Royal Conservatoire Scotland
5th December 2018
Back at the beautiful Ledger Room in early December, there was a great sense of welcome at the Royal Conservatoire Scotland. The title anticipated an enjoyable show: “An evening of traditional music” to be given by students from all four years of the programme. All of whom performed songs that were both covers and songs written by traditional composers; odes with both serious and frivolous content and all on the theme of traditional Celtic (Irish & Scottish) folk music.
It was the sheer variety of this performance that really held it apart from other musical gatherings of the classic traditional kind. And the refreshing youth at its heart did nothing but refresh us as we sat in our plush red seats. The set was prepped for up to 8 or 9 players who, apart from the piano carried their own instruments on stage each time. There were violins, bagpipes, piano, guitar and, as a constant throughout, a harp. With each instrument being used to the fullest extent, the evening proceeded with high exuberance and brilliance from every performer. Having a new group on stage for every song only enhanced the sense of entertainment and made the evening fly by.
Woven through the established works, the students also performed their own pieces as they had been set tasks to in turn create their own songs; they had come up with something quite serious such as crime stories or death, with a melody to fit into the music to give an exact focus of how to celebrate these stories in turn. The music swelled from traditional dance tunes that had your feet tapping, and only fell just short of getting you up out of your chair to dance, now faster now slower as song by song we welcomed the performers to the stage in ever changing tempo and mood.
More often than not, all the instruments blended together so well that no one performer stood out. Rather everyone focused their attention on their collaborations so that together they shone. And, having said that, the direction of the scores took their turns and twists from solos of violin and the mighty bagpipes which were loudest of all and nearly blew the roof off which their spooky heart-ending dedication to the tradition of Scottish folk music. That sense of tradition grew to a great height when lyrics in Gaelic gave the music a kind of heart and soul.
A notable feature of this evening of traditional music was the great variety of nationalities who were performing together, which served to emphasise the universality of music and the way it can dissolve boundaries. An ethos that the Conservatoire is very conscious of and proud to maintain. And as they all sat and played together you couldn’t help wondering where they would all be a year from now and what the future would bring. One can only wish them great luck and the best of things for times to come.
There is, it seems, a whole new respect for this evening’s kind of traditional music round the globe because of evenings like this and the work the Royal Conservatoire Scotland is doing. And quite right too – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it, what’s not to love?
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly