An Evening of Traditional Music

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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.

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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.

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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


Søndergård’s Guide to the Orchestra

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Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

Saturday 24 November

To celebrate the Year of Young People, the RSNO performed a programme of  treats for what their celebrated conductor Thomas  Søndergård called “the young at heart”. Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is known to all classical musically minded families in its narrated version as entertaining but a wee bit didactic. But here we were given the original concert version and Britten’s brilliant orchestration of Purcell’s sea shanty theme an interpretation that was as scintillating as it was instructive. The full-bodied opening statement was followed by each section of the orchestra in turn playing variations on the theme to show off their timbre and range, before the whole was re-built with the finale’s great fugue. But that only describes the form. What the RSNO and their conductor gave us was Britten’s playful catalogue of the almost infinite number of possible textural combinations between percussion, timpani, woodwind,brass and strings, played with terrific clarity. It was like being given a grown up version of what was written for the young, without any loss of the fun it has engendered since its first performance in 1946.

“Open the Eastern Windows” by Michael Cryne, winner of the RSNO’s 17:18 Hub New Work commission is unlikely to enjoy such longevity. On first hearing at least, his composition had no apparent form or discernible logic. With nothing for the mind to latch on to during ten minutes of agreeable sounds apparently proceeding solely via shifts in volume and tonalities, its première was a disappointment.  And then on came two grand pianos which were nestled together like pieces of a jig-saw, and twins Christina and Michelle Naughton to play Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos. The youthful and glamorous pair played the work with brilliance and enthusiasm, bringing out the exoticism and lyricism of the three contrasting movements, while the orchestra’s pleasure in performing this entertaining work with such sensitive interpreters of its shifting moods, was apparent.


Another première brought a complete contrast of mood in “Ghost Songs”, a specially commissioned work for the year of Young People, from Gary Carpenter. The RSNO’s Junior Chorus gave a wonderful account of his sensitive settings of four poems by Scots poet Marion Angus, R L Stevenson’s “On Some Ghostly Companions at a Spa” and the folk ballad “The Wee Wee Man”. The composer exploited the quality of the children’s singing – not only their remarkable musicianship and beautiful sound – but also their nimble articulation and willingness to engage with the mysterious, spooky, amusing verses they were singing. This new composition will get many an outing over the years to come because its composer matched his forces and materials to express the qualities of the texts, and in so doing created a memorable musical experience for audiences of any age.

Last but by no means least, the final treat on this evening of treats was Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.  Originally written only for a private concert, the composer tried to get it banned from public performance, fearing, rightly, that its popularity would eclipse, for all time, his more serious efforts. The evident pleasure the Naughton sisters showed, during their energetic commitment to every nuance of the score, more than doubled the fun for the audience. The required chamber-sized ensemble played every creature with serious wit and flair, and the double bass soloist in The Elephant and cello in The Swan were superb. For the RSNO and their conductor it must have been a treat to fill a programme with works they hoped would have their audience leaving the concert hall smiling; and it worked. One caveat: an afternoon rather than evening concert would have brought many more youngsters to hear, and be inspired by, their contemporaries in the RSNO Junior Chorus.

Mary Thomson

Resurrection / The Doors Of Perception


The Regal, Bathgate,
Friday 23rd November

Rock ‘n’ Roll does solve most problems. The Divine natural retort at this time of year is hibernation with a capital H. One has to push one’s self to seek out the muse. So after Friday Morning’s distant healings, I gave my wisdom-streaks another colouring taking the red deeper. Colour Therapy! ❤ Then started my eye make up. Heading to Doreen’s and Andreas’s Love Shack to finish off my eyes before our Adventure to The Regal in Bathgate. To see The Doors (Of Perception) Supported by Resurrection a Stone Roses Tribute. And A Northern Soul, covering the work of Richard Ashcroft. Divine had a VIP invite. Good Time ❤ Motivation enough.

Neither me or Doreen drive, Doreen’s lovely boyfriend does and we have wheels. Andreas is from Rhodes, so finding the route out of Edinburgh was a bit of a magikal mystery tour. We got to Bathgate at 8pm, Missed a Northern Soul. Resurrection were performing as we arrived. It was my first time at The Regal and yes it is very regal indeed. Old time music hall with original features. I loved the venue.Resurrection faithfully performed The Stone Roses ‘2nd Coming.’ The performance took me back to 1995, when I first moved to Edinburgh and Brit Pop was massive. Indy clubs three times a week. June Swanson who I was staying with was the bar manager of The Citrus Club, so The Stone Roses were a soundtrack of that time. I really took Resurrection in. Brilliant musicians revering their Hero. “I Wanna Be Adored” was the trigger. 23 years ago blimey!


Then we all travelled further back in time to the year Divine was born. 1967 and the release of LA Woman, by The Doors. Jim never got the opportunity to perform this live. I was fired up and excited to dance. The Doors (Of Perception) took to the Stage and everybody’s inner flower child emerged, The Lizard King Invoked the dance within me. And what a wonderful dance floor it was. Seeing and Hearing LA Woman performed by such accomplished and experienced musicians, it taught me a lot about composition; especially the keyboard parts and how simple they are to reproduce. Then ,Riders On A Storm took me completely. The dance was on. Groove to The Max.

Frazer “Fuzz” Fowler – vocals.
Michael Mathieson – guitar.
Huw Rees – keyboards.
Rich Gregory – bass.
Addi Addison – drums.

The Doors Of Perception got Jim Morrison’s nod of approval and the audience was totally captivated by the musical delights that this brilliant collective reproduced. Have always loved dancing to The Doors. Performed live was a real treat and tonic for the soul.

Review: Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Photography: Doreen Phillips


Rembrandt Trio

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Royal Conservatoire Scotland
23rd November 2018

The first sight to greet us as we entered the Royal Conservatoire’s Stevenson Hall was a black grand piano, centre stage, with music stands and seats all ready for the day’s Friday’s at One performance. The Rembrandt Trio; Adelina Hasani (violin), Paul Uyterlinde (cello) and Fali Pavri (piano) came together in 2016, inspired by the interplay between light and dark as demonstrated by the Dutch Masters of the 17th century.

The three took their places in the large space with its stark bare brick walls, violin and cello to the front, and started gently plucking notes and chords, the cello’s tones deeply resonating with the piano and violin. It would be the music itself, without lyrics, which would present to us the concept of bringing Rembrandt to life through music – the ultimate goal of the performance. The programme consisted of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor, written in 1914 and completed in a hurry, spurred on by the outbreak of the First World War and the composer’s intention to enlist in the army. This was followed by the world premier of a new work commissioned by the group, “Three Faces in the Crowd” by Rory Boyle.

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The performance itself was full of contrasts – the light and dark – with the focus now on one, now on another of the trio as they expressed the various themes expressed in the music. We were treated to plenty of drama as well as sad, even despairing themes that were contained in the music. Returning also to very beautiful sounds that fell like autumn leaves echoing through our ears. The whole experience was somehow very atmospheric, helped by the wonderful acoustics of this, the RC’s main venue, as well as the visual impact of the men’s black suits contrasting with Adelina’s plush green and black ankle length gown.

The second part of the programme “Three Faces in the Crowd” was dedicated to Rembrandt’s famous painting “The Night Watch” (1642), which was projected on the large screen at the back, adding another element of excitement. Composer Rory found this painting to be the “ultimate” crowd scene and this was reflected in the music as it explored three of the characters who were part of the large crowd. This concept was rather endearing and I found myself wondering what these individuals might have been thinking at that moment. The whole composition worked wonderfully well as a piece of storytelling, delivered to a very relaxed audience.

This show was a treat for the ears – packed with drama, virtuosity and sheer heart, which could not fail to move and inspire its audience. And all achieved and accomplished within the space of an hour on a Friday lunchtime.

Daniel Donnelly

Gary Numan And The Skaparis Orchestra. Savage Part Three


The Royal Concert Hall Glasgow.
Tuesday 20th November

They say good things come in threes, having caught Savage Part 1 at the ABC in Glasgow last Autumn, it was clear that Mr Numan had grown too big for smaller venues, it was crammed to the rafters, I wasnae in particularly fine fetal. Having just dashed from the cinema from seeing Bladerunner 2. It was so the wrong thing to do. I was in a relationship that was ending and Savage part 1, kinda finished it.

So when the Savage part 2 dates were released and The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh was one of them. I knew a review was in order. It was a very cold March night. I had managed to get a Review pass and without a troublesome relationship weighing me down, I got into the Savage flow. Had a brilliant boogie but didn’t think the venue did the performance justice.


So when The Orchestral Savage Dates were released I was non-fussed because I thought that he had said all he could do with Savage. I kinda decided that I was nae gonna do Savage Part 3. Then came into a bit of unexpected money, So when two surplus tickets went up on a Numan FB thing, I snapped them up, two for £40. Amisa Neonova had been telling me all year how much she wanted to see Numan. So this was the opportunity. Indeed it was fantastic.

We took our seats, Block C, was to the side, with a perfect view of the stage, In front of a curtain Christopher Payne who happens to have been part of Numans original band playing synths and violin. accompanied by his wife. Showed us why he is a band member and not a lead man, at times he looked bored and more than a little uncomfortable that his lap top was doing all the work and that he had very little to do. Even looking at his watch to see how much longer he had left. It was a reasonable support act though. His rendition of Fade To Grey by Visage, Chris was part of Visage too and along with Billy Currie was credited with its creation, Albeit without a male vocal, with wifey doing the French girl bits. When Chris engaged the audience in clapping, it got a bit cringesome. 3 Stars for the Support.

With Glasgow being the last night of the Orchestral Tour, I knew that this was going to be a good one. Having sold out The Royal Albert Hall the night before, The Orchestra and band were perfectly warmed up. Numan has always suited a bigger stage and he does like to put on a spectacular show, The Orchestral Savage are the largest venues he has done since his Wembley Performances in the 80’s.

Now Numan with an Orchestra, And yes it did work so very well, from the moment the curtain dropped, the packed Royal Concert Hall became fully engaged in the delight that was unfolding. The orchestra comprised of strings and a glockenspiel brilliantly conducted by Simon Robertshaw. The Skaparis Orchestra with Numans touring band of 25 years, together they recreated a fine selection of Numan classics both old and new.

I am pretty sure that everyone who experienced Savage Part 3 would agree that The Skaparis Orchestra brought a much needed musical depth to the songs I have heard performed many times, The most beautiful part was seeing just how much delight they were taking from their art. The light show and stage presentation was just brilliant From early classics. Metal, Films, AFE, Down In The Park. The middle period “My Breathing” A song about his disappointment at the BBC for refusing to play his songs on the radio. It took me back in time to the olden days and was delighted with the orchestral string treatment, His daughter Persia taking the girl vocal parts in her stride and of course her vocal parts in “My Name Is Ruin” were nothing less than fantastic. The perfect Proud Dad and Daughter moments ❤ It was the perfect concert and indeed it was third time lucky, Savage Part Three worked on so many different levels. It was nothing less than 5 Star Entertainment.


Last night Gary Numan shifted his game up a gear or two, something very special is brewing. Gary Numan And Skaparis Orchestra took his work to a whole new different level and as a long time fan, I am so so glad I experienced lasts nights performance, Really! It was that good.

Reviewer: Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Photography: David Anderson

An Interview with Katch Holmes


On discovering that Gaelic was sung in Galloway,  Knockengorroch organiser, Katch Holmes, felt inspired. The Mumble caught her for a wee blether…

Hello Katch, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Katch: I was born in Dumfries and brought up at Knockengorroch. I live in Edinburgh now though am in Galloway often.

Many people both in Scotland & further afield know you through the Knockengorroch Festival, Can you tell us about it?
Katch: It takes places annually at the end of May in a beautiful location at Knockengorroch – which is the site of an ancient settlement nestled by the river Deugh at the foot of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. Its probably one of the most upland locations for a festival in the UK. We feature traditional and roots music and art from around the
world and also a great emphasis on the environment and heritage of the area.

You’ve taken over the running operation from your parents – do they still get involved?
Katch: My whole family are all involved in the festival in some capacity still. My father, who researches the history of the area, provides the historical grounding to the event, including the way the site is designed e.g. the Longhouse build and the names of the venues. My mother deals with most production and legal issues as well as some
programming and marketing.


You’ve got three famous performers from history coming to play at Knocky next year. Who would they be?
Katch: Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley.

What does Katch Holmes like to do when she’s kicking back?
Katch: Walks in beautiful places with family, dance and yoga.

In 2012 you became a Clore Cultural Leadership fellow – can you tell us about this?
Katch: This was a great opportunity which allowed me to spend a year or so developing skills relating to cultural leadership. I completed a secondment with Serious, who run the London Jazz Festival in London and work with some of the top international artists, amongst other things, and went to research folk music and participation at
SOAS university as well as travel to the Western Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria to research how their music bonded their community and identity under occupation. I learnt a lot and gained courage to strike out on my own path following the programme.

Josie Duncan and Conor Caldwell

Can you tell us about the Oran Bagraidh residency & its goals?
Katch:  The project had two main goals: one to raise awareness of a neglected part of Scotland’s history – that of South West Scotland, through arranging and recording the Galloway Gaelic Oran Bagraidh song – a fascinating and vital snippet of our past – and bringing in some incredible artists from across these islands to do so. The other goal was to celebrate the diversity that provides the roots for these islands. We have always been multi-lingual, with waves of people passing through and settling throughout history. This wonderful process of migration and mingling continues today and should be celebrated. The project involved Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Scots and English – all languages that were spoken across South West Scotland, concurrently and for hundreds
of years.

How did the idea come about, & how long has it taken to bring to fruition?
Katch: I found out by accident that Gaelic was spoken across Galloway. It didn’t take much research to find out about Oran Bagraidh. I then discovered that my dad had in fact discovered this song in 1999, had had it performed at Knockengorroch that same year, and had since spent a lot of time and energy in investigating every aspect of the
poem. It turned out his opinions were fascinating and complex and also controversial – and this obviously piqued my interest further! I wanted to bring a wider attention to the piece and involve artists in its treatment as I felt up until then, apart from my father, it had been mainly academics who had spent any time on it. I first had the idea around 2 years ago, applied for funding and the rest is history!

Which artists attended the residency?
Katch: Josie Duncan, Lorcán Mac Mathúna, Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde, Barnaby Brown, MacGillivray, Gwyneth Glyn, Bragod. Rody Gorman, Conor Caldwell and Ben Seal

The first single has just been released, why did you select this one?
Katch: This is the Oran Bagraidh – it’s the title single from the project. The song. It had to be this one.

The album is out in February – how is this sounding at the moment, & can you tell us about its sonic tapestry? 
Katch: The album is an incredibly diverse piece of work. I love it. It moves from ancient medieval type trance to cross Scots/ Irish Gaelic traditional to acapella Welsh/ Irish/ Gaelic to spoken word, gothic dream pop and electronic soundscapes. It covers 5 languages and 15 centuries!

Will there be an Oran Bagraidh in 2019?
Katch: The Oran Bagraidh collaboration will be touring in 2019. We will launch the album at Celtic Connections on February 2 and play Knockengorroch on 26 May (you heard it here first) then move onto Wales and Ireland. I hope that starting this project will lead to a much wider appreciation and interest in this song and indeed Galloway’s history more generally. It would be great if we could find another version of the song somewhere as this might help us understand what it means and what time it is from.

Big Guitar Weekend

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Royal Conservatoire Scotland
3rd November 2018

The spacious Stevenson Hall is the Royal Conservatoire’s main concert hall and feels like a sumptuous space with its rich red embroidered curtains and classic red seats, not to mention the beautiful pipe organ at the side of the stage. We filled the stalls, chatting about the performers and the evening of guitar music to come, the finale of the RCS’s successful Big Guitar Weekend 2018.

artis pic 1.pngThe first duo took to the stage; tenor voice, Ben Johnson with guitarist, Sean Shibe, and began with a piece by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976); “I will give my love an apple”. The carefully selected programme – 13 songs by 11 composers – ranged back in time to composer John Dowland (1563-1626); “Come again, Sweet love!” and included Britten’s “Master Kilby” and an anonymous piece “In love”, performed in six movements. The pair had carefully researched their music to put together a programme which made them happy. In some ways it was a modern take on the music, whilst written and performed in the vein of old time compositions.

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By the time we got to their final song, the culmination of the interplay and interdependence of the gentle tenor voice and the slight touch of guitar, playing for our ears and our very souls, was having a profound effect on the audience, who were silently transfixed. In the plethora of compositions, each composer was honoured – a definingly moving and emotionally caressing tribute to writers and performers.

In the second half of the evening, we were entertained by ‘Artist Gitarren Duo’ a duo formed by German guitarists Julia Zielinski and Christian Zielinski. The first piece, by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) was originally written for the harpsichord. But the 21 variations of the Chaconne in G, were played here to perfection on the two guitars, and provided a great cornerstone to the evening’s bespoke exploration of musical genres. A performance of El Amor Brujo by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) ended the evening perfectly.

This was a beautifully crafted evening where the two sets of musicians performed with great ease while triumphing over very complex compositions. In their hands it seemed that the beauty of guitar music had no limits – they all deserve high praise, well done! It was an experience I was glad to have witnessed and will take to heart.

Daniel Donnelly