Baritone Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews and Pianist Jim Stevenson-Mathews perform as the Scottish musical duo, Two Men In Skirts. The duo began their celebrated collaboration in the winter of 2006 after being invited to perform for several musical projects for Scottish games and Celtic events in the Northeast. With humor, joy, and unique style they lead audiences through the rich tapestry of Scotland's musical past and through some of the more contemporary works by Scotland's greatest composers and lyricists.
Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews' professional career spans more than twenty years and many regions of the country including major theatrical performances with Hope Repertory Theatre (Michigan), Lyric Stage (Texas), Theatre 3 (Texas), Dallas Opera (Texas), Chautauqua Festival Theatre (New York) and John Houseman's the Acting Company (New York). Gaitley also founded Deep Ellum Opera Theatre in Dallas, Texas in 1991. He received the Leon Rabin Award (Dallas' version of the Tony Awards) for Best Actor in a Musical for his performances in the musicals “Sweet Charity” and “My Fair Lady.”
Folk music was a part of Gaitley's life growing up in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina. The singer, who admittedly does most of the talking when presenting live performances, is a descendant of Sailor Hector McNeil, a Scottish immigrant who founded his hometown of Red Springs, North Carolina.
Gaitley was also treated to the history of Scots who settled in the Cape Fear region in which he was raised. Among the songs the duo performs is a ballad titled “Skye Boat Song,” which is about Flora MacDonald, a Scottish heroine who settled in the Cape Fear region and who was noted for helping Prince Charles Edward Stuart—an exiled claimant to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland—escape capture by the British in 1746.
With Flora Macdonald's help, the Scottish prince, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, took refuge on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. After being imprisoned in the Tower of London for her part in the prince's escape, Flora eventually married and emigrated to North Carolina in 1773.
“Even though I grew up in the 1970s and '80s, I would still hear stories about this famous Scottish woman, who came to North Carolina in the late 1700s,” Gaitley said. “And some of my ancestors came to that part of the country at the same time, so I grew up hearing, historically, all of these stories about the Scots. I feel a real connection to the music we perform.”
Jim Stevenson-Mathews has been involved with Scottish music for well over 25 years. After first learning English folk dancing during his college years, Jim later learned about Scottish folk dancing when he moved from the Midwest to New York City. Since he could dance and play the piano, Jim was often asked to provide piano accompaniment for the Scottish country dances he attended. During one of these dances, Jim was fortunate to meet fiddle player, Elke Baker (who later became the U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion). After hearing Jim play, Ms. Baker invited him to join her for some performances. For several years, they joined forces and shared their love for Scottish music with their audiences.
Jim was introduced to international folk dance music while attending Oberlin College in Ohio. The Illinois native recalled that he also learned some English and Scottish music.
During the early 70s, Jim found himself working near the University of Chicago while taking a summer job in the Windy City. He noted that international folk music was thriving at the time at the liberal arts university. “There would be folk dances outdoors or somewhere on the campus almost every night of the week,” Jim said. “One of the groups was Scottish, and I got involved with them. And then when I came to New York, I sort of drifted around in my hobbies, but came back to Scottish both from the dance standpoint and the music standpoint. That's where I started playing piano as back up for fiddlers, who were playing at dances. This background was very useful when Gaitley and I first began our musical collaboration.
With Gaitley's rich baritone and Jim's eloquent piano playing, audiences are always in for a special musical experience. These “Two Men In Skirts” always tell their audiences about the “Great Kilt,” and then with humor and plenty of Scottish wit and charm, drive home the point ---- “It's fine for someone of Scottish heritage to poke fun at himself, but don't YOU dare call what I'm wearing a skirt!"
In November of 2009 the duo released their debut CD, Two Men In Skirts - The Music of Scotland.