An Interview with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra


The Edinburgh International Festival is just on the horizon, & the Mumble managed a wee blether with four members of The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; conductor: Marin Alsop, Vice-President: Tonya McBride Robles, Director of Operations: Rebecca Cain & Director of Artistic Planning: Abhijit Sengupta

Where are you from and can you describe your musical background?

Marin Alsop

Marin: When I was nine years old, my father took me to see one of the New York Philharmonic’s Young Peoples Concerts. I studied violin, but when I saw Leonard Bernstein conduct that concert and watched the freedom of his movement and his passion for the music, I knew then that I wanted to be a conductor. It was a dream come true years later when I had the opportunity to study with him at Tanglewood.

Tonya: I’m originally from North Carolina. My father is a minister, and my mother is a church musician, so I grew up singing in church. I started voice lessons at the age of ten and later attended a performing arts high school to study voice, music theory and music history. I graduated from the Peabody Conservatory and received a Bachelor of Music Education and a Performer’s Certificate in Voice; I studied voice with Phyllis Bryn Julson. Just before my final year of college, I worked as an intern with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the artistic administration department. I found my calling as an orchestra administrator and am thrilled to serve the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as General Manager for this international tour some 25 years after I started as an intern.

Rebecca: I’m from a very small town in North Carolina. I played a variety of instruments before settling on the bassoon and becoming a professional bassoonist, my first career.

Abhijit: My parents are from India, but I was born in New Jersey and grew up mainly in Houston, where I began viola lessons at age 11. Although I attended an arts high school and was a very active young musician, I attended Yale University and graduated with a degree in economics. Campus life was musically rich, and my college years were full of orchestra concerts, chamber music, recitals and music history. I ultimately chose to pursue a career in music, attending the University of Southern California School of Music in Los Angeles for a master’s degree in viola performance before joining the New World Symphony. I was a special jury prize winner at the 1997 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition and went on to serve as principal viola of the Florida Philharmonic, the Houston Grand Opera & Ballet Orchestra and co-principal of the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway before realigning my career to include administrative duties. I have continued to play professionally as a core member of the Grand Teton Music Festival and as a regular extra with the Houston Symphony.

For you, what are the qualities of a great orchestra?

Abhijit Sengupta

Rebecca: I think the most important quality over the long-term is people who really listen to each other – musicians who are truly committed to listening every second they’re playing music, supported by everyone else who makes concerts possible.

Tonya: First, it’s all about the music – a great ensemble performing extraordinary repertoire under the leadership of a gifted Music Director. In this day and age, the music must be met with a connection to the orchestra’s community to bring relevance to a centuries-old art form. One of my favorite aspects of the work we do is watching Baltimore city schoolchildren hear live symphonic music for the first time at an education concert: this music retains the ability to transform and inspire.

Abhijit: In addition to the precision and virtuosity we have come to expect from the many great orchestras in the world, I really listen for sound quality. The conductor plays a major role in the way an orchestra produces sound, but there is a core sound that is always there with great orchestras. But greatness cannot only be achieved through artistic means. Great orchestras, in my view, also serve their respective communities through education, innovation and inclusion. The reason the repertoire endures is that it has the power to transform people, so the orchestras that are sincerely making an effort to ensure this incredible music touches the lives of as many people in their communities as possible are the truly great ones.

Who are your favorite three composers and which is your favorite piece by each?

Tonya: It’s difficult to narrow my favorite composers to three. Since I come from a vocal background and love choral music, two of my favorite pieces are the Requiems of Mozart and Verdi. They’re completely different in their approach but equally powerful. I also love the Concierto de Aranjuez of Rodrigo because I lived in Spain for three years shortly after marrying my husband, and this concerto is so evocative of a place and time I loved.

Abhijit: I couldn’t possibly name any favorites, but here are three of my desert island composers and pieces from the orchestral repertoire: Mahler Symphony No. 3, Brahms Symphony No. 3 and Sibelius Symphony No. 5. It’s hard to choose just one Sibelius symphony actually, as I hear them as one epic journey, but I include the fifth in this list because it was a rare moment of joy in an often dark life.

Rebecca: It’s almost impossible to choose, and my answers to this change a lot, but right now it’s:
Mozart – Gran Partita Serenade
Mahler – Symphony No. 2
John Adams – Dr. Atomic Symphony

What other genres of music do you like besides classical?

Rebecca Cain

Abhijit: I listen to and love all sorts of music, and my own collection has a little bit of just about everything in it. I have presented a great deal of jazz in my career, so I have a special affinity for it. I also have a soft spot for Brazilian music.

Rebecca: I listen to a lot of different genres, but lately have been listening to lots of American “roots” music – blues, bluegrass, folk – with a side of the Hamilton soundtrack.

Tonya: I like a variety of popular music – my three most played albums are the Greatest Hits of Michael Jackson, the Original Cast Recording of Hamilton and U2’s Joshua Tree.

What do you like to do outside of working for the BSO?

Rebecca: I read, knit, and compete very slowly in triathlons. Knitting is a cover for my other hobby – watching tv.

Abhijit: I’ve always been a soccer player, but that is hard to do without a group or league of some sort. I’m new to Baltimore, but perhaps I’ll find one. Beyond that, I’m an enthusiastic, if somewhat mediocre, tennis player and an active hiker, especially in the mountains of Wyoming. I also love to cook and wish I had more time to read.

Tonya: There’s not a lot of time outside of work, so it’s fortunate that I love my job! I enjoy spending time with family and friends, especially at the beach. To that end, my family spends a portion of every summer at a Chautauqua community on the coast of Maine.

What is the history behind the BSO’s Edinburgh International Festival performances – how did they come about?

Tonya McBride Robles

Tonya: Our Music Director, Marin Alsop, is so beloved in the U.K. that our invitation to the festival came to us initially through her. When the head of the festival heard the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra play live, he realized that we have a world-class orchestra. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a distinguished international touring history, but it has been over a decade since the orchestra had toured abroad. I can’t wait for Edinburgh Festival audiences to experience what we’re able to enjoy each week in Maryland.

Abhijit: I joined the BSO in February 2018, and these performances were already planned. One of the programs is an homage to the great American conductor, pianist, composer and educator Leonard Bernstein, who was Marin Alsop’s teacher and mentor. Marin is a paragon of all that Bernstein represented, and she has been presenting concerts throughout the world in celebrating the Bernstein centenary.

Marin: I’m very excited to bring the BSO to Scotland for their Edinburgh International Festival debut. It’s especially meaningful to me that we will be performing the music of my mentor, Leonard Bernstein, on what would have been his 100th birthday, August 25. We’ll also be joined by the fantastic violinist Nicola Benedetti for Bernstein’s Serenade, which is one of the highlights of our tour repertoire. After Edinburgh, we go on to London for our BBC Proms debut and finally the National Concert Hall in Dublin, where we open their International Concert Series 2018-19 season.

Have you visited Scotland before? If so, when and which cities?
Tonya: My maiden name is McBride, and research into our family ancestry indicates that I’m descended from the Clan Donald from the Isle of Skye. As part of this research, my family visited Scotland and stayed in Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye. I’ve been back a couple of times, including a trip to Dunoon for the Highland Games, and absolutely love your beautiful country.

Abhijit: This will be my first visit to Scotland. I love Islay whiskeys, but sadly, I won’t have time to make a trip up there.

Rebecca: I’ve been to Scotland twice – both times to Edinburgh. (One of the visits was a whirlwind trip to prepare for this tour).

What pieces will the BSO perform at EIF?

Tonya: We are performing two concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival this year, one on August 24 and then a second on August 25, with BSO Music Director Marin Alsop leading both performances. The first concert includes Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 and Gershwin’s Concert in F with Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The second concert, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, is a tribute to Bernstein. We perform selections from Birthday Bouquet, a set of variations written by eight different composers in honor of Bernstein’s 70th birthday. The program also includes Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town and Serenade, with violinist Nicola Benedetti.


Usher Hall
Fri, Aug 24, 2018, 7:30 pm Marin Alsop, conductor
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano STRAVINSKY //Suite from The Firebird
GERSHWIN // Concerto in F
SCHUMANN // Symphony No. 2 in C Major



Usher Hall
Sat, Aug 25, 2018, 7:45 pm Marin Alsop, conductor
Nicola Benedetti, violin JOHN WILLIAMS, LUCIANO BERIO, JOHN CORIGLIANO // Birthday Bouquet
BERNSTEIN // Serenade
BERNSTEIN // Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
BERNSTEIN // Three Dance Episodes from On the Town


The Gordon Duncan Experience and Eabhal


Perth Concert Hall
Sunday 17th June 2018

Perth Youth Arts Festival was rounded off in great style with a feast of Trad music served up by the young musicians of The Gordon Duncan Experience supported by Eabhal, a foursome of wickedly talented young players, who demonstrated with flair that Celtic roots music is alive and thriving.

Eabhal, named after a hill of North Uist, from where the band draws its roots, are Megan MacDonald (Accordion), Jamie MacDonald (Fiddle), Nicky Kirk (Guitar) and Hamish Hepburn (Bagpipes, Flute and Whistles). The band were recent victors at the Hands up for Trad Battle of the Folk Bands 2018 . The set included traditional compositions and pieces penned by the band, demonstrative of an artistry and skills that belie their tender ages. ‘The MaSÌm’ was written by Jamie MacDonald for fiddler Simon Bradley of Asturian folk group Llan de Cubel, and with nods at Iberian rhythms, is echoic of that wider pool of Celtic music. Cadences of ferocious fiddle-work make a mesmerising piece to kick off a set with.

Eabhal were accompanied by the mellifluous vocals of Kaitlin Ross for some simply beautiful traditional Hebridean walking songs and mouth music. Kaitlin’s sweet and pure tones made ‘Aoidh Na Dean Cadal Idir’, a simple lullaby from North Uist, at once tender and wistful. The foursome have already released an eponymous EP and have been in the studio preparing a soon-to-be-released long player. If the sample tune performed, ‘Pangaea’, was a taste of what is to follow, then it should be a collection worth looking out for.

The second half of the evening showcased the fantastic young talents of The Gordon Duncan Experience. I remember hearing this youth Trad orchestra first play at the Gordon Duncan Memorial Concert in 2010. The band members may have changed a fair bit but the sheer enthusiasm of this ensemble is still as strong today, matched by some real talent too. The GDE started off with three sets from Duncan’s “The Circular Breath” album, under the masterful lead of Steven Blake. Superb piping was matched by equally skilled horns, woodwind and percussion to give a crisp, snapping rendition of Duncan’s intricate compositions. With ‘Clan meets Tribe’, the band dived into woo-woo ethno-trad mode. This must be what the skirl of bagpipes in a rainforest sounds like. The musicians clearly had as much pleasure performing as the audience had listening.

‘Pressed for Time/Earl of Seaforth’s Salute’ is one of those compositions that lies somewhere in the collective Scottish unconscious – play it and toes start involuntarily tapping out its maniacal rhythms. Given a big band treatment, it was still that instantly familiar yet totally novel little gem. I would humbly suggest that Gordon Duncan’s legacy is well cared for in the playing of talented young artists like The Experience, respectful of the traditional while having fun stepping to its sides. Horsecross Arts deserves praise too for the ongoing support it gives to this great project. There were hints of a further concert some time in the near future. How much better, when you are as good as this, is it possible to get?

Mark Mackenzie

No Quarter


Meadows Festival, Edinburgh
Saturday 02.06.2018


It was a humid tropical afternoon, the week had been one of character building proportions. Dance solves most problems so this was the one. Having been a fan of Ms Piltcher’s work for some time, have written about this brilliant Edinburgh band on more than one occasion. No Quarter are playing Eden Festival next weekend, I knew that this was the warm up for that. So was quite excited for this one. A band coming into a new strength, they take their name from a Led Zep song and Rebecca Pilcher certainly channels some of that Led Zep Grace in her guitar licks.


I was joined in the audience by Shoony Eh who is the amazing lead guitarist of the band Jamie and Shoony. I looked at him and looked at Miss Piltcher and said to Shoony, you are my fave Male rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and that lady on stage is my fave female Rock N Roll goddess guitarist. A light bulb went on. And No Quarter delivered a blistering funky hard rocking set of songs, which in an instant, brought the dancer out in me. Soul Songs of life’s challenges and how we recover from them. Beautifully sung and the lead guitar of this tight unit, bringing powerful flavours of funk-based Rock.



I got lost in it completely. The horn section of; on saxophone played by Adam Cook, on trumpet and supporting vocals Lesley Wilson infuse the funk; a rhythm section of; on bass guitar Liam Tucker, on drums Ian Robertson. On supporting guitar and vocals,  Oliver Wardle. These guys had us in their power. There was a light shower of rain while they played to cool down the humid boogie. But yes it was certainly the antidote to a challenging week. To have seen this band grow in confidence over the years, I know how well rehearsed the material is, No Quarter have never been anything other than a great Rock-Out. I was nae disappointed in the slightest. A truly exceptional performance. No Quarter are on the rise.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

An Interview with Sean Cousins


This Friday, the 25th May, young Scottish band Hò-rò’s are releasing their second album, HEX. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the band’s ebbulient guitarist…

Hello Sean, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Sean: Hello! I was born in Inverness, and soon after moved to northern ireland where my da is from in county down. And im now back in Inverness where it all began.

When did you first realise you were musical?
Sean: I think my first memory of being musical was when I was visiting my granny in Mallaig and my uncles had all sorts of instruments lying around. So I started playing with a keyboard that was there. One of my uncles suggested that I stick to all the black notes on the keyboard because it will sound good no matter what you play. funnily enough, I think ive used that mentality throughout my music career.

What instruments do you play?
Sean: I Play guitar Piano and drums .

What for you makes a good song?
Sean: A good song for me is one that can grabs your attention right away. Whether thats with a catchy chorus, Or an infectious instrumental hook. Also, if a song makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and you’re not sure why? Id say thats an indication that its a good song.

You’ve spent time making music in LA, can you tell us about it?
Sean: LA was incredible. I was lucky enough to be invited into various studios to soak up as much production knowledge as possible. I always wanted to go over there and explore americas vast music industry. I ended up working with a Pop Duo named Alabama Capital. We worked together on just about everything you could think of. Songwriting, Production, Performance. It was good to be a part of their journey and to watch them grow as artists.

What does Sean Cousins like to do when he’s not being musical?
Sean: My friends often tell me I need to find a hobby! At the moment music takes up all of my time but I wuldn’t have it any other way. Maybe ill eventually get into gardening or train spotting or something.


You are the founding member & guitarist of Hò-rò, can you first tell us what the name means?
Sean: Hò-rò is actually a vocable that has traditionally been used in Gaelic song for hundreds of years. So it doesn’t actually have a meaning as such. Its used to embellish the likes of Waulking songs and Puirt-a-Beul . I suppose its just the same as ad lib that is used in songs written in English such as “OOH’S AH’S and YEAH’s”

And the band’s style of music?
Sean: For me, the bands style of music definitely falls under the Trad/ Celtic Realm. But within that there are elements of just about every genre you can think of. Were constantly experimenting with new sounds and ideas. It keeps things exciting for us and hopefully the listeners too.

Your first album, released in 2016, was extremely successful & highly praised. It seemed to hit a chord with many people, can you explain why?
Sean: Our first album was released after quite a long time of us playing live and touring. So I think there was definitely a bit of anticipation for an album! I think this album in particular struck a chord with a lot of people is because it was very raw and to the point. We wanted it to showcase the talents of each individual band member. But more importantly we wanted the album to reflect what we sound like live. There were elements of everyones playing on the album and of course we threw in a couple of well respected traditional songs too. This seemed to go down well and we are very happy with the outcome.


The band are releasing their next album, HEX, on the 25th May. This time out you’ve expanded into a six piece, who else is in the band & what do they play?
Sean: Yes , as I said earlier we are always experimenting with new sounds and vibes. So we expanded our instrumental lineup. We now have DC Macmillan Playing Drums and Paul Martin on the Keys. Both these guys are incredibly talented and they gelled in with us instantly. They bring a whole new element to our sound and we really enjoy the vibe on stage when playing with them .

Can you tell us about the recording of HEX?
Sean: We recorded the album over on the Isle of Lewis. It was amazing to get away and have a clear mind to work on the album. It was very relaxed and we had a lot of freedom to experiment with different recording techniques and different arrangement ideas that would pop into our heads.

How did you guys choose the songs & how much input did you have at this juncture?
Sean: The song choices on the album were a collective decision. We would each go away and research traditional songs and try and find the right ones for us. I do love this part of an album process. This is where I can really dive into my passion for producing. Constructing a song from the foundations all the way to the finished product. Its a great feeling.

Which song off the album resonates with you the most?
Sean: I guess the song that resonates with me the most Ravens Wing a song written by Barry Kerr. Its such a beautifully well written, poetic song about the struggles of alcoholism. Its one of those songs that so many people can relate to. Its a different approach. Lots of songs are about love and relationships. But to be able to shine a light on a real issue that so many people struggle with daily is pretty special.

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Hò-rò?
Sean: We have been working hard on the release of HEX and we will be touring the album throughout the UK and Ireland starting in June which we are very excited for. After that we will be diving head first into the festivals season playing some great festivals throughout Europe.

Connect with Hò-rò @


Hò-rò will be taking the new album on tour in June and July this year;

Drygate Brewery, Glasgow 15th June
Killin music Festival 16th June
The Think Tank, Newcastle 19th June
Surya, London 20th June
Portland Arms, Cambridge 21st June
Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast 23rd June
Whelans, Dublin 24th June
Railway Social Club, Fort William 6th July
Dervaig Village Hall, Isle of Mull 7th July
Tiree Music Festival 13th July

An Interview with Nolan Garrett

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The Mumble have just had the honour of having a wee blether with one of America’s finest young guitarists, who just happens to be in Liverpool…

Hello Nolan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Nolan: I’m from Tacoma, Washington, and I currently live in Liverpool.

Where, how & when did the Liverpool connection come about?
Nolan: The idea of going to Liverpool came from one of my teachers in high school. We were chatting about after graduation and he suggested checking it out and I thought why not. Was ready to see something new. I came over here September 2017, and will be here for at least another year.

So what do you think of Liverpool, & the English way of life?
Nolan: Liverpool is great, I think it’s like perfect size for a city. It’s compact and I can walk everywhere, but there’s always something to do. It’s also just really good place for creativity and being a musician I think, there are so many venues that host live music, and I think the general attitude is very supportive of artists. I don’t think the English way of life is that different from back home, I definitely drink a lot more tea now though. Beans on toast as well haha. Everyone has been so nice though and I’ve always felt very welcomed in the U.K. It’s a cool place.

When did you first realise you were musical?
Nolan: I started playing music when I was 8 years old, simply because I needed something to do and then realized I actually really liked it. I think I loved the idea of being able to see myself progress in something without having competition, which was not the case when I played sports before that.

Your guitar skills are rather phenomenal at times – when did you start playing & how have you been taught?
Nolan: Ah thank you. Started playing guitar when I was 8, I took lessons and I think my relationship with my guitar teacher was a big factor in encouraging me to stick with it.

Who are your influences as a guitarist?
Nolan: I’d say my biggest influence is Jimi Hendrix , not only as a guitarist but at as a performer. I feel like he sort of transcends guitar playing when I watch live clips, it’s just raw emotion. The most important thing for me as a player is that communication of emotion, notes are an afterthought really. I’m also a big fan of Nile Rodgers and the funky rhythm stuff he does, and some jazz players on occasion.

You are stranded on a desert island with a solar powered CD player and three albums – what will they be?
Nolan: Hmmmm.. probably something by Kendrick Lamar , either GKMC or TPAB. Then Fear Fun by Father John Misty, and maybe something from Tame Impala. That’s a tough one haha.

What music projects have you been up to in Liverpool?
Nolan: I have been involved in quite a lot, but recently I’ve cut down to focus more on my own project. At the moment, I have my solo stuff, then I have a side solo project called PONSKI, which is something I like to do to stay creative. I’m also involved in a project called Aztex, where I play guitar and keys and that’s been really fun, something a bit different than I would normally do. I also play in this sort of jazz fusion band called Tucan which is cool. I do the occasional random collaboration as well, anything that keeps me challenged and creative I think is great.

So you’re heading back to Seattle soon for a few months, whats all that about?
Nolan: Just going to go home and see my family and friends. I’ll do some gigs, and probably do a lot of writing. Also do some collaborating and a bit of producing for some friends.

So can we hear some of your music?
Nolan: Here’s a link to my most recent single:


Nice tune! So, how about your songs, do they come easy, are they well-crafted?
Nolan: I try and write something everyday when I have the time, and I think songwriting is just like anything else. You gotta spend the time doing loads of it and then hopefully you’ll get a good song out of it eventually.

Can you describe your songwriting process?
Nolan: Songwriting process varies all the time. Most of the time I like to write and produce at the same time, helps me get into the feel of where the track should go, plus you have a solid demo by the end. Other times I just like sitting down at the guitar and piano and write like that, less distractions that way.

How do you know when you have written a good song?
Nolan: I can tell when I’ve written a good song, if I have the desire to finish it or go back to it and continue working after the initial writing session.

Well, its been nice chatting to you Nolan! What are your plans when you get back to Britain later in the year?
Nolan: Just finish up my last year of university , hopefully do lots of gigs, write lots of tunes, and see what happens.


The Celtic Sessions: Duncan Chisholm – The Gathering / Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill


Perth Concert Hall
Saturday 5 May 2018

The last time I heard Duncan Chisholm play was in Perth Concert Hall, when he supported the exquisite voice of Julie Fowlis. This time round he took the limelight and offered to a rapt Perth audience a selection of familiar compositions as well as a few from his new album “Sandwood”, named after the isolated beach in north-west Sutherland. Chisholm has spent the past few years visiting there and drawing inspiration for his new project. If you are lucky to have been to Sandwood Bay you’ll instantly understand the music. It’s magical.

Chisholm’s work is intensely evocative of land and sea, and he captures in sound the Celtic idea of “thin places’ – places in the landscape that are closer to the spiritual than others, in pieces like the opening “The Light of Tuscany.” Chisholm’s fiddle soared above a rolling soundscape of piano and uilleann pipes. The music is mesmeric, almost numinous, but always with a directness that belies Chisholm’s sheer brilliance with the bow. The second composition, “Haze across the sun,” is the musical distillation of a Highland Summer morning where “everything” as Chisholm explained in his lilting highland accent, “is bursting with life.” The piece explodes with the combined talents of Chisholm’s “Gathering”: Jariath Henderson on pipes and whistles, Donald Shaw on piano, Innes Watson on guitar, Su-a Lee on cello, Donald Hay on drums and Perthshire’s very own Patsy Reid on violin. The driving traditional rhythms of this piece build to a climactic shout of sheer energy and joyfulness.


“A Precious Place” brings the tempo to waltz-time. The simple refrain sees Chisholm and Hay (who wrote the piece) lyrical, wistful, and utterly without sentimentalism. But this is just a pause for breath before the Gathering is called again for the jubilant “Dizzy Blue’. Chisholm draws his inspiration from Scots and Irish poets, and the title of this piece is from “Summer Farm” by Norman MacCaig, – “A swallow falls and, flickering through/The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.” You could be just there, listening to this. “Running the Cross”, “An Ribhinn Donn” and “The Farley Bridge” saw Chisholm returning to the “Strathglass Trilogy” of albums – “Affric”, “Canaich” and “Farrar”. Again, the evocation of place and the keen feel for the essence of a moment are Chisholm’s recurring idées fixes. “An Ribhinn Donn” is particularly beautiful – a lament for the lost beauty of a brown-haired girl.

It is always a thrill to be exposed to artists new to the ear. Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill opened the evening with wickedly skilful Irish fiddle music. The two play together with the speed and dexterity of the Irish Rugby Team. It was a real joy to listen to new tunes and watch two wonderful performers who held a packed concert hall hanging on each note, as they communicate their own sheer enjoyment through the music. The Gathering were joined on stage by Hayes and Cahill for a finale, introduced simply as a “tune from Donegal”, that was utterly gorgeous and will be one I’ll be searching for just to remember how beautifully a very entertaining evening was rounded out. I left the concert not only wanting to revisit all of Duncan Chisholm’s past work, but to comb again the beach at Sandwood.

Mark Mackenzie

An Interview with David Blair


Across Scotland this Summer, the words PEACE, LOVE, & MUSTARD will be utter’d over a million times. About 100,000 of these will come from the bouncy lips of Mr David John Blair, the iconic Dijancer of the equally iconic Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the laddie, & thoroughly enjoy’d the experience…


So David, nice to meet ya, can you tell us where you’re from and where you’re at, geographically speaking?
Yo D! I’m (made) from the recycled atoms of collapsing stars. At One with the Cosmos. Geographically on this third rock from the Sun; a wee village called Chryston, North Lanarkshire, Alba.

What’s the best photo of baby David you possess, and can we see it?
I’ll need to ask me maw for that… take yer pick!

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We’ll use both. So, as far as the Scottish cool list goes you’re pretty near the top. Have you always been cool or were you a late developer?
Ha! Cheers bro 😉 I find the concept of being “cool” a weird one. I’m just doing my thing and trying to help folk along the way and enjoy myself as well. Spreading a wee bit of peace, love and Mustard wherever I go. I like using the word ‘cool’ but I’ve always had an outsiders non-conformist attitude and a Timothy Leary approach to life i.e. THINK FOR YOURSELF. QUESTION AUTHORITY. I love the 60s and am heavily influenced and inspired by that decade through The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground; The Monkees, blah, blah, blah and the whole hippy and flower power counter-cultrure movement spearheaded by legends like Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Alan Watts et al. As one of my hero’s, John Lennon, once said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” In 2015 I was in Perú to do an ayahuasca ceremony with Quechuan shamans in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco in the foothills of the Andes. When I met Pachamama during that She (“God” is obviously a She) showed me my past lives so in terms of development I think I’ve been kicking about as some form of energy neither creating or destroying but changing form for a good 13 billion years ha! Or, I could be wrong about that and it was just a phenomenal trip! Guess you’d need to try it yourself for experiential evidence to corroborate or refute my “story”. I have known Colonel John Thomas McMustard (Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 frontman) since we were 5 (he was just John back then) from starting Primary 1 together so maybe we’ve been hatching plans for the Dijonverse since then. Maybe. I’m sworn to secrecy on that one until we both synchronously touch the ancient megalithic standing stones outside Dijon in France and then we can reveal The Truth!


Photo by Andy Hughes

Cool! So what were your favorite confectionary as a kid (crisps, sweets, chocolates)?
Crisps; two bobbers e.g. Tangy Toms, Dinobites, Space Raiders.
Sweets; loved flumps!
Chocolates; Topics and Ripples.

Tasty. So David, where the fuck did you learn to dance like that?
Under 18’s raves, over 18’s raves, watching Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill from the Prodigy and umpteen B-Boys and B-Girls and Alan Partridge dancing to Kate Bush and ABBA medleys.

As an integral member of the Mustard Gang you can often be seen surfing the crowd in an inflatable dinghy, wearing a crash helmet. Have you ever fallen off?
Yes! A few times. But like a metaphor for life; it can sometimes get you down. But when you look around, you realise that you have a lot of support around you when you need help who can lift you back up and help you reach your highest potential. We all get by with a little help from our friends.

The first time I saw your band was at Kelburn on a sunny afternoon a few years ago. I said to myself at the time you were a great outfit, and in the interim it seems everyone else in at least Scotland has caught on. Can you describe the rising of the Mustard star?
We’ve been playing live. A LOT. About 100 gigs (50 festivals) across Scotland, Ireland, England and South Korea in the last three and a half years. The legion of 6th Dijons (our affectionate name for our loyal following) has grown after every gig and festival.From a capacity 1,900 at our Yellowland Barras gig in March 2016 with our Yellow Movement brothers and sisters The Girobabies, Jamie & Shoony, Have Mercy Las Vegas and The Twistettes; to be voted the highlight of Zandari Festa in Seoul, South Korea in October 2016 to 9,000 watching us at the Garden (main) Stage at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival last year, the support just keeps on growing! It’s been incredible and word of mouth adds to that. We all want to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves when we go out and what better way to soundtrack our ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ than with the power of music!


Photo by Andy Hughes

So how did the name come about?
The name Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 was gifted to the Colonel, when he was just John, at the Glastonbury Stone Circle by a shaman from Dijon in 1997. It was prophesised. John had already mentally formed the band then manifested us into the physical realm earlier this decade. It was an idea whose time had come.

Right… So, what does David Blair like to do when he’s not being musical?
Activism, reading, running, yoga, meditating, avoiding the mundane, plotting how to overthrow the Tories.

What are your favorite Mustard songs to listen to, and your favorites to dance to?
To listen to would be ‘These Are Not The Drugs (You Are Looking For)’. Lyrically it’s a journey and asks a lot of questions about drug use and it’s effects and how we treat it and those who it affects. I particularly love the masked frontman from Mickey 9s, St Cool’s, contribution; “”(Health giving or medicinal properties, Partake to intake for love’s sake of a pair of E’s, The woes of the world caused by hate are all laid at ease, The eyes of your friends will be blessed to remember these, It’s not about the method but about what you love more, The ego of your self or your compassionate core, It’s the key to perception will you open up the door, These are the fucking drugs that I’m looking for…” And ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ because that’s our mantra.
To dance to would be ‘Dance Off’. Getting a circle at the front and having a dance battle with The 6th Dijon always throws up some interesting shapes. It’s not about who has the best moves, it’s all about feeling free to express yourself and dancing like no one’s watching.

Cool! So where will the Yellow Juggernaut be rolling to this summer?
May is BIG music industry showcase month for us. First up is FOCUS Wales in Wrexham with international delegates from BreakOut West in Canada to Australian Music Week. Two countries I would LOVE to spread the peace, love and Mustard in! Then we’re playing The Great Escape and five days in Brighton! We’re part of the Creative Scotland Scottish Showcase with some of the best talent up here right now. One’s to watch are Declan Welsh & The Decadent West. Like a cross between Mark E Smith and The Fall with the political leanings of Billy Bragg and societal observations of John Lennon in his solo years and with the musicality of Arctic Monkeys. Then we have, deep breath, FyneFest, Enjoy Music Festival, Eden Festival, Cream o’ the Croft, two weeks in Korea as International Peace Ambassadors to play the inaugural DMZ Peace Train Music Festival between the North and South, North East Chilli Fest, Audio Soup, MugStock, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Party at the Palace, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Lindisfarne Festival and… Live@Troon! I think that’ll be the end of festival season for another year!


Busy, busy, busy… Who are the organisational maestros behind such an intense itinerary?
The Dijon spreadsheet takes an absolute hammering ha! We all chip in. We have also thankfully been working with our booking agent, Antidote Booking, since the tail end of last year. I would personally like to thank them for everything they have done and for all the help they’ve given us. I used to manage and organise a lot of our bookings and it was driving me insane ha! Some might say I always have been but in the immortal words of Alice (in Wonderland), “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

So David, for any future converts to the cause, what does it take to become one of the 6th Dijon?
To become one of The 6th Dijon is easy. You just need a desire to be a part of a music loving community that comes together to be as One. Looking after one another in celebrating the live music experience and having a party with hearts and minds full of peace, love and Mustard. You may say we’re dreamers, but we’re not the only ones. One Love.


The final question comes from the wife, who loves you! She wants to know what do you think of first thing in the morning?
I wake up every morning (when I’m home) and look at this amazing painting in my bedroom of one of my all time heroes by the incredible Glasgow based artist Marcus Raynal Hislop (The Notorious Gasoline Company)… The comedian and philosopher, Bill Hicks. He entertained and educated me as much as The Beatles, John Lennon and Rage Against The Machine. That line, “It’s just a ride.” comes from my favourite quote of his and is well worth sharing with your readers and memorizing…

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun, for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because… this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people! “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This HAS to be real.” But, it’s just a ride. And we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But, it doesn’t matter because, it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as One. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and ‘defence” each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

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