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



April 22, Saturday; Sebastopol Contra Dance 8:00 - 10:30pm

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


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.) 


March Madness - It's Not Always About Basketball!

St. Patrick's Day heralds the busy season for those in the Irish/Celtic music world, and I've been invited to hang out with the Black Brothers for a few of their St. Paddy's Day concerts this next month! The dates are listed below, but of course, THE BIG ONE will be at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on the actual day, Tuesday, March 17. I'll sing a few songs with Shay and Michael Black and their band that will include Bobbi Nikles, Myra Joy and Eamonn Flynn. I'm really hoping that you might find your way to one of these concerts. They promise to be rollicking good fun with some very fine musicians! I'll even wear something green to avoid you pinching me!


 I recently was hired to call a family dance at a private school. It was a HUGE success with kids of all ages and parents just shaking it up and having a great time. While I can lay claim to a certain amount of of the success, credit is largely due to Jon Berger and Charlie Hancock, the musicians of the evening. Contra dance is proudly done to live music--and that makes for a much more dynamic experience. 

I feel really lucky when I get to teach new dancers. Folks arrive not knowing quite what to expect - maybe they're even a little bit anxious. The band is tuning up and trying out a few tunes for the sound check and it's pretty infectious stuff - it fuels the thrill. Then we're ready to go, we teach the first dance and the wild rumpus begins!

You know, we all grow up with quite a bit of fear about what other people will think about us, and many of us have had our share of those messages about what we can't do when it comes to singing and dancing. When folks have a successful evening of dancing - it's a delight, and that's what I find so magical about Contra dance. It's about community, feeling welcome and included in the mystery of dance . . . only to find it's no mystery at all. It's fun. The best fun.


  • Lyons Filmer - KWMR, 
  • JoAnn Mar - KALW and 
  • Beth Hadley - KSVY

Be sure to tune in to their programs!

Page 1 ... 1 2 3 4 5