Bonnie Rideout has been a leading player on the international Celtic music scene for three decades. Her Scottish fiddle style has entertained audiences on stages from the Kennedy Center to the Edinburgh International Festival, where she is the only American to have represented Scottish fiddle traditions. She has authored seven music books and recorded over thirteen solo albums. "A Scottish Christmas" was listed as a "Top 10 Holiday Best Seller" at The New York Times, where her playing was reviewed as "simply stunning musicianship." Here are 20 Questions for… Bonnie Rideout:
1. Earliest music memory.
My mum's heartbeat; isn't it all of ours? And yes, we DO remember it.
I often remember falling asleep to my parents playing music together downstairs below my bedroom. When I was about five we went to a little theatre to see the original silent film, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with a live pianist accompanying the motion picture. My mum has a quick ear and learned the music as she was watching. When we went to bed that night, Mum started playing the soundtrack again, including strumming the strings on the inside of the piano. It instantly brought back the images of that scary hunchback. I had nightmares for two weeks!
We never had a television so music was a big part of our entertainment. As long as I can remember, Scottish music was a big part of that. Music and family and singing and story telling are synonymous to me.
2. First instrument.
Piano. I took two lessons from my mum and she gave up on me. She said I was un-teachable. When I was eight I found a fiddle in her closet (when I was trying to find where she was hiding our Christmas presents). I fell in love with it instantly. The rest is history.
3. Favorite albums in your collection. Do you have a top ten?
In addition to old school fiddle greats like Willie Hunter, Ron Gonnella, Angus Cameron, Bert Murray, etc., I love the recordings of the folks who have toured with me: Tony Cuffe, Jerry O'Sullivan, Billy Jackson, John Doyle, Mairi MacInnes, Christine Hansen, Al Petteway, Allan MacDonald and so many more. Not only is their music great, but it brings back many great memories.
Top ten non-Celts: Sweet Honey in the Rock, Gipsy Kings, Cesaria Evora, Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey, Allison Krauss, Little Big Town, CAKE, YoYo Ma, Cat Stevens, Norah Jones.
4. Apart from your own shows, do you attend live gigs? Where?
I have toured so much over the past 20 years that I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy other gigs as much as I wish. When I do go to gigs it's more likely I'll frequent a venue like the Kennedy Center or local folk clubs. This way I can hear music I've never heard before and I don't have to travel too far from home.
5. Major live music experience (artist, venue, whatever).
Performing at the Edinburgh festival, the Kennedy Center and other major venues brings back wonderful memories, but my favourite musical experiences have occurred in small rural ceilidhs, from Scotland to Maine to Honduras.
I like participating in an environment when people take turns sharing their own music or songs or stories. Spontaneity is a big part of that too. It always amazes me how much talent and insight exists within the walls of kitchens and living rooms of hardworking people who still make time to love music.
6. Musical hero you'd most like to meet.
I've met Yo-Yo Ma twice, but only briefly. I'd love to have dinner with him.
7. Emerging artist(s) to grab your attention lately.
Jeremy Kittel. He's a fabulous fiddler. He's ambitious with his music and within the music industry. He's hard working and an insightful instructor. He's a nice guy and he didn't pay me to write this.
8. Surprise us - other music genres you're drawn to.
My son Adam plays guitar in a hard-core metal band called "Witness the Wildfire". Hard core heavy metal used to be the only music I couldn't listen to. I don't think I defined it as music at all. The vocalist doesn't even "sing", he growls like the devil. Now that I've attended their shows I understand it more and I've come around to liking their work and appreciate what they are doing. I try to see them whenever they're in town. It's a release for young people. It's fun and expressive and dynamic to watch. I listen differently now, but I still bring earplugs.
9. And those you avoid.
Phony folk "compilations". The kind of music played in kiosks at large department stores like Wal-Mart or Target. My kids used to hide around the corner from those displays and jump out right when I was passing and push the "Scotland/Ireland" or "Celtic" category. It would make me crazy. Cheapening and dumbing down music no matter the genre: folk or classical or rock, just plain bugs me.
10. Guilty musical pleasures.
11. Album title you wish you'd thought of first.
I learned through children's artist's Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer about an album entitled "LITTLE DITTIES FOR ITTY BITTIES" by Michele Valeri.
Now - how cool a title is that?
12. Best way to discover new music.
Have kids or borrow someone else's. Every age brings a musical eye-opener.
13. Do you watch music DVDs?
No - I haven't even entirely watched my own.
14. Your perfect music listening experience would involve:
Sitting down by the dock on the island where I grew up. Hearing local musicians playing outside "Pearl's Seaside Market" and watching the sun go down over Casco Bay, Maine. I have in my hand a rum-and-Moxie and the mosquitoes aren't too bad.
15. Your all-time any-genre dream band line-up would include:
First off - I'd want to be IN the band, otherwise it'd be a different dream. I'd like to have played gigs with the Gow family. One duo I'd like to see together would be Yngwie Johann Malmsteen and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; now that would be a lot of notes.
16. Your latest musical output:
"HARLAW 1411" In the 600 years since the famous Battle of Harlaw there has been a lot of music written about this momentous tragedy. To my knowledge it has not been gathered into one collection. I have worked with Dr. John Purser on a two CD compilation with narration, singing, and a lot of beautiful instrumental music featuring the best Scottish musicians on both sides of the Atlantic. It took two years and I'm proud of it because very little of the music has ever been recorded and I am honoured to be playing with thirteen other fine musicians‚ including my mum who played piano on two tracks.
17. Your shows: gig/festival you get most excited about:
Celtic Connections. Last year I played with Allan MacDonald - pipes, Billy Jackson - harp, Simon O'Dwyer and John Purser - bronze age horns, and Elizabeth Stewart - ballad singer. The first half of the show featured my piobaireachd album, the second half featured the new HARLAW album.
18. Your shows: all-time favorite festival/performance.
1) Playing with indigenous Mayan Indians on a mountain-top in Copan Honduras.
2) Playing pre-game show at a World Cup Soccer game at RF Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C.
3) Playing at Greyfriars Kirk during the Edinburgh Festival.
4) Selling out the Kennedy Center four consecutive years.
5) The Barns of Wolftrap, Vienna, VA - it's an 18th century restored barn that is now a wonderful concert venue.
19. What might you be doing today if you hadn't become a musician?
If I were a man, I'd play right field for the Washington Nationals baseball team. Otherwise I'd be an illustrator or a gardener/farmer. My husband says I should be a chef. I do love to cook, but that would be too difficult a job for an old lady like me.
20. At the gates of heaven they will be playing:
Defining "heaven" is a bigger question, but I'll try to answer this one anyway: I hope I will finally get to hear the music that we humans can't hear with our own eardrums. I would like to hear the song the oak sings compared to the willow. I would like to hear the billions of songs the creatures of the sea sing. I would like to hear what a crocus sings when it opens in the spring. What does the music of creation itself sound like? I'd love to hear that!
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