OK, so I have permission to share with you one of the best kept secrets in the local Irish music scene.
All right, not-quite-so-well-kept secrets. At the least, it’s a Cool Thing that most folks outside the inner circles of Irish music fandom haven’t heard about.
I present to you the Wee Ceili* Room.
Technically, it’s an enclosed porch in the back of the home of Irish dance instructor and traditional music promoter Sam Keator and his lovely and gracious wife Anne Doherty, but to call it an enclosed porch doesn’t do it justice. The floors and walls are a rich, polished wood, with windows and skylight. Most important, the acoustics are excellent.
This, my friends, is the location of some of the most incredible house concerts you will find anywhere. Don’t believe me? Google Andy Irvine, Noel Hill, Laurence Nugent, Hanz Araki, Golden Bough, and Molly’s Revenge. They, and plenty more, have played the Wee Ceili Room.
Calling the setting intimate is an understatement. Seating is for about sixty-ish, and if you are sitting in the front row you may have to tuck your feet out of the way if a musician gets up to change instruments. The atmosphere is one of utmost respect for the music— you will not hear people chatting in the audience or talking on their cell phones while the musicians are playing. Not that all is Serious with a capital ‘S’. The musicians generally bring stories to go along with the songs, and some of them will have you laughing until you can’t breathe. If you want to not only hear the songs and tunes, but also learn about their provenance and the historical events from which they arose, this is your place.
There is a casual potluck of desserts, snacks and libations before the music starts that picks up again with the set break. Don’t worry if everyone seems to know everyone else. Before the end of the evening, you’ll know everyone, too. And when you come back the next time they’ll be glad to see you again.
The Wee Ceili Room reminds me of something out of Charles de Lint’s Newford. I half-expect Geordie to play there some day, or to bump into Jilly in the audience. Outside the world of Story, we may not find shapeshifters or paintings that come to life, but the magic is real nonetheless.
(The Wee Ceili Room exists in the very real Washington County, about 45 minutes to an hour southwest of Portland. To find out more about coming events and to find out how get on the mailing list, check out www.IrishPDX.com. And while you are there, look at the info on dance classes, ceilis, the Community Concert Series, and other great things Sam has going. ‘Cause honestly, I could probably fill up the rest of my Cool Stuff blog with the events he has going on.)
*‘Ceili’, pronounced ‘kay-lee’ has come in this country to refer to both Irish Social Dance and to one of the dance socials where ceili dancing happens. But the literal translation from the Irish is ‘party’.
Samhain-kitty here. Since writer person is neglecting this blog almost as badly as she is neglecting her poor, long-suffering cat, let me be the one to tell you she has a guest blog up at Here Be Magic. http://herebemagic.blogspot.com/2014/07/it-takes-village.html
The people behind the scenes who make books happen. Including you, readers!
Since I recently spent the long weekend in one of my favorite spots on the planet, I thought it time to share it with those of you who think Arch Cape is just another little green road sign between Cannon Beach and Manzanita.
Admittedly, that was all it was to me until I made the acquaintance of a wonderful couple who happen to own a historic cabin a short walk to the beach. I will be forever indebted to them, not only for many weekends of unparalleled hospitality and very fine Scotch, but for introducing me to one of the most magical places on Earth.
Arch Cape is so named for a natural stone arch hollowed out by the action of the sea. At low tide, you can walk under the arch, but know your tides! If you are on the wrong side of the arch when the tide comes in, you’ll have to scramble up the cliff and walk a couple miles down the road to return to your car or lodgings.
A bit further out is a natural monolith called Castle Rock, similar to the more famous Haystack Rock of Cannon Beach, but quite a bit smaller. Locals call her Queen Vic, an appellation given her by one of the first settlers to what is now Arch Cape, an English immigrant at the time that Victoria still sat on the throne. During winter storms, waves may overtop Vic, truly an impressive sight.
One of the marvels of Arch Cape is its solitude. During the off-season, you may well be the only one out on the beach. There are no big hotels, no shops, not even a grocery store, and, as of this writing, no restaurants or bars. (Plans are in place for one of the latter. The property has been bought and a chef hired, but the Orca Lounge still awaits permitting before it can get off the ground.) Bear in mind this means no public restrooms, so plan accordingly.
Narrow paths wind through native bushes from the town proper down to the beach, and it doesn’t take a writer’s sense of whimsy to imagine fantastical creatures hiding beneath the tangled growth. Many, if not most of the residences are owned by the occupants, which give the place a small town feel. The best illustration of the spirit of Arch Cape came a few trips ago during a solitary morning walk on the beach. A strange dog ran up to me and, without preamble, shoved a soggy tennis ball into my hand to throw. Because, of course, I had not brought a dog of my own, and so he felt the need to share his retrieving services for my entertainment.
An interesting historical note: the cannon for which Cannon Beach were named actually washed up in Arch Cape. It was one of the cannons from the Shark, a naval vessel that shipwrecked on a sandbar at a time when the border between the US and Canada was still in dispute. Two more cannons were discovered later, also at Arch Cape. They have been painstakingly restored and are now on display at a museum in Astoria. Arch Cape was originally called Cannon Beach, until the town just to the north stole the name. They also, arguably, stole the first cannon, but I’ll leave that story to someone else’s blog.
And on a literary note, Arch Cape makes a special guest appearance in Raven’s Wing, the sequel-in-progress to Ravensblood.
If you day trip, public access is down Leech Street off of US 101. I suggest you round off your trip by continuing south to Manzanita and having lunch or dinner at the Sand Dune Pub. Tasty pub food with generous portions at reasonable prices. There is outdoor seating in good weather, and well-behaved dogs are welcome in the outdoor seating.