If you have been confused about the spelling of my name, you are not alone!
"It's M.A.I.R.E....I.R. not R.I...yes, I know it is spelled almost like Marie...but no it's not because the "i" comes before the "r"...it's a Scottish spelling..."
That is a conversation I have had almost every day of my life. My maternal grandmother was named Mary and my Dad's side of the family is Scottish so my parents found this Scottish spelling of Mary in a book: Maire. So--when Davey and I got married this summer, we thought Scotland would be a perfect destination. For one, the Boston summer was WAY too hot for us, so we were not interested in some place tropical. And two, we thought it was the perfect destination to get in touch with our heritage, learn more about Scottish music, and I thought that maybe I could even see my name written on a key chain in a shop.
It was truly serendipitous that Davey's mum suggested that we spend one week in Ullapool, a tiny town in the Highlands, and another week in the Isle of Skye. When we arrived in Ullapool, we immediately were informed about traditional Scottish music sessions happening throughout the week at different pubs. Nervous, but excited, we went to the local pub where there were 2 fiddlers and a guitarist jamming out to some Scottish tunes. When they saw we were carrying instruments, they immediately invited us over. After the session, we knew we had made friends. We showed up to a session the next day and the man leading it immediately waved us over and told us that he had heard all about us. Once gain, we were fully welcomed into this community. Now, neither of us are particularly familiar with Scottish traditional music, (and I already wrote about how I am a beginning fiddler) but they didn't mind! They asked us if we had music to share, and when we mentioned bluegrass and American folk music, they got SO excited. Who knew, that bluegrass would be so beloved in a Scottish pub. Who knew that we would be so beloved in a Scottish pub! After playing and singing music for hours, it really hit me that it wasn't just the welcoming musicians that made us so warm but also the completely engaged crowd that had gathered at the pub to enjoy our music. They were silent and listening, and at times even singing along!
When we left for Scotland, we were feeling pretty raw about music. We play in Boston and sometimes have to beg the bartender to please turn off the not-live background music so that we can start playing live background music for people who appear completely disinterested in our music, and perhaps even annoyed that we are impeding their ability to hear each other's conversations. We've had friends come to hear us play, and even as they try their hardest to experience the music that we are sharing, they have expressed that they couldn't really hear it over the loud crowd. When I shared this experience of music in Scotland versus music in America with some fellow American musicians, it led to a lengthy discussion about music in America, and what it says about our culture. We live in a city with thousands of amazing live musicians, yet have we forgotten the power of music? Has music become background noise? Have we forgotten how to listen?
Today, I was pondering this as I was waiting for my connecting train at State street on the orange line. There was a cellist playing a melody. It was so simple and so stunning. Her eyes were closed and she was playing in this stinky, crowded train station but people were silent. A crowd gathered around her. When she stopped playing, a man walked up and put money in her jar. She said "Thank you" with so much gratitude in her voice, and he responded by bringing his hands to his heart and saying "No. Thank YOU" with tears in his eyes. It was so authentic.
That cellist didn't know that I also had tears in my eyes because she reminded me that we, musicians are not in the background. No matter what country, what language, what culture, music impacts people every day. I may not know any or all of the people that are impacted by my music, but I must continue to believe in music and to believe in me.
On Sunday, Davey and I had the opportunity to sing and jam with some fellow folk musicians in Roslindale, where we live near Boston, and it was so powerful. Sharing stories, feelings, and connecting with other like-minded and inclusive humans. Just like in Scotland, in just a couple of hours, strangers became friends.
In Scotland, we spent almost every night in a pub making music. We learned dozens of new tunes and songs. I put my feet and hands in the earth of my ancestors. We ate fish and chips, chocolate digestives, and drank way too much tea.
I didn't find a keychain with my name on it (only Mary's and Mairi's), but I am back with new vigor for playing my fiddle, singing songs, helping other singers find their voices, and sharing music with strangers and friends.