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.
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!
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!
An entertaining night from one of the most enduring icons of the pop music decades. It’s only when Lulu stands next to someone on stage that her diminutive size becomes apparent. Otherwise, Lulu has a HUGE presence to match an equally charismatic voice. Accompanied by an excellent four-piece band, she gave a performance of real distinction that crackled with energy from the start.
Lulu strode onstage to warm applause, dressed in all-black, with a black hat and dark shades, like a blues sister. Indeed, her performance was infused with a soul-filled R’n’B vibe throughout. From the opening tribute to her close friend Bowie with “The Man who Sold the World” to a scintillating, bluesy “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)” from her 1970 Muscle Shoals Studio’s release “New Routes,” Lulu let her blue-eyed soul roots show – a unique and powerful voice that hasn’t diminished one bit over the years.
Sharing stories of a career spanning six decades, Lulu had some real rapport with her audience between well-remembered hits like the James Bond theme to “The Man with the Golden Gun”, “I Don’t Want to Fight” (a hit for Tina Turner, but penned by Lulu following her divorce from Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees) and “To Sir with Love”. These classics were given a soulful treatment that suits Lulu’s delivery well. “Relight my Fire”, a number one hit with Take That, had the audience up on their feet as Lulu playfully teased a cheeky dance out of them.
The band gave a powerful performance of the Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks classic “Stop Dragging my Heart Around”, which, like the original, smouldered with R&B sensuality. Lulu’s band are a talented ensemble, they play tight and rock loud! Of course, no Lulu concert would be complete without “Shout!”, the hit that catapulted the fifteen-year-old Scots girl to fame. The audience went wild in the aisles for it.
Called for encore, Lulu was joined by superb support act Chloe Reynolds to give a spine-tingling rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Once again, Lulu’s soulful voice gave the familiar song a gospel choir edge. The audience, a surprising mix of ages, showed Lulu and band a well-deserved appreciation for an outstanding show. Get along to see her perform, and you’ll be guaranteed a thrilling night that really is “all about the music”.
This is a concert review, but imagine for a moment you’re looking into a wood through a window. Step outside into the trees and you’re in a world of sound; of snaps and creaks, rushing leaves, and from near and far the conversation of birds. Last night’s vivid Hear and Now: Matthias Pintscher conducts concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was definitely an ‘outside in the forest’ experience, partly thanks to the City Halls’ fabulous acoustics, but mainly due to the compositions and their excellent re-creation by Pintscher and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The ecosystem of orchestral colour throughout was fabulous, with percussion spotters in particular being richly rewarded.
In Siddartha by Claude Vivier the orchestra was divided into groups with physical distance enabling instruments of the same type to dialogue across the stage with each other, or unison duets (e.g. between the piano and clarinet) to fascinate. The programme was also jam packed with stories behind the sounds, the most famous of which was The Emperor and the Nightingale on which Stravinsky based Le Chant de Rossignol. Here I have to confess I lost the narrative plot, and was surprised by the quiet ending, having allowed myself to succumb to first becoming distracted and then intrigued by small extraneous sounds. Paper programmes make a noise when you turn pages… However there was something else – a wooden sound, was it someone’s seat? No, I reckon the back of the conductor’s podium creaked quite often, when the big man shifted his weight about. Which of course he did with the awareness of a dancer, and great charisma. But to get back to Vivier – what a piece! It shows off the sounds of the orchestra so well and is full of dynamic contrast, splashes of sounds growing in intensity before being silenced to a thud. Surely a worthy replacement for some of the tired but trusted works away from which programmers dare not stray too far?
The most contemporary piece of the night was Im Nebel (2013), a trumpet concerto by Hosio Toshekawa, one of Japan’s foremost composers who was born in Hiroshima in 1955. And it felt contemporary, the fog (nebel) of the Herman Hesse poem feeling akin to the enveloping contemporary angst of our information-overloaded times which held the trumpet in its thrall for some time, before the soloist finally managed to take some tentative, and beautiful, steps alone.
I could go on, there was just so much in this totally free, top quality concert. If you missed it, it was being recorded for broadcast by BBC radio 3. But to hear the true sounds of the orchestra in its native habitat you must come to the concert hall. The sound of the quickly articulated tubular bells sending harmonics bouncing off and above the busy brass and strings was only one of the thrilling highlights of this wonderful concert. And I haven’t even mentioned the sonorous tug and push of Takemitsu’s Twill by Twilight.
Secret Castle Location Northumberland 3rd-5th November 2017
MARK ‘DIVINE’ CALVERT’S REPORT
The Full Moon in Taurus provided a most conducive cosmic loveliness to the Gothic splendour, the calling had been sent out and the Bohemian Wizards had heard that call. from far and wide they came to bring their exotic creativity to the castle Of Dreams. Performance Art found its outlet as the muse was shining as brightly as the Taurus Moon above. With such attractive hosts and guests, the aesthetic of such an amazing party was everything, complemented by such a lush setting in the rolling green, most welcoming and kind environment, the kind of place that instills stillness. far from the maddening crowd as the trials of life dissolve into irrelevance and having a Good Time became infectious.
Indeed having partied in this wonderful castle many times before, this years ball was perfected with a whole heart and having unlocked the pleasure secrets of this most amazing venue in years past, I knew the Good Time Grooove was going to be Groovier. Dinner was served at 8pm, a most delicious fare of Lasagne, both meat and vegetarian options were on offer with yummy vegetables too. the dining room was full of smiles and satisfied warm bellies. Nin Jah Turtle, Paul Wilson, Hanna Rose and your team. of culinary Wizards. that was delicious award-winning fuel for this celebration.
And with such a dazzling array of talent in The Ball Room alone, Hosted by the spectacular Colonel Mustard Bling pin and security worrying acrobat Djon Dancer, David Blair..Tinky Disco opened proceedings, bringing their tried and tested Rock N Roll brilliance to the mix, fronted by Groove Armadas vocal presence, Mike D. This band of Edinburgh locals began the ball with unprecedented style. Yep, the Dance was on.firing through with fan favourites. Poppadom, Grandad (We Love you) and many more funky gems. The Castle was bouncing.
To bring the excitement levels up just a touch more. The Sisters Nicky D’arc and Jo D’arc who together form the Drum And Bass post punk hybrid “The Twistettes” fresh and fired up from a very successful Summer Season of live shows in the UK and South Korea. The Twistettes delivered a blinding set that had the packed room pogoing in unison. With Jo D’arcs Bass Guitar being the most famous guitar in Scottish history, to see them both reunited brought the smile factor up that bit more. Indeed the party was going off.
Meanwhile, in the Blue Room our host Roo Cunningham and his sound production finesse “C Note Sounds Was rocking the room with his Dub Reggae DJ Skills. The fire was roaring as Ali Mudie and Megs took to the decks with Disco Grace and funky anthems. Divine just wanted to be everywhere at the same time, it was so so so exciting. Dance, Dance, Dance. Then back to the Ballroom for the Pyrocatz Zombie Can Can. The Pyrocatz are a troupe of creative ladies who have been wowwing festival audiences for ten years or more and comprise of Maria Bo Bosu, Nita Wings, Mel TigerKat, Bee B Love, Lee, Colleen Deehan the much anticipated performance blew everyone away, it was burlesquely sexy adding even more fuel to a night of Hot delight.
I hit the decks in The Blue Lagoon at 11.30pm to discover that one of the CDJ’s was nae working now that was a challenge. Luckily I had a pre-recorded mix with me and I managed to pull it off, however what I had planned was nae possible.I knew I had a set on the Saturday avo so managed to keep smiling. The decks didnae arrive until 11pm so it gave me ample time to get down with Tinky Disco and The Twistettes.
I finished my set at 1am and was totally knackered. I made for the comfy couch by the fire and ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz. Had a few hours sleep and then bounced back, Had a good natter with Shady Vanman and took to the couch in The Grand Ballroom I was joined by various revellers and we shared poetry and reefers, It was totally Bohemian. I had three performances that afternoon and the Sun was just coming up, its warm rays cascading through the bay windows of the castle. The love within everyones hearts was glowing.Breakfast was only a room away.
Ellie Bishop opened the days proceedings with a beautiful voice and classical guitar playing which suitibly shook off the cobwebs and set the tone for another days entertainment in paradise. Ellie’s perfect interpretation of Pink Floyds Wish You Were Here, almost had me in tears, Ellie is going to be massive.
My first percussion performance of the day was with Dave Boyce on Tennor Saxaphone and his pal on lead vocals and guitar. We played well together performing contemporary classics in the Sunny Ballroom. Lunch was served, another round of delicious Lasagne to further warm our appreciative belly’s. Then it was back on stage to recite a selection of poems from my cannon.
Why Ponder Thus The Future to Forsee. To Jade Thy Brain To vain Perplexity. Cast Off Thy care. And Leave Gods Plans To Him. He Formed Them All Without Consulting Thee.
And Edens Grace It draws Me. Along The Paths Of Inspired Creativity Lilleths Calling The Forbidden Fruit. To feast To Devour To Ingest. Just heresay
To Tempt The Muse With Romantic Tales. That Invoke Cupids Bow And the Arrows That He Fires. Snared Once. Snared Twice Snared Thrice.
Powerless I Am rendered To The Beauty That Free’s Me From This Chastity Slavery To The Charms Held In Natures Arms. Eden My Bride Awaits Me.
Pans Truth Rewards The Spirit Within Stirring The Ancient Wisdom. Spells That Cast Out What No longer serve And Yes Love Is That Truth The Only Reward The remedy The Key.
Interwoven Diamond Webs Healing Souls Quest The RemedyThat Is Now. And Edens Grace. Yes! And Love Rivers Flow Through The Past! And Love Rivers Flow Through The Future! And The Moment Becomes. A Miracle. A Miracle Called Love!
After Poetry It was time for The Divine Djembe rhythms, I was Joined again by David Boyce on Saxophone and we took everyone on a beautiful musical Journey. Then it was back to The Blue Lagoon to DJ my tunes for my afternoon set this time things went according to plan as Bowie and Prince joined the party.
Dj Vyper, followed me with his appreciation of Rock N Roll, bopping in the late afternoon Sun. We had such fun. Bob Todd followed with a very entertaining selection, brought to us from his vast knowledge of Music. Indeed The oldies had the decks for the afternoon and evening.Good time! It was a busy day my last memory of the night was Richard Buck aka Lsd-Licious’s Dj set. Which was skillfully, entertaining and a delight to watch.
Then it was time for Dinner, a yummy stew with assorted veggies followed by apple crumble. Nom Nom. I hit a wall of exhaustion after Dinner and was whisked away by David Boyce to his mobile home in the perfect stillness of The Castle grounds. I was out like a light for a three hour power sleep. I awoke at about 1,30am revitalized and tripping my nut off on the mushrooms that I had ingested earlier. Good Time. I had a Pint of coffee infused with Kaluah, caught Disco Shiva’s closing party DJ set, dancing myself dizzy in the process and headed for the Dungeon were Jonathan Carson was weaving Psi Melodies to his enthusiastic audience. At 5am the party was over, but what a party it had been. To think I was kind of in the mind that it was The Castle Party or Paying my Council Tax on the Friday before. In the end I only spent £25 all weekend so was able to pay my Council Tax today, heading off the Sherif for another month while still having the best time possible with lots of my lovely friends. Aye This Years Castle Party Was a Winner on So Many Levels. Fantastic Stuff.
DAVID BLAIR’S REPORT
Annual Masked Ball; you were beautiful! A massive castle (like a labyrinthine maze inside), set in stunning natural surroundings in Englandshire (less than two hours drive from Glasgow), a full Moon on Saturday, an outstanding line-up of music, textbook organisation, partying with some of the soundest brothers and sisters on this dear planet, beautiful food served, a wide selection of tea, coffee and chai to ease us into Saturday morning; all guaranteed an epic weekend of fun and one of the best parties I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend! Like Eden Festival, but in a castle!
I was co-compèring The Grand Ballroom with Stephen Scott. Thank you to Stephen and Phil Plunkett from the barnstorming Have Mercy Las Vegas for the invite. Sorry you couldn’t make it Phil and I hope you’re feeling better.
We drove down with Jo D’arc, Esteban Gallus and Gaz Columba (from the mightily impressive Steel Valley Saints “outlaw skiffle from North Lanarkshire”). The banter was flowing but Esteban and Gaz saved their best and funniest banter for their two sets! Legendary ha! Love you brothers!
We arrived to get changed into our finest attire and masks for the ball and in time for Tinky Disco to open The Grand Ballroom stage with their funky and groovy set. Great to catch up with you Damo and Emily and I think that’s my favourite set I’ve ever watched you play. Looking forward to the video!
Jo and Nicky D’arc from The Twistettes were up next to deliver their high octane punk perfection. Who is the mystery “third Twistette” in the picture below that joined you onstage?! The Grand Ballroomers were loving it and it was great to see Sally showing her sisterhood support and wearing The Twistettes t-shirt.
There was so much amazing music going down in The Grand Ballroom, The Blue Lagoon and The Dungeon it was difficult to choose where to be at times. My disco cap is doffed to all the artists who played, the sound sound guys and sound systems.
Over and above the aforementioned, the highlights for me (that I can remember) were getting to know so many friends (old and new better), Sally/The Dirty Claptrap’s two sets (beautiful singing and guitaring), Hugh Kearns Music acoustic set, Mark Calvert AKA Devine (DJing, poetry and firestarting and tending of the highest order – castles in November can be f-f-f-freezing!), Ellie Bishop’s set (again, beautiful guitaring and singing and thank you for letting me join you at the end for our cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’), Yoko Pwno (Underworld meets techno at a ceilidh – getting better with every gig), Stig of the Dub (“a 7 piece live band, fusing classic reggae, dub, ska, dancehall, breaks, and world music, creating a musical hybrid style you can’t help but dance to!”), George Campbell’s old school rock ‘n’ roll DJ set (The Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’ hit the spot!), Owen Auskerry’s MetraGnome DJ set and Pedro Pocus and Sean Marcucci Moore’s DISKO SHIVA DJ set knocked it right out the park!
Disko Shiva are playing again with Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 at our next gig (and only one this month) in Kirkpatrick Durham Village Hall on Saturday 25th November at Kim Kirk Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/1890816167610391/ (poster below). We would love to see all you friendly Dumfries & Gallowayer faces again at it! If you’re from Glasgow (or surrounding areas), we’re putting on a free return bus leaving from Glasgow for it.
MASSIVE thanks to everyone for organising and playing their part in such an EPIC weekend and I cannae wait for the 11th Eden Annual Masked Ball on Friday 9th to Sunday 11th November 2018! It’s in the filofax already! You DO NOT want to miss it!
Apologies to those who I knew there but didn’t get a chance to chat and hang out with. It is a big castle! If our Paths did not cross, twas not meant to be this time. Even if they did, when my mind is, ahem, “elsewhere” I do forget a LOT of things. Including people I actually know and sometimes even the ability to talk! The latter some folk might say is not a bad thing sometimes ha! When I awoke on Sunday morning after my first 6-8 hours of sleep of the weekend I started singing this Pixies song..
Quote of the weekend, “This isn’t (Alf Ramsay’s Porn) Dungeon!” Niche Alan Partridge The Day Today “at the races” reference there:
Thank you for being a friend. Peace, love and Eden Masked Balls