have a slightly more complicated dance that we work hard at for several weeks in a row.  The one we’re doing at the moment is an interesting 4-couple longwise reel called The Viking Longship that is supposed to visually describe the shape of the eponymous vessel.  It’s one of those dances where the dancing couple (the first couple, as in most longwise-set dances) are doing one thing while the other couples (at least 2 of them) are doing something else for a large chunk of the dance.  In this case it involves the dancing couple nipping through rapidly vanishing gaps between the other dancers and it’s a great test of one’s phrasing abilities!

There appears to be a similarly-named but entirely unrelated dance called The Viking Ship, which we haven’t yet tried.