At Univ. of Stirling, UK — Jan 2011
|Born||1960 (age 54–55)|
|Show||The Thistle & Shamrock|
Fiona Karen Ritchie MBE (born 1960) is a Scottish radio broadcaster best known as the producer and host of The Thistle & Shamrock, an hour-long Celtic music program that airs weekly throughout the United States on National Public Radio (NPR). She also curates ThistleRadio, a 24/7 web-based music channel devoted to new and classic music from Celtic roots and produces Thistlepod, offering free podcasts from her radio program archives.
The radio program has won numerous awards since its inception in 1981, offering a fusion of traditional and contemporary Celtic sounds, interwoven with in-studio performances and Ritchie’s own trademark commentary in her “soft Scots” dialect.
Ritchie was born and raised in Scotland, where she went to the University of Stirling for her undergraduate education. While there, she was invited to spend one semester in North Carolina in the United States, and that was when she first heard NPR. After graduating in Scotland she returned to North Carolina and, although initially pursuing post-graduate research, was hired by WFAE FM, the NPR station in Charlotte, to oversee fundraising and promotion efforts.
WFAE was a new station open to new ideas and in 1981 Ritchie began a weekly hour of Celtic music for its local audience. The Thistle & Shamrock was picked up for national broadcast less than two years after this debut. The program's national following grew quickly and it was soon established as one of NPR's most widely heard and best-loved music offerings. During her years based in North Carolina, Ritchie visited radio stations coast-to-coast across the US, presenting live broadcasts and events, and in 1989 and 1990, traveled to 22 US cities with The Thistle & Shamrock Concert Tour.
Return to Scotland
Fiona Ritchie has come full circle to re-settle and create her radio programs at home in Scotland. On numerous return trips to the United States, she has visited and raised funds for NPR member stations everywhere from Louisiana to Alaska, and hosted festival concerts from Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts to Chicago's Grant Park. Along the way she has forged a strong association with the United States, and made a unique contribution to the American airwaves. In 2003 the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage honored her for “creating an on-air community, serving as a musical ambassador, and connecting listeners with the best of traditional and contemporary artistry.”
In the UK, Fiona Ritchie has presented numerous programs for BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 2, launching the Radio Scotland world music series "Celtic Connections" in 1993. She has produced and presented many live concert performances and broadcasts, including a musical event for HRH Prince Charles in 2001 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, and has acted in an advisory capacity for arts organizations in the US and UK, including serving on the Scottish advisory committee for the British Council.
Awards and honors
Ritchie's awards include four World Medals from the New York Festivals International Competition for Radio Programming, and a Flora Macdonald Award from St. Andrews University, which also conferred upon her the degree of honorary doctorate. Hundreds of Thistle & Shamrock tapes and vinyl albums, along with concert recordings, playlists, newsletters, and related materials are now part of a working archive in the Scottish Heritage Center at St. Andrews University (North Carolina). The archive is open to anyone interested in studying the rich heritage of Celtic music.
In 2006 Ritchie launched Thistlepod, a free podcast from NPR featuring new-releases from Celtic roots. Her partnership with NPR Music gave rise to ThistleRadio in 2012, a 24/7 web-based music channel devoted to new and classic music from Celtic roots. Ritchie has also produced several CD compilations and authored a 2005 volume on Celtic music for the NPR Curious Listener's Guide book series. In 2014, Wayfaring Strangers, her major book and CD chronicling the musical voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, was published by UNC Press. The book was co-authored by Doug Orr with a Foreword by Dolly Parton.
- The Thistle & Shamrock - official site
- The Thistle & Shamrock via streaming audio
- Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts
- Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
- New York Festivals