Leith Theatre
Saturday 16th November, 2019

Off to the old Leith Theatre we went. For those who don’t know it, it’s a fabulous old building from the 1920s, with tiered seating and a huge ballroom, which has been given a new lease of life after falling into disrepair in the 60s. Well here we are, with less than 60 days before we usher in the 20s again and the place couldn’t be livelier.

Folk have arrived for the early opening time for the Moon Party, which is a bit unusual for Edinburgers, who tend to come late and not want to go home after! What’s the fuss about? Well the Pianodrome is the world’s first amphitheatre made entirely from up-cycled pianos. It’s a 100-seater amphitheatre constructed from over 50 discarded pianos, it promised an immersive night of live music, DJ beats, projection art and glow-in-the-dark performances set within the Pianodrome that is installed in the main auditorium of the Leith Theatre.

As soon as you step foot into the circular construction you can see that everything, seats, steps, chair backs etc are all made from wood salvaged from the old pianos. It has been built as a sculptural interactive amphitheatre. The event we went down for was the ‘Moon Party’ which was the official launch party of Pianodrome’s ‘resonancy’ at the venue, which will run from 12 November – 8 December 2019. This event is jointly produced by LeithLate & Pianodrome. It is part of the LeithLate19 events programme, supported by City of Edinburgh Council and Baillie Gifford.

An event, nested in another event, joined on to another event, a musical Ménage à trois, covering jazz, world, folk, light performances by Think Circus. And the evening rounded off with DJ, Joseph Malik on the 1s and 2s. We were greeted by Martha at the box office and the welcome couldn’t have been… more welcoming! She told us that the Pianodrome was actually an interactive sculpture before the performances started at 9. So go and get stuck in, and be sure to stop by the Merch’ store, where there were some mighty fine t-shirts and some complimentary glow sticks and UV paint & sparkles. All glittered up, we grabbed some drinks from the delightfully kitch, shabby-chic bar and went to settle in. Worth noting was the attitude of all the staff, from security to bar staff to all the punters, everyone was happy, smiling and ready for a fun night.

A hush came over the auditorium/Pianodrome as the first musicians took their places. Lizabett Russo, a humble Romanian songstress and musician, supported by guitarist Graeme Stephen, who created sounds, using samplers and loops to great effect to fill the place with haunting melodies, which captivated all. I couldn’t put my finger on where exactly the music sounded from but at times it seemed middle eastern, Icelandic and even Japanese, supported by strong folk roots.

After a brief intermission the Chris Lyons Gypsy Jazz Quintet kicked off. I was particularly impressed by the trumpeter but the ensemble, who were all obviously accomplished musicians, failed to connect with the room until their energetic finale song. I was disappointed this wasn’t followed by more of the same. By now the place was really buzzing and it was a great place to connect with your fellow audience members. Everyone was really open and friendly, sharing an appreciation of the performances.

Lights dimmed for the Lunar performances by Think Circus. Juggling with light-up batons and a glow-poi, which morphed into a double act, which I have not seen before. Their creativity was a great segue into the DJ for the last couple of hours.

I can’t emphasise just how good DJ Joseph Malik was. The tunes he was playing out were eclectic, wide-ranging and covering multiple genres. He kept the musical narrative tight and full of energy. Malik had everyone up dancing, not just mindlessly moving to beats, but actually listening to the music and it felt like everyone was fully appreciating his 2-hour set. I will be digging out my dancing shoes any time I hear he is performing in the future. Really danceable and a wonderful way to bring the Moon party to a close.

Ian Clark

An Interview with John Rush

One of the best new folk voices in Scotland?
The Mumble had to catch a blether

Hello John, first thing’s first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Originally from Paisley but now have set up camp in Glasgow for the last 7years.

When did you first realise you were musical?
I have always sang, I remember singing infront of girls in Nursery which means i was around 3years old so I actually dont know what came first, talking or singing

Who were your earliest influences & who inspires you today?
My Mum and Dad had great taste in music when I was growing up. Elvis was a big one with my Dad, i would watch old VHS documentaries on him from a real early age. Im sure I was found infront of the mirror in more than one occasion shakin my legs n curlin my lip. My mum was more into Roxy Music and Marc Bolan, Bolan was always quite close to Elvis style wise I thought prob my brain just knowin they were about at the same time in my head.

The Glasgow music scene is one of the most thriving in Britain, if the planet – what are its secret ingredients do you think?
Folk ask that a lot even in music programmes I watch and the answer seems as simple as it the weather hahaha all the great UK music cities have the same vibe. Its raining awww the time so you tend to sit and learn an instrument, draw a picture or roll a joint.

73504847_924312357968360_65869864719351808_nAs a songwriter, what motivates you the most to put words to music?
I’ve always loved anyone that can make something out of nothing. Artists, Painters, Poets even Chefs and Mixologists. They are all the same, there a passion thats quite hard to get rid of. I mean I dont put myself in any notable league but the fact I have been able to write a melody and put some nice words together just makes me happy. I can imagine I’ll not always sing forever but I will always write. Its an escapism, a therapy and helps me get out anything that may or may not be on my mind at the time and escape from any 4 walls that have confined me.

You’ve got three singer-songwriters coming round for dinner – who would they be & what would you cook?
Ray Lamontagne, John Lennon and Noel Gallagher. I do enjoy cooking but my menu is limited. All 3 guys from the sticks so I’m sure theyd be happy with what was put down to them.

What do you like to do when you’re NOT being musical?
I used to love drawing, when I was very young drawing was my music, but i lost interest when I became a teenager. When I moved to Glasgow I got back into it, prob out of boredom I suppose but if Im not working or noodlin on the guitar Il just doodle instead.

You’ve recently got a new manager – can you tell us about him?
Davie Boy Smith? Aka David Blair. I was more aware of Colonel Mustard before I knew David but I played a show at the Purple Orange in Bathgate maybe 2 years ago and a lovely woman put me in touch with David via Facebook and we’ve became closer as the years have gone on. We do have an identical tattoo which is a bit strange so maybe stars are set??? Who knows, but hes a great guy and believes in what Im tryin to do and the feelings mutual.

You’ve got an album out, what’s it called, where was it recorded and how did the sessions go?
My Debut album is called “Beneath The Apple Tree” that has been out digitally since April. It is a selection of songs written by myself over the years. The oldest being written around 10years ago. It was recorded Morsecode Studios with the amazing producer Liam McCluskey at the wheel. The album was recorded in 16hrs with 2 mics in 1 take. It was a wonderful experience, being recording in Studios for 20yrs it was the first time I was confident enough to believe that just my guitar n my voice was enough.


What are your favorite tracks off the album both to listen to and to play?
Gold & Green is probably my favourite song to play on the album. The lyrics came from a track I wrote when I was 19 that was around (cough cough-teen years ago) I never loved the melody but always had the lyrics in the back drawer of my mind for a later date. Once I found the melody it just seemed to fit with a little bit adding and editing, the chorus just came straight away. I like that it has a little story of 2 kids running around with their smiles glistening in the summer breeze. Although like alot of my tracks it has a bitter sweet moment when the chorus lets the listeners know that the 2 characters may not have made it as loves young dream after all.

You’ve got a gig coming up in Glasgow soon, fancy a wee plug?
Big Time. 22nd of November I play my first Headline show in Room 2, Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow City Centre. To coincide with the physical launch of “Beneath the Apple Tree.”

What does 2020 hold in store for John Rush?
I think myself and Davids big push this year is some festivals and having as many folk hearin the album as possible before hopefully going back into the studio end of 2020.


22 November 2019 at 7:30pm
Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow
£10 + BF



An Interview with Ryan Mackenzie

LET IT SNOW is heading back to Elgin
We chatted with the man behind the music

Hello Ryan, first thing’s first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Aberdeen and brought up in Buckie, in the North East. I’m now based in London, having gone via Glasgow where I did my undergraduate degree.

How interested are you in the North East’s folk music?
It’s the one thing I miss living in London – I grew up playing in all the fiddle festivals, before joining the Strathspey Fiddlers in secondary school. Through them I found myself part of an amazing community of traditional musicians in Moray who I used to play with all the time, and whenever I go home I try to get people together for a tune. I learnt a lot from that environment, and I think it’ll always be in me and influencing my music, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

When did you first realise you were musical?
I remember from a young age, early primary school, nagging my parents for piano lessons. It was always piano, never anything else. When I started at seven years old, I drew to it straight away, I never needed to be told to practice.

Can you tell us about your training?
I went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, originally to study traditional music but after my first year I switched over to classical piano. I loved the traditional course, but I think I felt that if I wanted to keep my options open later on, having that rigorous classical training would stand me in good stead, which was definitely the right call. I graduated in 2017 and moved to London, where I worked in theatre for a couple of years, and now I’m doing a masters degree in jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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You have worked with many a top of the shop pieces of musical theatre – which are your favorites & what is it about the genre that makes you tick?
It’s hard to choose a favourite because the thing I love about working in theatre is the breadth of style it carries – for someone like me who loves variety in their work, it’s a great career as each show you work on is different. West Side Story would probably be the one that comes to mind first. It’s the show I’ve done the most (I’ll never forget playing a few shows on the International Tour with that incredible New York rhythm section), and all those conflicting styles within it really excite me. I also love The Light in the Piazza. But now that I’m involved in jazz, I‘ve come to appreciate the Great American Songbook composers more than ever – Jule Styne for me is the master. I don’t think you can find better than his scores for Funny Girl and Gypsy.

You have also worked with Pixie Lott in recent years – can you tell us about it?
I met her last year, we were both part of the RAF’s 100th Anniversary Gala at Drury Lane – I was working with the West End cast who were performing throughout the evening, and Pixie was the guest. She came into rehearsals a couple of days before the gig, and decided she wanted to perform one of her new songs at the gala with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, so the two of us went off to rehearse it and I orchestrated it for the RPO who were arriving the next morning. She must have liked something about what I did for her as we kept in touch and when I left Les Mis, she asked me to film some of her new music with her. Now I gig with her regularly, and she’s one of the loveliest people I could hope to work with.

What does Ryan Mackenzie like to do when he’s NOT being musical?
I love travelling – I’m lucky that a lot of the work I get takes me to new places, but any time I have a few days off, I try to jump on a plane somewhere. I love photography too. And reading – getting stuck into a good book is one of the only ways I can get out of my own head. I really struggle to switch off. Especially at the minute since I’m juggling lots of freelance projects, Let it Snow preparations and my masters.

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This year sees the fifth anniversary of Elgin’s Let It Snow Charity Christmas Concert – which you are producing. How did you get involved?
Myself and a few friends started the event as a fundraiser for Lucy’s Fight not long after Lucy was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. She formed the charity to raise money for MND Scotland, so we thought we’d do our bit to support her while we were home for Christmas. It was originally planned as a one-off, but it got such a great response that we decided to do another one the following year, which sold out. Now it’s become a really big event in Moray – this year we have three concerts, and the tickets are disappearing pretty quickly. I’m delighted that people keep coming back to support us and give so generously to Lucy.

Who have you got lined up for us this year?
We have our big band as usual, this year being led by amazing trumpet player Joshua Elcock and made up of both local talent and some of the best young musicians in the UK. Joining them as their guests are singers Rachel Lightbody, Emilie Boyd, Fiona Milne and Jasmine Dey. We’re also working with a community choir, and have a few local primary schools coming to perform too.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the concert for somebody in the street, what would you say?
It’s a really special way to kick off the holidays – it’s incredible that these musicians come up to Moray so close to Christmas to raise money for a local charity, and the collaboration between them and our local musicians is something worth seeing. For us, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Let it Snow.


20 December 2019 at 7:30pm
21 December 2019 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
St Giles Church, Elgin

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