Doug Orr, Fiona Ritchie to spin Scot-Irish music tales

From staff reports

It’s fair to say that many Americans received their introduction to the wonders of Celtic music by way of Fiona Ritchie’s popular and long-running show on NPR, “The Thistle & Shamrock.”

Her lilting “soft Scots” commentary and enthusiasm for the music have made her program an airwave institution.

But it wasn’t always that way for her. In 1981, she was a young staffer at WFAE, a fledgling Charlotte NPR station. With the encouragement of musically-inclined UNC Charlotte vice chancellor Doug Orr, she launched “The Thistle & Shamrock,” a show dedicated to Celtic music in all its manifestations.

Since returning to her native Scotland, Fiona and the radio broadcast have won acclaim and numerous awards, while Orr went on to found the internationally renowned Swannanoa Gathering music camp while president of Warren Wilson College.

With their long mutual history and expertise, it was a natural progression that the two would co-author “Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia,” an illustrated history of the musical influence of the Scots-Irish in the Appalachians.

Ritchie and Orr will share songs, stories, and images from the book at the White Horse Black Mountain on Saturday, July 11.

Published in 2014, “Wayfaring Strangers” is a meticulously researched, engagingly presented and beautifully illustrated look at the people of the Scots Borders who found a new home in the Appalachians by way of Ulster.

Echoes of Scots-Irish speech, folkways and music still ring through the mountains, and Ritchie and Orr trace their history and influence through documents, interviews and narratives.

Along the way, they also enlisted the talents of traditional musicians on both sides of the Atlantic for an accompanying CD that showcases the diverse Scots/Irish-derived musical styles.

Both authors are also accomplished performers in their own right, providing a lively counterpoint to the historical material.

No strangers are they

Who: Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr

When: 8 p.m. July 11

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $20 advance, $22 door