EMAIL CELIA RAMSAY AT, or call 510-995-6615



April 8, Saturday: Libby McLaren and Robin Flower perform at the Freight and Salvage, 8:00pm (Celia will perform backup vocals)

April 15, Saturday: Fortunate Strangers at The Monkey House Theater from 7:30 - 10:00pm



May 6, Saturday; Nevada City Dance 8:00 - 11:00pm

May 13, Saturday; San Rafael Contra Dance, 8:00 - 11:00pm

September 2, Saturday; Nevada City Dance 8:00 - 11:00pm

October 14, Saturday; Reno Contra Dance 7:30 - 10:30


Things That Simmer in Summer

TEACHING AT LARK - In last month's newsletter, I mentioned Lark Camp with regard to being a student in the songwriting class, among other things. I have been thinking about teaching a basic voice class there, and as luck would have it, that will be a reality! I'll be teaching four days during the second half of camp and here's the description of the class:

Let Your Voice Out of the (Closet) Shower!

Do you wish you felt braver about singing Happy Birthday at parties? Wanna get your voice out of the shower and onto the stage? Wish you felt you could sing while you demonstrate your instrumental prowess? Then this 4-day workshop is for you! We will discuss: Seven Truths About Singing - being honest and brave; Vocal range - yours, not somebody else's; How to listen to yourself; Breathing; Matching pitches; Singing harmony; Singing ornaments.

At the end of class, I will provide a valuable list of SF Bay Area singing resources.

SWANNANOA - I just got back from attending a very cool camp near Asheville, NC. The Swannanoa Gathering hosts six different, back-to-back weeks of music camp, and I attended "Celtic Week". I took classes with well-known Scottish singer, Ed Miller, as well as Alan Reid (formerly of the Battlefield Band). They were both truly fine teachers, knowledgeable about history & geography in addition to the music traditions of Scotland. The Gathering was really top notch, and the staff concerts alone were worth the price of attendance. I was there to sing, but there were also many fine instrumental instructors, and the staff roster was filled with luminaries like John Doyle, Cathy Jordan, Liz Carroll, and Martin Hayes. Definitely worth checking out!

PAUL HEMMINGS RECORDED MY SONG! - I met ace uke-man, Paul Hemmings, at California Coastal Music Camp last summer, when I was taking his class in ukelele. Now there's the strummy kind of ukelele playing, and then there's the way Paul plays, and it's unlike anything you'd expect. When you watch the video to the left, you'll see what I mean. Anyway, Paul did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for his most recent recording project, The Blues and the Abstract Uke, and I made a donation that was rewarded by Paul making a recording of a song of my choosing.

So I picked the title song I wrote for my album, I'll Just Lie About It. Paul just sent me the result, and it's purely lovely. See what you think!

Saturday, August 22, 8:00pm

KEN RISLING and I will perform a duo show at my house in North Berkeley! You must reserve a seat to get the address, so shoot me an email. Suggested donation of $20, doors open at 7:30 for an 8:00pm concert start.

Songwriter, Ken Risling will join me for a sweet little house concert. Ken's songs have won awards in West Coast Songwriter's competitions and for good reason. I'll be trucking out some of my own original songs, and we aim to have a really good time! Wine and munchies served gratis at the intermission, and the CD boutique will be open, of course! 


Some New Things!

A NEW BOOK - I haven't had time to read it yet, but I just got a copy of Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane, about the language of landscapes. The first chapter is called The Word-Hoard, and Mr. MacFarlane describes his book as "...a word-hoard of the astonishing lexis for landscape that exists in the comprision of islands, rivers, strands, fells, lochs, cities, towns, corries, hedgerows, fields, and edgelands uneasily known as the British Isles." (I LOVE THE WORD "comprision"!) I know I will love this man's fondness for precision in prose. Economy of words is something I don't tend to embrace, as many of you know (just ask my patient husband!) But that does not mean I don't recognize it or admire it. I adore it.

Suzanne holds Dana's newly minted lyrics in Danny Carnahan's class at Lark CampI read a review of the book and immediately knew I wanted to add it to my own hoard - of books. Because . . . hello - it's a BOOK! But I also wanted it as a resource for songwriting. At the onset of summer, I start thinking ahead to Danny Carnahan's songwriting class at Lark Music Camp in Mendocino; I review various jottings and song fragments that have been collecting over the year, knowing that I'll have homework to do for the class, and if I'm clever and plan ahead, I'll have some ideas to work with. I've considered trying to write some songs that sound like they could be traditional, and one thing that often makes that click is the use of place names and landscape. So you can see why I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK, can't you? Because if you can't . . . I'll have to start talking about my yarn stash!

A NEW CD? - Speaking of songwriting, I have a few newish ones that are almost ready to let out into the sun. As a result, I feel another recording project coming on. More on that, soon. Let's just say, if it actually materializes, it will be quite different than my previous three albums.

photo by Niall DavidA NEW CONCERT - And speaking of projects, I'm in rehearsal for ahouse concert with my songwriting buddy, Ken Risling. That will be at my place at 8:00pm on Saturday, August 22, and if you're
keen to plan ahead, you can reserve a seat anytime by emailing me at At this duo concert, I'll deviate slightly from my traditional roots and sing some songs I've written from the I'll Just Lie About It album, including my notorious "Lament" and one new song. Ken will be performing his own songs - and he is a fine songwriter. You'll really enjoy him. He'll be singing a song that has my name on it! That's right! It's quite funny; he explained that if he writes a song that uses a person's name, he's careful to avoid using names of people he knows. But he didn't know me when he wrote the song, which is sweetly sad, and rhymes "Celia" with "steal ya". 


I Got Through My Recital!

Last month, you'll recall, our heroine was about to do a PIANO RECITAL. It wasn't perfect, but she got through her song, and enjoyed listening to all of the other students, as they braved their way through their own musical experiences.

The recital was at the Freight and Salvage, the idea being that Libby McLaren's and Robin Flower's students can get a feel for what it's like to be on the big stage with lights and microphones and nerves - the whole enchilada. Robin teaches guitar, mandolin and fiddle, and Libby also teaches voice and accordion in addition to piano, so the recital was quite varied. 

When it was my turn, I sat down, took a deep breath, and put my hands on the keys. For a moment it was like I'd never seen this music before, and right off the bat, I played the second chord wrong; then I did it again. But I felt oddly sanguine about it - no panic - and focused in and actually read my music. I was pretty sure I'd make errors, but to me, the point was that I'd be flexible enough to save myself without having a meltdown. I played an English Country Dance tune called Elizabeth, a lovely romantic waltz that has a really delicious swell to it, and I got that part to my satisfaction. I even got to the point where I was appreciating the fine sound of the piano. I ended the song differently than I'd practiced it, but it sounded planned and then, it was over!

My husband observed something to me once that I believe is true: an audience wants performers - and not just beginning performers - to succeed, and we are quite forgiving when they stumble. That was clear at the end of my song, when our audience took care of me after my less-than-perfect rendition of Elizabeth by applauding my effort with gusto. Afterward, we had punch and cookies, and I made sure to tell the little boy whose lesson is after mine that he sounded great. And then a couple of women came up to me and told me that I was an inspiration to them, learning to play piano at my age, which was pretty cute. I said, "At our age, what have we got to lose by being beginners? I mean, when are we going to get another chance?"

(Editor's Etymological Aside: I was writing "...oddly sanguine - no blushing or panic..." and I thought, wait! Sanguine means optimistic or positive in an apparently bad or difficult situation, but it also signifies the color of blood, so suddenly the absence of blushing seemed all wrong! So I fixed it.)


You know last month I mentioned that Libby McLaren and Robin Flower will be performing a CD release concert at the Freight and Salvage on Saturday, June 20.

Well, turns out yours-truly will be singing backup on a couple of their songs, so you should come join in the fun! But don't make it about me, noooo! Come because their performances are fun and energetic and thoughtful and you leave feeling damned happy you were there to hear them perform their special brand of
Celtic-Americana. Wonderful original songs infused with roots music, Libby plays piano and accordion, with Robin guitar, mandolin and fiddle, and both of them singing their hearts out for you!


Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

I HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN A PIANO RECITAL. I'm actually quite terrified, but I know this is a good thing, because eventually, I want to be confident enough to accompany my own singing. After almost  three years of lessons, this is an important step - facing the fear. There are quite a few advantages to being a student at my age: I already read music; I know how things ought to sound; I'm motivated to practice. But there are disadvantages: my hands don't necessarily want to do what I ask, and I have a lot of catching up to do! And because I've never thought of myself as an instrumentalist, I'm scared. Inside, I know I can do this, but I've still got some walls to knock down.

I am making progress and I can tell. That's HUGE and something I couldn't do as a youngster. Like so many kids, I took piano lessons when I was in the fourth grade (for maybe eight weeks?) and I was bored and peevey with the seemingly pointless exercises and did NOT want to practice. When you're young, time drags and I couldn't see I was getting anywhere. And I'm pretty sure that teacher thought I was a moron.

My current piano teacher, Libby McLaren, is great and makes me feel fantastic about my efforts. (By the way, she and Robin Flower will be performing at the Freight and Salvage on June 20, and that's one you'll want to put on your calendar!) Anyway, I've decided the most important thing is to be at peace with being a beginner, with having to practice anything new (a lot!) and to be patient and inquisitive. Some day, you'll come hear me sing AND play! Everyone has to be a beginner sometimes! 


 Wow! We had a really lovely concert at The Monkey House, which is a very sweet little venue, and if you're a Berkeley local or passing through, you really ought to check out other shows there. There were several highlights of the day. One thing was that deejay Kevin Vance announced the concert on

KALW and described us as a "a local super-group of musicians". (Thank you, Kevin - I'm definitely going the quote the hell out of that one!) Also, Patrice introduced a pair of songs she and Shira performed by saying she learned the second song - an Afghani tune - from an old German man, who told her, "You should learn the music of many places; If you know the music of a place, you cannot harm the people who live there." The entire audience made a little collective moan of approval. We'll have more concerts, so if you missed this one, we'll put another opportunity in your path! And cross your fingers - we might try to record a few of our songs to create an EP, which stands for "extended play" and is the modern equivalent of a 45rpm vinyl record. Some of you remember what that means . . . 


By the way, my very good music buddies Patrice Haan and Tony Marcus, who after all are married, and are a musical team called Leftover Dreams, will be performing at the City Winery in Napa. They are very tall - both of them - literally as well as figuratively, and are very much worth your time on Tuesday, May 12. City Winery recently moved into the old Napa Valley Opera House, and changed the house to cabaret-style seating. You can drink wine, order cocktails and eat dinner before the show . . . or even during the show if you like!


What is Glamour, Anyway?

I LOVE WORDS! I guess when you fancy yourself a songwriter, words are not a bad thing to love? But I also love word etymologies - their origins and the evolution of their meanings. For instance, take glamour. It's a corrupt form of the word grammar, which has a sister, gramarye. Now grammar, as we all know, generally refers to a study of language and its rules. But archaic sister, gramarye, could mean grammar, or learning in general. Or knowledge of the occult! And glamour originally leaned in the direction of magic, or even "spell". You can see how the word shifted to its more familiar sense: alluring charm. To "put the glamour on" someone, was to enchant them, or put a spell on them. And that's fascinating, too. An enchanting something, in our modern minds, is beautiful, delightful; but archaically, it used to impart the sense of delusion. You see what kind of rabbit hole I fall down on a regular basis?

GLAMOURIE: Patrice Haan, moi, Shira Kammen. Being gals of a certain age, we jump at any association with alluring charm, but we also believe you will be pleasantly enchanted with our choice of traditional and original music, and our harmonies. Come let us put the glamour on you at The Monkey House in Berkeley on April 25 at 7:30pm. Will­call tickets are available on Brown Paper Tickets - and as seating is limited in this very acoustically satisfying venue on University Avenue - you'll want to buy you seats in advance. Parking is easy, and The Monkey House (thank you Ira Marlowe!) is only three blocks from North Berkeley BART. Tickets at the door will be $20, but purchased in advance are $15 (with additional ubiquitous handling fee.)


I recently participated in my last of four Black Brothers concerts, culminating at the Freight and Salvage. It was fun being their guest and also hanging out with Shay, Bobbi Nikles, Eamonn Flynn, Myra Joy and and Michael. I want to thank Shay and Michael for including me. By the way, MANY people are telling me how much they enjoy the new duo album, Singer's Request. You can, too!


I finally got a few minutes to listen to an album that I bought a few months back, and it's gaw-geous! Dances From The Greenery compiled by English Country Dance maven Sharon Green and produced by my pal, Shira Kammen, is a delight for a number of reasons, but the big one for me is the arrangements are wonderfully varied. Different lead instruments and instrumentalists are thoughtfully used. The all-star cast that includes Rebecca King, Shira Kammen, Jonathan Jensen and Jon Berger - all giants in the English Country Dance world.You can get the album on the CDSS website. (The Country Dance and Song Society provides non-profit support to the English Country Dance and Contra Dance communities.)