The Sillertides bios
Linn Phipps – full biography – April 2021
Linn Phipps is a UK-based traditional folk singer in Scottish Gaelic and English. She sings lyrical songs of love, loss and landscape, and performs regularly – in English and in Gaelic – at ceilidhs, Burns nights and singarounds. She has performed on cruise ships (strictly amateur unpaid) with ocean-related songs and extended her repertoire to whaling songs so as to perform in Canada, Greenland, and the Antarctic.
During the year of Covid lockdowns, Linn has zoom-connected with singers and singing groups all over the world. She sings as a regular at Zoom-sings stretching from Australia through the United States and on to Ireland, UK, and France. Linn also sings Sea shanties with shanty groups originating in the USA and UK, and leads her own Ladies’ Shanty Group, with members in the US and UK. She co-founded and co-hosts regular UK-based sings in English and Gaelic, both of which are delighted to welcome USA singers as regulars.
Linn has become a regular at USA folk festivals, having actively contributed “Learn-Gaelic-Song” workshops and themed singarounds to five USA folk festivals to date, to much acclaim, and has four more USA festivals upcoming where she has been asked to contribute workshops. Participants in her festival workshops asked Linn to start a regular monthly song class (participants from USA, Ireland, Scotland and Australia!). These monthly workshops are now in full swing and working their way gradually through learning sample songs from different genres of Gaelic song.
With much joy, Linn discovered live zoom-shared-singing. Many folksongs and ballads are built around a conversation between two or more characters, often lovers, master and servant, parent and child, married couples, or adversaries, for example. These songs lend themselves well to being sung by two or more different people, clearly differentiating the characters and bringing them to life. While in-person singing – and simultaneous duet-harmonies on zoom – are not yet possible, it is very feasible to do live zoom shared-singing of these dialogues with a song partner 5,000 miles away. Linn’s special zoom-singing partner, Doug, lives in Colorado, and although they have never met in person, Linn and Doug have developed a rapport and a repertoire, and have been performing shared songs since August 2020. They regularly delight their listeners with new interpretations of songs sung in a “conversation” or “call and response” style. Their shared songs have become a special feature at zoom sings. The organizer of the recent Spring Harmony festival said that their video concert performance had received “rave reviews”. You can hear and see several for yourself at https://linnphippsfolk.co.uk/music/#collabs where Linn has posted some shared song Collaborations on her website.
Linn has particular passions around singing songs related to the First World War and Gaelic culture. Her family lost three great-uncles in the Great War,
Linn has organized and sung at several commemorative events in Scotland, England, France and Belgium during the centenary commemoration years of WW1. She was also privileged to sing for a new play about the loss of the ship the Iolaire at the end of WW1 – returning to the outer Hebrides on New Year’s Eve 1918 – the ship foundered with the loss of nearly all the men aboard who’d actually survived WW1. She has since sung regularly at events remembering loss in War – in Cambrai (France), Ypres (Belgium) and the UK.
Linn also sings with two Gaelic choirs, both previous winners of the coveted Mod choral trophies. In normal times, these Gaelic choirs are working hard throughout the year to polish Gaelic songs to compete at local Mods and the Royal National Mod (“Gaelic festival/ assembly”), which is the premier competition for Gaelic choirs and singers, held annually in Scotland. Linn also sings with a Luadh (waulking song) group based with her Lothian Gaelic choir called “Luadh le mire”. In 2019, Linn organised several performances for the group in the Isle of Lewis, and she has hosted weekly zooms for the group during lockdown as well as a live-zoom- performance for the Edinburgh University Seachdainn na Gaidhlig (Gaelic Week).
Linn has won national awards for Gaelic singing. At the Royal National Mod, Linn has won the Silver Pendant (the highest solo singing award for Gaelic learners), as well as both the Skye & Sutherland and the Marjorie Kennedy Fraser solo song competitions, the Learners Traditional solo song Competition and the National Mod’s solo song competition for first prize-winners at local Mods. Linn has also enjoyed singing and performing with a local Folk Band, and a variety of musicians playing Andean pan pipes, flute, harp, concertina, Tenor Horn (!) etc.
Linn has tremendously enjoyed making the most of zoom’s many opportunities to sing and connect musically; and looks forward hugely to the chance to participate in and share with Tumbleweed.
Doug Huggins’ introduction to folk music came in the 1960’s, as a pre-teen boy soprano, singing harmony with his older sister and a girlfriend of hers in a suburb of Los Angeles, CA. The rise of artists and performers like Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte Marie, Bud and Travis, Burl Ives, The Kingston Trio and Ian and Sylvia formed much of his early musical education. Later when attending college in Nashville, Tennessee, he took up the five-string banjo and moved into bluegrass, adding that influence to his earlier 60’s Folksong Revival background, with influences from Flat and Scruggs, and Bill Monroe, The Stoneman Family, and Buck White and the DownHomers.
On Active Duty with the US Navy after college, he was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone and began performing in the military base clubs with other military folks, playing Country & Western and Bluegrass. A later Navy posting to Keflavik, Iceland found him performing with another GI band known as The South Wind, covering a broad range of songs and tunes from Folk, Celtic, Western Swing, Country, and Bluegrass.
1991 brought an assignment in Yokosuka, Japan where a chance reunion with the fiddler from the Keflavik days led to forming a “kick-arse Irish Pub-band” called Whiskey Business, the two Yanks joining a handful of Irish and Australian ex-pats living in the Tokyo area, performing primarily Irish music at Tokyo Celtic Festivals, and led to Saint Patrick’s day gigs in Tokyo and Beijing, and at Irish Sessions, gigs and events like the exhibition of pages from the Book of Kells in Tokyo, throughout the Tokyo/Yokohama area.
In 1994, Doug retired from the Navy to Colorado Springs, Colorado, joining local Celtic sessions and performing in the Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo area, with different groupings drawn from the growing traditional music community. Family trips to Donegal, Ireland in 1999 and 2001 for the Altan-hosted “Frankie Kennedy Winter School” opened wonderful new opportunities to meet top Irish musicians and absorb more vocal and instrumental music of Ireland. In 1998, Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub and Alehouse opened in Colorado Springs, and Doug inaugurated and anchored a weekly Celtic Session that continued uninterrupted for 22 years, suspended only in 2020 with the Covid restrictions on live public entertainment.
In September 2019, missing the first-hand live exposure to traditional Irish music, Doug and his wife travelled to Dublin for the Frank Harte Festival held by the An Goilin singers’ club. There were wonderful opportunities to meet and sing in front of artists like Niamh Parsons and Christy Moore, and become acquainted with a large number of brilliant, slightly less famous, Irish and Scottish traditional folk and Sean Nos singers.
When the Covid pandemic prevented additional trips to Ireland and limited local opportunities for Sessions and events in Colorado, Doug turned to Zoom gatherings with song sessions at An Goilin and the Seamus Ennis Arts Center as well as other virtual gatherings in Ireland and the US.
Linn Phipps was another frequent participant in these long-distance song circles, and when Linn suggested she and Doug could co-sing shared ballads and “he said-she said” songs, unimpeded by the limitations of the Zoom system, Doug and Linn began researching, revising, arranging, and rehearsing via the internet, and presented ballad-length shared versions of Child ballads like The Raggle-Taggle Gypsies, and Tamlin, (and many other shared songs as well, some with additional guest singers) to a warm and appreciative welcome from an international audience on An Goilin and several other related traditional song circles based in Ireland and the United States.