John Munro: Shooglenifty melodies

John Munro at the New Dancers’ Celebration dancing with Catherine McCutcheon who often teaches at Johnsonville

Past Johnsonville Club member (and current Carterton dancer) John Munro tells us about a Shooglenifty concert in Carterton and the Wairarapa’s Kokomai Creative Festival.

While Wellingtonians were immersed in WOW, us Wairarapa folk were diving into Kokomai – that’s not a local swimming hole it’s a 10 day Festival of music, writers, dance, art, etc.

I started quietly with a rare opportunity to visit the privately-owned Greek Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration and view the interior. This little gem, built by a Greek immigrant who owned a fish and chip shop in Masterton, sits prettily in a field to the west of the town.

Every inch of the interior is decorated in glowing icons that give the effect of medieval stained-glass windows. There are over 800 figures that Stephen Allwood painted when he was a 19 year old student at Canterbury’s art school.

I ended noisily with the Shoogles. Shooglenifty are seven musicians from the Scottish Highlands, Orkney and Edinburgh. They fuse traditional and traditional-sounding melodies with the beats of modern music.

It’s high energy and high volume and the 210 (I asked) attendees were attentive but not inclined to dance out front in the first half. At the break the bar was busy and in the second half the vocalist Kaela Rowan invited someone to join her at the front to demo the Canadian Barn Dance

Curiously the first to volunteer was an older man with a walking stick! That wasn’t a great start but luckily some more agile people became involved and soon there were about 30 dancers happily leaping around, although ceilidh moves were in the minority.

Overall I found Shoogles traditional melodies hard to detect but I’m hanging out for Marian and Max at the Carterton Annual Dance.

From John Munro, 24 October 2019

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