For the last two weekends of November, 2016, AFC was honored to be featured on The Thistle & Shamrock, the long-running and popular Celtic music show produced and hosted by Fiona Ritchie and distributed by NPR.
The programs aired on more than 380 NPR stations throughout the country during the weekends before and after Thanksgiving. Fiona Ritchie interviewed Nancy Groce and Stephen Winick (me), and featured AFC archival treasures as well as contemporary performances of songs from the AFC archive, all in celebration of AFC’s 40th anniversary. She was very generous not only in playing our archival recordings, but in talking with us at length about AFC’s history and its importance to American culture. Our talk brought AFC’s history, resources, and activities to a million or so dedicated listeners.
For those who don’t know it, The Thistle & Shamrock is an institution in the Celtic music world. Fiona Ritchie has been producing and hosting the show since 1983. She began the show here in the U.S., but in 1990 moved back to her native Scotland and continued to produce the show there, while broadcasting it here. She also curates Thistle Radio, a 24/7 web-based music channel. Fiona’s awards include four World Medals from the New York Festivals International Competition for Radio Programming. as well as a Flora MacDonald Award from St. Andrews University, which also conferred upon her the degree of honorary doctorate. In 2014, she published Wayfaring Strangers, a book and CD tracing the journey of migrants and their musical traditions from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, co-authored by Doug Orr with a foreword by Dolly Parton. Also in 2014, Ritchie was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to broadcasting and traditional Scottish music.
It was a particular pleasure for me to appear on the show; I’ve been a listener since the 1980s, I sing and record with a Celtic band, and from 1987 through 1990 I appeared on the radio in New York City hosting a show that was very much inspired by Fiona and The Thistle & Shamrock. Nancy, too, has been involved in the Celtic music world for years as a scholar, musician, producer, and listener, and has known Fiona for a long time. In fact, she interviewed Fiona for a special “Open Mic” presentation in the Library’s Mumford Room last year, and you can watch that interview or download a transcript here.
It was also gratifying that Fiona read several of our Folklife Today blog posts and discussed them on the show, including the ones about “Arthur McBride” (Part 1 and Part 2), about “The Dodger” (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), and about Jean Ritchie. It’s always a thrill when we find that people like Fiona spend time reading our blogs and listening to the songs we make accessible in this online format.
Both Nancy and I extend our warmest thanks to Fiona and her staff, to Library of Congress sound engineer Mike Turpin (who recorded our segments in the recording lab), and also to the staff at NPR who included the relevant links to our blog on the NPR site.