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The Standing Stones:
who are we?

Michael and Vicki Michael Robinson and Vicki Parrish have been performing together as The Standing Stones since 1991. They have appeared on several local folk music radio programs in California as well as on the Raidió na Gaeltachta network in Ireland and Manx Radio (Isle of Man). They have opened for well-known folk performers such as Ramón Romero, Bryan Bowers and Ireland's Johnny Moynihan, and have performed at events such as the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, the Sonora Celtic Fair, the Reno Celtic New Year celebration and the Pleasanton Highland Games. As well as performing in concert situations, they work with local historical re-enactment groups to recreate authentic musical performances.

Their first recording, Where in this Wide World, was produced by Chris Caswell.

The Standing Stones were selected to appear on the Oasis sampler CD Oasis Acoustic Vol. 3.

Celtic knotwork

Michael Robinson
(tenor banjo, mandola, fiddle, baritone violin, accordion, flute, assorted wind instruments, guitar, vocals)
Aussie Michael comes from a musical family originally resident in Australia, but later emigrating to Toronto, Canada (sometimes called the "Belfast of North America" [Note 1.]). His mother and grandmother were both fiddlers, and his father, while not a musician, is an aficionado and collector of several musical genres. He has been listening to traditional music as far back as he can remember.

Toronto Michael has a broad musical background, having performed at various times rock, blues, jazz, classical, ragtime, theatre and Russian folk music. He was one of the first students to go through the award-winning Jazz Studies Program at York University, the first of its kind in Canada. He also studied classical guitar, mrdangam (South Indian classical percussion), and electronic and computer music at York. During his undergraduate days he worked in cabaret theatre, performed ragtime and blues guitar around the Toronto folk clubs (opening for Leon Redbone and once even performing for Eubie Blake), and played bass with the Rob Fisher Quintet jazz group. He did graduate work at the University of Illinois, where he worked at the Experimental Music Studios and also performed in the University of Illinois Jazz Band and the University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra (in which he was featured as a soloist on the alto domra). He studied composition with several prominent contemporary composers (including Richard Teitelbaum and Salvatore Martirano), and he worked with the great jazz theorist Jon Gittins. His wide-ranging musical background is now put to use arranging for the Standing Stones, the Peninsula Scottish Fiddlers, and occasionally other groups.

Michael also holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science/Electrical Engineering and has worked for several Silicon Valley companies. He is currently teaching Computer Engineering at San José State University. He also has a website for his classes.

Fiddler with dog A long-time student of Irish language and literature, Michael teaches an Irish language class for the Irish Language Association in Mountain View, California. Michael studied sean-nós (traditional) singing in Ireland with Lillis Ó Laoire, the director of Ionad na nAmhrán (The Song Centre) at the University of Limerick (which deals with research and performance in Irish sean-nós singing). He has also studied Scottish Gaelic singing with Donnie Macleod and Donnie MacDonald.

Beginning with a mind-boggling lesson with the great Canadian guitarist David Wilcox [Note 2.], Michael has gone on to study with several well-known folk instrumentalists including Grammy winner Jody Stecher (mandolin and banjo) and Martin Simpson (guitar). He has attended classes with many prominent fiddlers including Alasdair Fraser, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Buddy MacMaster and Jerry Holland, and a few guitarists as well (Jim Hall, Herb Ellis, Dave MacIsaac).

Michael has also collected a wealth of tradition and folklore about the songs and tunes. He has written articles for the Folk Harp Journal and Fiddler magazine.

Collegium Musicum Michael also performs with the Peninsula Scottish Fiddlers and the Collegium Musicum (early music ensemble) at San José State University (playing lute, violin and baritone violin).

Michael has performed with other Bay Area folk and traditional groups including Emerald and Four Shillings Short. He played bass and keyboards with ultra-high-tech rocker Salvo Glick, with whom he wrote, filmed and performed in a one hour television show (partly filmed on Alcatraz Island, which they rented for an hour of frantic filming). This was his second gig on Alcatraz. He also took part in making an audio presentation which tourists can rent to carry around with them. He was called upon to impersonate Al Capone who learned to play the tenor banjo—not very well, to all accounts—during his prolonged stay. In the course of this production, he got to spend the night in a cell on "The Rock" (but with the door open!).

Michael's family ancestry can be traced back to the following areas in three of the six Celtic lands:

St. Michael's Mount(McGriskin, Meehan) Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, Ireland
(Dickson, Osler) Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland
(Robinson, Tregloan, Broad) Marazion (Penzance), Cornwall

Keith armsThe Dicksons (his maternal grandfather) are a branch of Clan Keith, which enables him to wear a nice light green tartan kilt to Scottish events. (Don't let on, but actually there is no tartan enforcement body to check your qualifications.) Being a member of a clan is a bit different than in the olden times. You don't have to throw any tree trunks or participate in blood feuds. You do, however, receive a newsletter regularly, and you have a tent to sit in when you go to Highland Games.

Michael appears on the recordings:

Michael has also written an informal first-person musical autobiography for those people who are really interested in his life story.

Celtic knotwork

Vicki Parrish
(Celtic harp, folk harp, cello, vocals)

Vicki was born in upstate New York, and lived in Alaska before moving to Tacoma, Washington, where she spent her formative years. She attended the University of Washington in Seattle.

Vicki became interested in folk music in early childhood, and started collecting songs at the age of 11. She has studied voice from several different perspectives, including opera, musical theatre, classical Indian singing, traditional Scottish ballads and Gaelic song. She spent a year living in Germany researching medieval German folk music. In 1995 she travelled to the Isle of Skye to study with Catherine-Ann MacPhee, one of Scotland's leading Gaelic singers.

Vicki is well known in Northern California harp circles as the founder of the South Bay Folk Harp Society, which has evolved into Harper's Hall. She plays in the traditional manner of the old Gaelic harpers, using fingernails on a wire-strung harp, as well as on the modern nylon-strung folk harp. She has studied with several prominent Celtic harpers including Ann Heymann, Chris Caswell and Janet Harbison in Ireland. She also organizes harp workshops and concerts for Ann, Janet and other harpers including Laurie Riley and Michael MacBean.

Vicki has written articles for the Folk Harp Journal.

Peninsula Scottish FiddlersHer prior experience as an orchestral cellist at the University of Washington is now applied to reviving the tradition of Scottish folk cello. Vicki also performs with the Peninsula Scottish Fiddlers and the Collegium Musicum (early music ensemble) at San José State University.

Vicki's ancestry includes early British colonists in North America, Ulster Scots and Native Americans.

Vicki holds degrees in German and Special Education, and teaches English as a Second Language for the Institute for Studies in American Language at San José State University.

Vicki appears on the recording:

Celtic knotwork


Chris Caswell
(producer of Where in this Wide World)
Chris is well-known in Celtic music circles on the West Coast for his talents as a harper, Highland piper and percussionist. He was a founding member of Robin Williamson's Merry Band and Caswell-Carnahan. He also built harps for a number of years with his then wife Terry. He is the pipe major of the prize-winning City of Petaluma Pipe Band, and maintains a busy teaching schedule. In addition to The Standing Stones' Where in this Wide World, Chris has produced a number of other recordings including Knodel and Valencia's Harpers' Masque.

Note 1.

Toronto Toronto is known as the "Belfast of North America" probably because of heavy immigration from Scotland and Ulster. The strong Presbyterian influence also led to the name "Toronto the Good", as up until the 1960s there weren't many opportunities for enjoyable activities there—people had to go to Buffalo, New York, for fun! They only started having a St. Patrick's Day parade in 1987! (They had been banned after some riots in the 19th century.)

Nowadays, however, Toronto is an interesting multi-cultural sort of place.

The older civic buildings in Toronto also feature a sort of heavy Victorian architectural style which I recognized when I went to Belfast. Back

Note 2.

Not the Yank singer-songwriter, but the Canadian guitarist formerly with Ian & Sylvia, who went on to win a Juno award (Canada's Grammy). A great guitarist, particularly on slide, he has also composed some unique songs including Do the Bearcat, Cheap Beer Joint and God is on a Bender and the Angels Don't Know Where to Find Her. Back

Hearth Return to The Standing Stones home page

Lighthouse Go to the Standing Stones Site Map (listing of the entire contents of this website)

Stonehenge border

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