Off With The Swallows

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THE MUMBLE TEAM

Has headed to warmer climes with the Migrating Swallows, but we…

WILL BE BACK WITH THE BIRDS IN THE SPRING

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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2017-2018

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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is massive and spectacular in many ways, stretching the full mile of Princes St. The Gardens of the East End and the gardens of the Westend. The Bustling market on The Mound. The Waverly Stage, built at the Junction of Cockburn St and Waverly Train station. (Its always been a wind tunnel and it was baltic) The Castle Street stage with massive sound system turning the street into a nightclub with visuals projected onto the walls of the buildings, that was really cool. The East End Stage with an equally punchy sound system. that was to house the very brilliant Colonel Mustard And The Dijon Five.
 I had arrived early so that I could take it all in, I headed into The Westend Of Princes Street Gardens and the main stage for The Concert In the Gardens, I listened to the sound check of Edinburgh’s own Nina Nesbit.and meditated under a tree. The arena was still empty and the revellers were still to arrive, this was also very cool. I was using my reviewer credentials to full effect. The plan was to see Colonel Mustard And Dijon 5 and then The Human League. Which was the schedule I had been given. I was walking back to Waverly and on one of the big telly’s it said The Human League 10pm on The Waverly stage and Colonel Mustard and The Dijon 5 also at 10pm on The East End Stage. Divine was a torn girl and The Eastend Stage was 3/4 of a mile away from The Waverly Stage I realy really wanted to see both bands. What to do, what to do.
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 It was cold it was damp, but the sky was clear and the near full Moon bright in The Heavens above shone its Supermoon beauty. The Castle illuminated a lilac glow. A majestic fitting backdrop. But bye eck it was parky. So I made a compromise with myself. Get down to The Waverly Stage and get a good position. The Human League have been in my life since I was about 13. I have always loved electronic music and The Human League were the God fathers of Electro and Phil Oakley influenced my style aesthetically. Making Men look fit in make-up and they are from Yorkshire. So to not have been there would have been just plain rude.
 The only way to ensure prime position at gigs as well subscribed as this one is to get there an hour before. The Waverly Arena was filling up. So I found my spot and looked at The Clock on the Balmoral Hotel, Bugger. 40 minutes in this wind tunnel. The stage itself with the back blowing free in the wind, revealing the Gothic splendor of Cockburn St. I couldnae help thinking that this was an uncomfortable Gig. I had been on feet for four hours, there was absolutely no where to sit. My old hip was nipping. Luckily I had my big cashmere black dress coat on, so was well cozy with sufficient layers to fend off the deepening chill of the Winter night air.And the only way to warm up was to dance. I looked behind me and 1000’s of people were anticipating the retro boogie that was coming. The minutes soon flew by. And Sacred Paws, a young soulful collective of rhythm and Blues. One could feel how appreciative they were to be playing that stage. Aye Very Very Cool. A lovely warm up.
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Then the white synths were unveiled, and an excitement rippled through the arena as the keyboard players took position and Love Action was the opening tune. Joanne and Suzanne came on stage wearing skimpy black dress’s. The bitter wind was howling in gusts of ice. I couldn’t help thinking, aye Yorkshire lasses are built of tough stuff. The Audience went mental as Phil took to the stage wearing a plastic man dress, that at once made me think “Is that a good look?” bitchy I know, its a Yorkshire New Romantic thing. The boogie was on. The sound production as on all of the stages was fantastic and there was no soundclash at all. The Human League played a greatest hits set with a nod to Jo Callis who collaborated on the production of Dare and was part of the band at its most celebrated time.He also wrote The Human Leagues best known song. “Don’t You Want Me” It would have been nice to see him on stage with his old band members and he is a Local lad.
I have seen The Human league many times and in places a lot more welcoming than this one. So every tune I knew by heart and so did the audience. Boosting everyone’s spirits. The encore drew me back as I was heading to grab some of The Mustards Debut Hogmanay performance. The opening synth licks of my fave. Being Boiled. I was hooked back in. Groovy boogie. I tore myself away during the last number, Electric Dreams. Which technically isnae a Human league tune. But everyone loves it.
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Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are a band that Divine champions most highly having watched them on many occasions. They are mainstays of the festival circuit and for good reason. In Scotland, they have played almost every one going. Eden Festival, Kelburn Garden party, Knockengorroch World Ceilidh, Electric Fields, ButeFest, MugStock, Rockerbie, Deoch an Dorus, Scribblers Picnic, Doune The Rabbit Hole, Jocktoberfest, Linkylea, Stereofunk, Brew At The Bog, XpoNorth, T In The Park, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Party At The Palace, March Into Pitlochry, and Audio Soup have all been sprinkled with their unique brand of anarchic Dijon Mustard mayhem, mirth and merriment. Their talents have even taken them on an epic journey to South Korea to be one of the Zandari Festa highlights in Seoul and, reciprocating the love and affection shown to them on the other side of the globe. they helped two bands from Seoul, Wasted Johnnys and 57, secure gigs and a festival slot in Scotland. 2017 saw them play their biggest audience to date with 9,000 6th Dijons (their fond name for those who come along and support and party with them) at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in August and a trip south of the border to arguably one of the greatest festivals around at Boomtown Fair.
Joining them on stage tonight were other rising stars of the Scottish music scene in Mark McGhee (artistic entrepreneur and Girobabies/Jackal Trades frontman), Jay Supa (lead singer of SUPA & Da Kryptonites) and Glasgow based MC David KayceOne. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay was treated to a Scottish super group and, yes, the capacity audience filling out Prince Street from side to side and back to front went mental for it! Will David “Dijancer” Blair go down in history as the only person to “crowdsail” on a Dijunicorn down the East End of Princes Street? We think so!
After Colonel Mustard, I headed to the much more conducive environment, the Party In The Gardens to capture The Rag And Bone Man’s headlining performance. I was lucky enough to have access to the press pit. with space to boogie and prime position for the perfect viewing experience. It was a performance that blew me away. This guys voice is superhuman a bit like the male version of Adele. At Midnight the Fireworks started. The most spectacular firework display and the conditions were perfect for it. A clear night sky with a bright near full Moon. Brilliantly choreographed to the music of The Isle of Skye band. Niteworks. Who composed a fitting House, pumping masterpiece Ear candy and eye candy to the max. And to be directly in front of the Castle in the Gardens. it was nothing less than fantastic. a truly majestic experience. Then the Rag And Bone Man, came back on stage and delighted his audience even more. Bringing to a close a first experience of why this is the biggest and best Street Party in the World.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Hear and Now – Scottish Inspirations

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Glasgow City Halls
December 9th, 2017


Another free concert and another great treat. Two of the featured composers were born in Glasgow, three were in attendance, two of the pieces were BBC commissions and three were world or Scottish premieres. The Gokstad Ship by Aberdeen born John MacLeod was inspired by a Viking ship in a museum which had previously lain buried in Norway for around 1000 years. At his composition’s climax its beautiful keel could easily be imagined, cutting through the spray on a fine morning, even though MacLeod envisaged the journey being to the Viking underworld. Throughout the work, conducted and unconducted sections alternate. To me this evoked the fine balancing involved both in boat building and sailing. Also the uncertainty of where now the boat really exists – in the past or the present, in reality or in myth?

Myth and ritual ran all through the final work, Beltane, by Anna Clyne, with its long programme note describing the Beltane Fire Festival events which take place in Edinburgh every year, around which the music was composed. There was great charm in the second movement, as the piece progressed through changing lighting colours and the recorded sound of birdsong. This allowed emotional engagement, whilst the first movement had left me impressed but somewhat uninvolved.  The triumphant end certainly hit a sweet spot in every way and demanded a rousing cheer. Hopefully someday Beltane will be performed in a context which directly involves live dance, film or fireworks to help the grandness of this music truly to come to life. Then I’m sure the cheer will be unstoppable.

Oliver Knussen was one of the composers born in Glasgow, though his family left soon afterwards. His Symphony no 3 is listed by the Guardian as one of the 50 greatest symphonies ever written, and as soon as it began one was aware of its compelling urgency. Here was a living musical world being presented to the audience. It had somewhere musical to go, and it took the audience with it.  In order to explore the destination and fully enjoy the trip, repeated listenings are needed, and at only about 15 minutes, this is perfectly possible. As with the other concerts in the series, the whole concert was recorded for Radio 3 and will be broadcast, and made available by the BBC in February 2018.

If a symphony involves creating and presenting a musical world, then a concerto is more about dialogue. William Sweeney’s concerto involved internal dialogue as well as interplay between orchestra and soloist. Brilliantly played by Yann Ghiro, it was intriguing and personal, with the clarinet encountering and incorporating ceòl mòr, jazz and romantic classical music. These musical styles, apparently so far apart, found their way together and the concerto made complete expressive sense. At one point the whole string section, on a strummed pizzicato seemed to taunt the soloist – perhaps to get him to come up with a ‘tune’? (And how often do people who otherwise completely accept the ‘modern’ in art or poetry, have difficulties with ‘modern’ music?) Thinking about the whole concert, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, I enjoyed The Gokstad Ship the most at the time, but most look forward to hearing the Knussen and the Sweeney again. (By the way Sweeney was the second of the concert’s sons of Glasgow, having been both born and educated there.)

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra: Kozhukhin plays Tchaikovsky

Denis Kozhukhin

Glasgow City Halls

Nov 30th 2017


Take any class of schoolchildren (not that last night’s near-capacity audience contained more than a couple of kids); say from p5 upwards, and ask them what leads an orchestra. The answer might emerge, ‘The conductor’s baton’. Continue, in teacherly style, ‘But what leads the conductor’s baton?’ ‘The composer’s score? The conductor’s musical skills?’ Yes and yes, but the best answer might also mention the conductor’s ears! Throughout last night’s wonderful concert Alexander Vedernikov’s listening often seemed almost to physically lead the sound, ensuring entries blended in so that the story of the music could best unfold. Vedernikov showed himself to be a great story teller, and what marvellous stories Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich had given him to tell!

It was just the sort of night which might inspire a lifetime’s enjoyment of the sound of the symphony orchestra. There really wasn’t a dull moment, and after countless highlights (including an encore in the first half) the music ended with much cheering. The City Hall’s acoustic helped considerably, and I have to again mention it; one was constantly aware of being in the same room as every sound, whether it be a lyrical flute solo over pizzicato strings, or the terrifying dynamism of the orchestra at full pelt, loaded up with and deploying tam-tam, cymbals, bass drum, tympani, snare drum and tubular bells. You don’t get the sort of excitement I’m talking about in a recording, and as I’m writing this I’m wishing I could hear all of it, all over again. (It will be on, in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Sunday 3rd Dec 2017 at 3 pm.)

The attentive audience was thrilled (despite one sniffy comment I overheard – there is an attitude, best ignored, that you will always get), and went out for the interval, several voices humming the tunes almost involuntarily. Then came the Shostakovich. His symphony 11, subtitled ‘The Year 1905’ is really quite extraordinary. Very briefly, it was ostensibly based on the 1905 massacre of unarmed citizens of St Petersburg by Tsarist troops. But it was actually composed the year after the brutal suppression of Hungarian uprising of 1956. The story goes that one lady at the premiere said, ‘That wasn’t people being shot, that was the tanks rolling in and people being squashed.’ When relayed to Shostakovich he acknowledged the accuracy of the observation. In truth the reason that the symphony was able to face in two directions simultaneously is because of the terrible engaging dynamism of the theme of war. Instead of being sent to prison Shostakovich received a Lenin prize for composition. But the music isn’t too much, is not unpalatable. Children would like it, and I really wonder why there were not more young people there. There were a good number of students, but surely music teachers, tutors, musicians, parents, all those involved in the whole business of instrumental education can’t think that such musical experiences are unimportant? On the upside it only takes one such concert to be remembered for a long time. But this was one of the really special ones.

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson

Julie Fowlis & Session 9

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Perth Concert Hall
24th November 2017


Two of the finest acts in traditional music came together for a spectacular evening of Trad and Gaelic music and song at Perth Concert Hall. Both Julie Fowlis and Session A9 were making a very welcome return to Perth, having performed as part of Perthshire Amber Traditional Music Festival in past years.

Session A9, a Trad supergroup if ever there was one, opened the evening with an eclectic set from an extensive catalogue of contemporary and traditional pieces. The opening set of “Wedding Polkas” promised a taste of the truly devilish fiddle-playing to come from Charlie McKerron, Adam Sutherland, Gordon Gunn and Kevin Henderson. These guys play with all the energy of a storm force ten and as tightly as any classical quartet. When slowing the tempo for a rendition of the exquisite “Sleeping Tune,” a piece written by the legendary piper Gordon Duncan, the band had the emotional range of a full symphony orchestra. A fine performance of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” let vocalist and guitarist Marc Clement shine out with a wistful voice that suited the song perfectly. On another Gordon Duncan composition, “Bellydancer” the syncopated rhythms of Brian McAlpine’s electric piano playfully shimmied between some blisteringly hot fiddle and guitar playing.

The traditional tunes like “The Miller of Drone” had a rag-time makeover at these fiddlers’ bows, giving them a freshness and feeling that these guys love what they do as much as the audience loved listening. My own feet couldn’t keep still all night!

Julie Fowlis is an artist in a class of her own. Her reputation as both a curator of historic folk songs from her Hebridean home and a contemporary singer-songwriter, pushing the edges of Traditional music into new territory, has earned accolades from the traditional music scene as well as admiration from mainstream artists like Bjork and Radiohead. Her voice has an absolute purity and a velvety smoothness that makes of the mainly Scots Gaelic songs a beautiful soundscape, so that language comes second to feeling the magnetic pull of her voice. She has the power to transport you to the islands and hills, to hear the sea toss and the wind blow over the dunes on some remote and wild island. The opening “Oran an Roin” (Song of the Seals), with Julie singing unaccompanied, sent a shiver down the spine. Her voice enveloped the concert hall with an otherworldly air.

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Julie was joined by Éamonn Doorley and Tony Byrne on guitars, and Duncan Chisholm and local artist Patsy Reid on fiddles to perform songs from her new album, “Alterum” which sees Fowlis sing in English (and Galician!) for the first time. The beautiful “Go Your Way” and “Camariñas” (a traditional Galician folk tune) showed such purity and innocence, with understated accompaniment that only highlighted the strength-in-softness of Fowlis’ perfect phrasing. A Gaelic rendition of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” (Lon-dubh) again displayed how international the scope of Celtic music can be in the hands of an artist like Fowlis.

A warmly appreciative audience had the opportunity to join in some Gaelic singing – which actually sounded rather good! Perhaps it was the excellent sound engineering of the venue. Fowlis is a rare talent in a musical landscape already heavily populated with great female interpreters of traditional songs. If you get a chance to hear her sing live, grab it!

Reviewer : Mark Mckenzie

 

RCS Symphonia

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Stevenson Hall, Glasgow
16-11-17


Why write about a concert which has already happened? Play, literature or film reviews might help you to choose whether to buy a book, or attend a performance. But concerts are usually one-offs, so recommendations are surely less important than impressions. Here are some thoughts, then, on the inaugural performance of the RCS Symphonia, when Bach’s Suite in D No. 3 and Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen were performed in Stevenson Hall.

I wasn’t expecting to find the Bach so engaging and enjoyable but it really was light, tasty and fizzy, with David Watkin constantly adding air into the mix and encouraging thought and direction into the positioning of each next entry. The famous Air (Hamlet cigars) showed off how special long notes can be if they are given the salt of direction rather than the sugar of vibrato, indeed the whole work showed off a wonderful silvery tone, without any vibrato at all being used. Though there was a wonderful sense of dance throughout, and no doubt because of that, I particularly enjoyed the final chords of each movement which were level and true as horizons at sea.

Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings could not have been more different. It was written in 1945 when the war Germany started had destroyed most of what Strauss must have held dear. The plangent late romantic string sound of the work is so beautiful, I’m tempted to say I could listen to it all day, but in fact I was ready for it to end when it did. The live experience was marvelous, however, and such was the richness of the musical texture that it was good being able to watch as well as to listen.

There was a casual vibe in the hall, mostly filled with students and staff from RCS, and it was a short concert at a time of night when neither work nor transport should be an issue. So, to contradict my first point, if you see the next one being advertised – keep the date free and go along!

Reviewer : Catherine Eunson