All posts by yodamo

An Interview with Andy Gunn

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One of Scotland’s finest Blues connoisseurs is doubling up this Fringe…


Hello Andy, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born near Glasgow, lived most of my life in the Highlands and currently reside in Portugal.

Where does your love of music come from?
My mum used to say I wouldn’t go anywhere in my pram without a radio, or wireless as my Grannie used to call it. My mum loved rock ’n’ roll music and my Dad played the same country and western compilation tape about 8 thousand times up and down the A9, the main trunk road connecting the north and south of Scotland.

What instruments do you play?
I play different types of guitar, acoustic, 12 string, electric, cigar box, National Steel, the Portuguese guitar and Ukulele, all in the same night as it happens. I’m doing a show at the Fringe this year called Fingers and Thumbs, all about various stringed instruments, come along it’ll be muito bem!

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Which singers & styles have influenced your own voice?
I love all types of singers, as long as it’s got soul behind it. I like people who improvise and really connect with the music in an honest and authentic way every time they play the song. I was just thinking about John Lee Hooker today. He was illiterate but I’d say he turned this to his advantage because his vocals and guitar playing were always fresh and alive, never sounding tired like he was just re-performing the same song. Blues and jazz are the most vibrant forms of music to me, it’s all open to interpretation, how you feel on the day, so I love all the greats of those genres.

You’ve got three famous Bluesmen from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Well Hendrix would have to be there for the psychedelic craic about UFO’s n that, Muddy H20 to tell us how he invented electricity, giving birth to electric blues and rock ’n’ roll as we know it today and of course EC ‘Slow Hand’ to pay for the garlic bread, pizza and ice cream!

What is it about the Blues that makes you tick?
I’ve always related to the blues somehow, even as a white kid in the Highlands while everyone else was listening to Kylie and Jason or Simple Minds, I was listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins because he made me feel better, the sound healed me in a way I didn’t really understand then, turning the recognition of pain and suffering into hope and resilience.

Have you made any pilgrimages to the great sites of Blues?
I went to Beale Street in Memphis a couple of times, went to Chicago and sat in on the jam nights at Buddy Guy’s club Legends and made my way south to New Orleans, to eat some gumbo and see how the Cajon folk do it. All of which were amazing experiences, Clint Eastwood said the most valuable contribution that the US made to the world was jazz, I’d say the blues even more so.

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You’ve played all over the world, from Nashville to Kinlochbervie, but which is the best audience you’ve ever performed in front of?
I like it when people listen to the music but in a relaxed way, not shouting over the top of it, but not feeling inhibited to go to the bar etc, some kind of happy medium. It’s nice when people maybe have an understanding of the influences I’ve tried to assimilate into my playing, trying to find my own voice, but it’s also nice when there’s people who don’t know much about the music but just enjoy it for what it is. The gig in Kinlochbervie was just at my pal’s house playing for the kids and the neighbours having a laugh, but yeah that was probably one of my favourite nights, just what life is all about, hanging out in a nurturing, happy environment, being creative.

You have just released ‘Rainbow Bird.’ Can you tell us about the recording process?
We recorded this live in one take in Castlesound studios near Edinburgh, though we did add the strings later, late last year. I recorded it with a jazz trio and three female local singers, the full line up is;

Andy Gunn – Guitar and Vocals
Amy Hawthorn – Second Vocal and spoken word
Marissa Keltie – Backing Vocal
Caroline Gilmour – Backing vocal
David Carnegie – Drums
Tom Lyne – Double Bass
Chick Lyall – Piano
Mr McFall’s Chamber – Strings

Why has it taken the best part of a year to release it?
I wrote this song two years ago but only just got around to recording it, that’s nothing it took me ten years to record ‘Going Home Again’ a song about the people of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

You are doing two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe; why double up & can you tell us a bit about each one?
I created From T-Bone To Trucks last year after living in Edinburgh and talking to some of the local musicians there. I thought I’d like to be part of the Festival, so I thought well what am I good at, what do I know about and the answer hit me like a ton of bricks, blues guitar! It was a big jo but we got there and in fact it was a resounding success, a sell-out run. So I decided to return for another series of shows, only three but in a great venue. Fingers and Thumbs was another one of my bright ideas, thinking well if I’m in Edinburgh at the Fringe I might as well make the most of it and so I came up with this idea of how I could translate the skills I have in my hands onto different instruments. That show is a lot more eclectic, taking in blues, country, folk, Portuguese Fado and African music.

T-Bone To Trucks was a sell-out last year, have you tweaked it in the interim?
Yes it is an expanded show this year, running time will be about an hour and a half. We’ve added five new acts this year, John Lee Hooker, Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Cray and Doyle Bramhall II, it’s gonna be awesome, I’d highly recommend it.

Having established a fan-base with T-bone, how do you think they’ll take the change of pace & style with Fingers and Thumbs?
Well, I like all different styles of music and listen to a wide range of stuff depending on my mood and what medicine I require, music can lift you up or settle you down or anything in between, so I suppose the show is a reflection of that. I always liked how Led Zeppelin could do everything from Bert Jansch tunes to thunderous stadium rock all in the one set and it not be out of place. I like dynamics, think it’s a good thing and I’m hoping the audiences will enjoy it, but yes it is a slower paced set certainly.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell each of your shows in the streets of Edinburgh…
T-Bone! Wanna know where rock ’n’ roll came from? Or why blues is the most vital music you’ll ever hear? Then get yo bad self down to Stramash on Sunday afternoons at 1pm, there’ll be an 8 piece rocking band, specially created videos projected and Livingston legend Amy Hawthorn filling you in on the stories of all these amazing blues legends, we’ll be belting out the blues to make your big toe shoot up in your boot! Fingers! would you like some respite from the Fringe madness on a Saturday night? Hear some soulful sounds by a great lost Scottish talent in a beautiful tranquil church? Come, listen and learn about what joins the blues, folk, jazz and Celtic music, Portuguese Fado and Saharan African music, we’re more alike than disalike as Maya Angelou said, music the universal language.. or everybody gets the blues sometime! Come hear it translated by the minstrels fingers!


From T-Bone To Trucks

Stramash

Sunday 4th, 11th and 18th (13:00)

Fingers & Thumbs

artSpace@StMarks,

 Saturday 3rd, 10th and 17th August (20:20)

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www.andygunn.net

The Poetry of Louise Connell

Music & poetry have always been easy bedfellows, teasing each other with magic to create something wholly cosmic, wholly beautiful. Singers like Bob Dylan & Jim Morrison were choral bards whose words meant as much as the melody – to hypnotise with the tune, to penetrate the soul with the vision. Alas, in recent years, across the music scene, the lyrics of songs have been slowly descending into a sewer of indifference, with A&R folk more interested in social media stats than talent. How sparklingly wonderful is the appearance, then, of a young singer-songwriter who really cares about what she is singing.

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Louise & her band in Edinburgh

A few weeks ago I quite randomly found myself in the Voodoo Rooms one Tuesday evening listening to a young lady & her band. The lady has a name, Louise Connell, a quite bonnie & thickly-accented lassie from Airdrie. A shy performer, Louise has an ethereal voice which soothes the listener’s receptability, fooling us into mentally relaxing as she tosses her songs of spinning shuriken into our psyche. Louise, you see, is a poet. It took me a while to realise – the aforementioned thick accent is difficult to penetrate sometimes – but as the gig went on, & the words & phrases Louise chooses became steadily more transparent, I began to screw down, transfixed, into my seat, resting chin betwyx finger & thumb. It was as if the spirit of John Keats had manifested itself into this gentle & honey-tongued goddess from the Central Belt; but with an edge, for Keats could never have sung the opening lyrics of Connell’s self-penned Maria;

The wine glass slithers down the wall
The cooker’s on but the room is cold
Maria, where’s the girl who swallows lies,
And coughs them up as smiles?

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Louise has just released an album, a collection of three EPs called Squall Echo Rale. The songs vary in style & entertainment, but it is in the lyrics that I have found the most pleasure. Louise writes from the other side, presenting us with the flawless dichotomy of silken-sheeted songcraft & spine-raking wordplay. The album consists of 18 set-piece songs, the second of which, Rope, reveals the true genius of Connell’s craft. Less song, more an abstract play, it begins with an impressive cynghanned-laden couplet which reads, ‘I’m forging quite a career in suppression / Whether passive agression or a spineless silence.’ Let us also examine the opening to the fourth song, Ilo, is a love paean delivered with calm lucidity, a majestic capsule of poetic insight & phraseology.

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Spending my day’s trying to claim
No one was seeing any of me
Like I was total, embryonic potential
And zero kinesis
I’d feel my hand at the switch
With my mouth forming, “I lo…”

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Wandering through the rest of the lyrics for Squall Echo Rale, we have several songs of introspective romance-odes – there seems to be a broken relationship in the mix somewhere. A little of Baudelaire’s desperate Paris pops up from time to time; in Fruit, for example, we learn ‘There’s no garden, There’s no orchard, Fruit is trampled,’ while No Visitors contains the cooly observed, ‘She may be sunken treasure but no one’s ever / been holding their breath.‘ In Crossed the Line, my favorite tune on the album, we see Connell complying with the convention of the sonnet-turn, or something quite akin to it at least. Compare the standard chorus with a one-off later version & observe how Connell digs deeper into her muse-cave.
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I could have been a genius
But I crushed the brains out of my skull
I could have been a lover
But soft love would make my skin crawl
I could have been a monster
But the screams would fester in my mind
I could have been a good friend
But I always crossed the line
I always crossed the line

And I could have been a genius
If you’d tested me in my native tongue
I could’ve loved you gently, if it ever seemed much fun
I could have been a monster;
sure, I could have the person for you
But friends was just another game
that I was meant to lose
Like life’s a game I’m bound to lose

In ‘Get to Know Me,’ Connell takes on the gratuitous role of a male suitor, who ‘didn’t realise her father was a man of your stature / you intimidate me, sir.’ I mean, who in the music world actually does that? We also have track 17, Viscous Fear, a moody masterpiece which contains this a capella chorus, sang enchantingly;
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A nursery rhyme for the other side
A microcosm of my life
Coats a hundred glass slides
I creied eyelashes with my tears
My viscous fear
An eyelash tear
My viscous tear
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Louise Connell is a shiny jewel on the UK music scene, one to restore faith in songwriting’s ability to constantly reinvent itself & also remain true to itself. She also possesses a keen ear for melody, which she infuses into her lyrics with the ease of a summer’s walk. I wonder whether Connell will one day separate the words from her music, but one expects the extrication to be too bloody, too painful. For now, let us see her craft as a composite whole; the music coaxes the words to life, & the words invigorate the music. To listen to Connell sing her songs is a highly reccommended & sublime joy.

An Interview with Aylin Eleonora

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When Flamenco touches your soul, all you can do is dance…


Hello Aylin, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I consider myself a global citizen, I have Finnish and Turkish in me. I have lived in Finland, Australia, in the UK, was schooled in France and have been living in Spain for the last 16 years. I am located in the centre of Madrid, downtown, in La Latina.

When did you first realise you could dance?
I started with ballet and contemporary at 4, but I really got hooked when a friend told me about a Flamenco class in Seville. I had no knowledge of Flamenco whatsoever, and the level was too high for me, but somehow I felt I was getting it. That this is a language in which I could express myself and be understood.

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How did you get into Flamenco?
My flatmate at university took me to a Flamenco concert at the Komedia in Brighton. From that moment I was enamoured. Although my approach, attitude and personality have changed, I am still on that path.

What is it about being performing in front of other people that makes you tick?
Before finding Flamenco I dreaded performing in public, but there is something honest, universal and captivating about Flamenco that gives me power and energy to dance in front of a public. Beautiful movement is also something that elevates me and I enjoy a lot watching ballet.

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Can you tell us about your training with the Flamenco masters?
I started my training in Andalusia, continued in Madrid where most of the professional Flamenco dancers have been training for decades, and completed my Masters at the Institute of the Arts Barcelona/Liverpool John Moores University, that offers a dance education with both UK and US influence. At the IAB I got to explore my creative practice got to explore my creative practice more in depth and got used to think through my dancing and dance my way out of troubles. Generally speaking I struggled finding a teacher that would guide me in a foreign land and culture and help me grow as a person, not just a dancer. However, I have taken classes with some excellent professionals and learnt from talented dancers. In Flamenco you also learn from musicians, and from having to perform with very little or no previous rehearsals with the group. When I traveled to Cuba and was invited to ballet events I learnt a lot about dance discipline and guts.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
I often work on Sundays as well, but I enjoy winding down by listening to jazz and relaxing by the pool whenever possible.

You were in Edinburgh last year, with the Dance-forms 75th International Choreograper’s showcase, how did it go?
It was a very special experience participating in Susana B. Williams´showcase. I was lucky to get an excellent review from TheWeereview and get to work with some great professionals in the dance field. I am participating this year as well.

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
We try to create a moment on stage that is pure and elegant. You will see shapes, energy, forms and also feel the power and poetry of dance expression. You will also discover Raul´s musical universe that is very profound.

Where, when & how did the idea for VIVIR originate, & is the reality fulfilling your vision?
Originally it was a need for me to simplify, try to do a Flamenco performance with minimum elements. This show has been developing in the studios of Madrid, also inspired by the Mediterranean landscape, during the last 5 years. Singing, that is a central element of Flamenco, helps the dancer to grow on stage, and gives dramatic power to a performance – is not present in this show. Filling that void has been a challenge, but satisfying both personally and professionally.

You premiered VIVIR in Australia earlier this year, have you tweaked the show since?
After returning from Australia, I have taken ENSUEÑO FLAMENCO, another show in our repertoire, on tour to Finland, an ensemble featuring some of the top artists of the Madrid Flamenco scene. I have also given workshops in Ukraine, and been busy with pre-production. We performed excerpts of both shows at the Madrid Conservatory, and I´m taking VIVIR to Avignon for the month of July.

Can you tell us more about the non-traditional musical styles instruments Raul Mannola will be utilising?
In this show Raul plays the traditional nylon-string flamenco guitar, as well as steel-string acoustic guitar to provide a wider variety of sounds. He also uses the electronic tampura to get the Indian drone for some oriental flavoured improvisations. Come and get a taste!

What are your dreams or plans for the future?
I would love to work with a choreographer. Although ballet specialists might not like this, I want to include a number with pointe shoes in my repertoire, to give voice to the more fragile and lyrical side of me as a dancer.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
I would dance a “llamada” or a “pataíta”. If you are not sure what it means, come and find out!


VIVIR: Flamenco Guitar & Dance 

C venues – C Aquila

Aug 10-18 (18:25)

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www.aylineleonora.com

 

Interview: The Rhythm and Booze Project

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For those who like a wee dram with their live music, The Rhythm and Booze Project is only choice this Fringe. The Mumble grabbed a wee chat with the duo’s Felipe Schrieberg & Paul Archibald…


Hello Paul, first things first, where are you both from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

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Paul

Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

When did you & Paul first meet each other?
Felipe: We met 10 years ago when we were both students at St. Andrews. The blues band I was (and still am) playing in needed a drummer at the last moment for a birthday party. A mutual friend recommended Paul, and here we are!

Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

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When did you & Paul first meet each other?
Felipe: We met 10 years ago when we were both students at St. Andrews. The blues band I was (and still am) playing in needed a drummer at the last moment for a birthday party. A mutual friend recommended Paul, and here we are!

How did the band begin?
Paul: We decided to make a two-piece band to visit Islay in 2012, so we could play our way through the hotels and distilleries there. We got paid in whisky and a bed for the night (though we were sometimes camping). We made our way through some great whisky and saw some amazing parts of the island. The idea for this band, which we started last year, came out of that trip. We wanted to emphasise our love of whisky and music—we still go back to Islay, every year, and come back with as much whisky as we can carry.

The Rhythm and Booze Project has taken you all over the world, what have been your coolest experiences on the road?
Felipe: For us, going to play at the Feis Ile Islay whisky festival every year is always special. It’s over a week of distilleries hosting parties across 9 days in a beautiful corner of the world, and we get to be in the middle of it. We love it. Some highlights include providing the music for George Crawford’s last masterclass as Lagavulin distillery manager, getting 1000+ people going nuts to our music in the courtyard of the Bruichladdich distillery, and doing a special blues and whisky tasting in the cooperage at Caol Ila.

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How do you choose the songs for your set?
Paul: We find that early blues songs work best for our two-piece set-up better than more recent songs — we still adapt things, though. We’re working on originals too, and the material for those is usually influenced by experiments we try out at live shows. The best things from us come from experiments at gigs rather than pre-planned things in a practice room.

What for you makes a good blues song?
Felipe: It starts with good dynamic drumming. There’s too many blues tunes that have mediocre drumming with needless twiddly widdly guitar over the top. I’m much more interested in the dynamic changes and small moments of magic that can take place all the time in great blues tunes than in chops and mediocre tasteless cowboy playing which unfortunately is the norm these days. I’m also a sucker for good grooves. The Chicago bluesmen do this well, and there are some unbelievable rhythms that came out of the Mississippi Hill Country, though there’s a wonderfully wide world to discover.

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You’re washed up on a desert island with a solar powered CD player & three albums, what would they be?
Felipe: A cruel question. I’ll go with these.
1. Moanin’ in the Midnight – Howlin’ Wolf, one of the best blues records ever made.
2. Sleep Beneath The Willow – Daniel Romano, a superb country music record.
3. Aretha Now – Aretha Franklin, maybe my favourite album from the Queen of Soul

Can you name your top three drams?
Felipe: I can’t name a top three! But these are a few of my favourites which are relatively easy to find.
1. Lagavulin 16, one of the great peated whiskies.
2. Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood, Rich, fruity, and regal.
3. Bruichladdich Islay Barley, a punchy drink that tastes like a bourbon cream cookie.

You’ll be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, can you tell us about the show?
Felipe: This is the first show at the Edinburgh Fringe that combines live music and tasting to our knowledge. We’re aiming to entertain and enlighten while playing great music. We’ve got three phenomenal drams that the audience will get to enjoy in the show, showcasing the incredible variety of flavour in Scotch whisky. We’ll also be playing our style of raucous blues throughout while also passing along some knowledge about whisky itself that the audience will be able to use whenever ordering a whisky at a bar or buying a bottle.

How does the whisky effect your playing?
Paul: After a couple drams I get better, after a few more I get worse but I think I get better, and a few more after that someone should probably take over my job!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show in the streets of Edinburgh?
Felipe: Scotch whisky and live blues. What more could you want from a show at the Edinburgh Fringe?

What does the rest of 2019 have in store for you & your band?
Paul: We have some exciting events ongoing in London: we host blues nights featuring an open whisky bar, and we also have our first American whiskey and cigar evening coming up. We basically create events that we’d like to go to ourselves. We’re off to tour Germany in September and Poland in November too, so it’s a busy few months ahead!


Two Guys Three Drams

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Aug 8-17 (21:25)

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www.therhythmandboozeproject.com

Elephant Sessions

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Perth Horsecross
31st May, 2019


An acquaintance recommended Elephant Sessions live to me. I’d listened to their latest album and liked it, but somehow never managed to get to a gig, especially since they seem to be gigging all over the world these days. Their music is a bit like the electro-trad of Celt-fusion Simard & Gagné, Melisande or Ashley MacIsaac’s fiddling. But there is more than a hint of the progressive electronica of the likes of Boards of Canada in there too. I was interested to see when presenting a full set live, if, like the mythical Kelpie, they were a beast of two natures – would the two sounds that they marry so well on vinyl come undone, or worse, go a wee bit cotton-eyed Joe?

The audience in the cosy Joan Knight Room at Perth Theatre had been suitably warmed up by Perthshire’s own funksters Bohemian Monk Machine. Stank faces aplenty to some nasty grooves, the lads went though some soul-funk classics and a few licks of their own with real attitude, getting the audience in the groove like the wrong sized underwear. Phew!

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Elephant Sessions entered on an airy synth atmosphere that easily slipped into the, by now characteristic, progressive elevator fiddling from Euan Smillie and mandolin (yes, mandolin) from Alasdair Taylor, over a driving drum and bass line from Greg Barry and Seth Tinsley. Repetition, mesmeric, of a simple phrase is at the heart of electronic dance music. These guys get to the same place with traditional instruments. It’s infectious. Even this teuchter’s feet got tapping.

A selection of grooves from their first album “The Elusive Highland Beauty” and their acclaimed sophomore disc “All We Have is Now” demonstrated how the band have perfected their style. The track “Summer,” in particular, demonstrates a beguiling simplicity that is truly uplifting. To say that the audience thrilled to it would be a measured claim. “You guys are f**king brilliant!”, exclaimed someone at the end of one song, which got a roar of agreement. A few tracks from their new album “What Makes You” showed the guys just keep getting better. The track “Colours” was yet another crowd pleaser.

Elephant Sessions brought a real vibe to the room. Perhaps overall their set wasn’t as varied as their studio work, but it was driving and hypnotic, and fresh. Pasty Scottish folk can’t really dance, but the whole joint was jumping. Spectacular.

Mark Mackenzie

The Young’Uns – The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

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Perth Theatre
23rd May 2019


Twice winners of best group at the BBC2 Folk Awards, The Young’Uns’ latest offering tells the tale of Johnny Longstaff, a working-class hero who grew up during the Great Depression, marched in the 1934 Hunger March to London and volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The lads, Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle, interweave the recorded voice of Longstaff with witty and touching ballads, bringing his story alive and serving a timely reminder that the evils of poverty and Fascism aren’t that far in our past that we can be complacent.

In 2015, after a gig in Clevedon, Somerset, the Young’Uns were presented with a sheet of paper by Longstaff’s son, describing the main events of his father’s amazing life. Longstaff had also been interviewed and recorded by the Imperial War Museum Archives in 1986 and recordings form the heart of a unique series of songs that paint a moving portrait of a heroic individual who challenged the inequalities he saw and fought for a better tomorrow, both at home and abroad.

The trio sing some fine harmonies, sometimes a cappella , sometimes accompanied by squeezebox and piano. The lyrics are bold, often hilarious and always performed with warmth and humanity. The songs take us on Johnny’s journey from the backstreets of Teeside, down-and-out in London, sleeping on the Embankment, standing against Moseley’s blackshirts in the ‘battle of Cable Street’. Then, as an underage volunteer in September 1937 Longstaff walks across the Pyrenees into Spain to defend the Republic against Franco’s Fascists, fighting in appalling conditions, but never losing his resolve. Throughout his journey, Johnny meets some remarkable characters, fondly brought to life again in the Young’Uns’ songs.

This is the kind of history lesson that engages the heart and the head. The kind that kills Fascism. It’s the kind of history lesson that we should be taking our children to hear. I’m reminded of Orwell’s observation from ‘Looking back on the Spanish Civil War’, “…unfortunately the truth about atrocities is far worse than that they are lied about and made into propaganda. The truth is that they happen.” It’s important that the real witness of men and women who suffered and fought against despotism are heard. Viva the Young’Uns!

Mark Mackenzie

The Sixteen: An Immortal Legacy

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St. John’s Kirk, Perth
18th May 2019 


The Sixteen, under the direction of Harry Christophers, are in their fortieth year of bringing early choral music, as well as groundbreaking new works by the likes of James Macmillan, to an ever-growing audience. Their style combines technical perfection with a warmth of sound that has ensured the choir its place amongst the best in the world.

The Sixteen make a beautiful sound that soothes troubled souls. St John’s Kirk, in the centre of worship in Perth for nearly nine centuries, perhaps has seldom heard such sweet singing as this. “An Immortal Legacy” draws on five centuries of choral music from Tallis and Byrd to Tippett and Macmillan. Music for sacred occasions sits beautifully beside the secular in the programme, with the common thread being simple melodies wrought into complex interweaving sounds, whilst never losing brightness or clarity of expression. The Sixteen’s sound deserves the most careful listening.

The opening pieces, from Tallis’ ‘Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter’ are simple harmonies for whole choir, and recognisable to anyone instantly as the basis for Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia”. This was followed by a ‘Salvator Mundi’ from Tallis, with the choir drawing the variations from the simple plainsong with a rich, organic flow.

Changing tempo, three secular pieces followed, from Morley, Gibbons and Tallis’s great pupil Byrd, that celebrated country pleasures and springtime. Morley’s ‘April is in my Mistress’ Face’, a popular madrigal, leads with soprano, which is then taken up in the round by alto, tenor and bass until it reaches its satisfying harmonisation. The Sixteen sound tight on this brief piece.

James Macmillan’s ‘Sedebit Dominus Rex’ from The Strathclyde Motets introduces an icy blast of caledonian discord from the outset. The first few bars are reminiscent of Celtic or even Byzantine music, and make the hairs on the neck stand to attention. This motto gets repeated, finally finding resolution in the last cord.

Tippett’s five spirituals from ‘A Child of our Time’ demonstrate some superb solo singing from sopranos Jessica Cale and Katy Hill, tenor Jeremy Budd and bass James Birchall. Of particular note, ‘Steal Away’ and ‘Deep River’ are superbly sung. These spirituals were collected by Tippett into his great work at the outset of WWII, and speak de profundis of suffering and hope. The Sixteen perform them with simplicity and sincerity.

The second half of the performance was highlighted by a selection of Britten’s choral dances from his opera ‘Gloriana,’ composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and depicting (somewhat unsympathetically) the life of Elizabeth I and her relationship with the Earl of Essex. Although the opera is rarely performed, these dances, sung brightly and joyfully by the Sixteen, are a fine piece on their own. In particular, ’Time’ is a whimsical cascade for voices that lifts the spirits after the solemnity of the Tippett’s spirituals. ‘Country girls’ is so typically English in colour, evoking a midsummer floral bouquet held by a May queen.

I went to the concert expecting something good; expectations were surpassed by this excellent choir.

Mark Mackenzie

Fergus McCreadie Trio

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Perth Concert Hall
13th May 2019


A folk tune, like whisky, is fine straight-up. But it can take a good mixer too. The Fergus McCreadie Trio serve a knockout punch of traditionally-infused jazz that slips in your ear like a good malt goes over the thrapple, then sets your heart alight with the exquisite afterglow of places, times and moods. I could rave on about the awards and accolades that have been heaped on this young man and his group, but that’s all been said before. The point it, this guy is seriously good, like a favourite dram.

The Trio’s first number of the evening was perhaps fittingly titled ‘Ardbeg’, after the Islay Distillery. A simple piano melody from McCreadie drifts effortlessly over David Bowden’s understated bass, with Stephen Henderson’s percussion rolling and glinting throughout, like sea-shimmer. McCreadie has a gift for distilling the essence of landscapes into the mood of a composition. Most of the pieces from the Trio’s debut album, ‘Turas’ (Gaelic for ‘journey’ or ‘tour’) are inspired by places in Scotland that McCreadie has visited and drawn inspiration from. In particular, ‘Hillfoot Glen’ is a funk inflected hustle of a Scottish ‘Harlem River Drive’ with some lighting fast piano arpeggios over a driving snare drum rhythm. The trio are so tight on this one it’s thrilling.

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’The Set’ goes back to Trad reel rhythms mixed up in cool jazz. The confidence with which the trio dissect the rhythms then throw out fragments for the ear to catch onto was mesmerising to hear. A few as yet unnamed tracks show that there’s much more licks to come from this trio of precociously talented young men.

I found my personal favourite of the night was a track I’d not heard before – ‘An old friend’ – downtempo, meditative and achingly sincere (there’s a performance of ‘An Old Friend’ at BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018 here). The deceptive simplicity of the piece reminds me of Zbigniew Preisner’s ‘Farewell’ from ’Ten Easy Pieces for Piano’. Both pieces make easy that hard task of expressing melancholy without being maudlin: sentiment minus the sentimentalism.

Horsecross Perth’s new Theatre complex was an excellent venue for the trio, with an intimate feel and first class sound engineering. I just hope it’s not too long before the trio return to Perth with what’s sure to be some excellent licks.

Mark Mackenzie

Tectonics

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City Halls, Glasgow

May 4 – 5, 2019


It was a nice day when my companion and I arrived at the City Halls for Day Two of the Tectonics Glasgow Festival, annual showcase for all kinds of new and experimental music performance. Stepping in to the Recital Room, we were confronted with a large wooden floor paved with drawings that somehow constituted a kind of path. The four artists performing Lucie Vitkova’s installation, were standing together using their voices for a perpetual sound that varied from whale noises to some kind of prayer incantation. It appeared to have no structure to it and we stayed for a few verses, only to wander off, taking with us the impression that this had been all about the quality of sound.

Festivals always have their own character, and this one, though small, also had its own atmosphere of welcome and anticipation, not to say a slight feeling that we were at some kind of science convention! We stepped out to enjoy a chat between performances and readied ourselves for a performance at the Old Fruitmarket. It turned out to be a free-form improvisation of recorded and live breathing exercises that lasted about 45 min and was performed by Angela Sawyer, Alex South and Nicola Scrutton. With its focus firmly held on the crowd who were sitting together it proceeded into a lot of people making a lot of what I can only call farm noises.

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Dave Smith, Chris Hobbs, Catherine Laws and Paul Kean in ‘Diabolus Apocalypsis’ by Dave Smith at the Old Fruitmarket

For the next part of our festival journey it fell to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to perform for an hour in the Grand Hall. We were treated to two orchestra pieces by Juliana Hodkinson (All Around) and Mauro Lanza (Experiments in the Revival of Organisms). This was followed by the world premiere of The Gay Goshawk by Martin Arnold which had Martin himself on melodica and Angharad Davies and Sharron Kraus on highly sensual, traditional and beautiful vocals about the trappings of love and life.

By this point we were both very relaxed and in a mood to continue absorbing everything we could. We found ourselves back at the Fruit market, that famous old market hall with a large, high space for the Symphony Orchestra to perform Sarah Davachi’s Oscen, a large scale work all about textures and harmonies. The place was transformed as the music took us along a slow melodic journey telling a story of Consort and Disunion.

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Nichola Scrutton and Alex South in ‘Rough Breathing’ by Alex South & Nichola Scrutton at the Old Fruitmarket

My impression was of a day full of the tonality of music, the experience of being human, what is important and what perhaps is not.  A day showcasing theory itself, turning it into a solid phenomenon that can take you to marvellous places that are there for all of us if we would but listen. An experience uniquely offered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra over a very enjoyable and successful weekend.

Review: Daniel Donnolly

Photography : Alex Woodward

The Divine Toyah

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Photo: Liam Rudden

The Thunder In The Highlands Tour

Edinburgh Liquid Room 25.04.19


Back in the olden days, when I were a lad. Music was everything to me it was a natural progression of my inner Superhero and I held my first musical inspirations in the same light. It was the costume that I loved and Toyah matched that in real life. Bringing fantasy to life through theatre, Rock N Roll, make up and style. I loved Toyahs first three albums. Sheep Farming in Barnett, Anthem and The Changeling. The Changeling was my fave, a Pixie concept Album that brought Miss Wilcox’s magical creativity to life.

I was 14 at the time and best mates with Jengerisers, my partner in crime and musical sparing companion. At that point in my life “1982” I had only ever been to WMC Gigs. Toyah was coming to town, to Bradford St Georges Hall, I saved up my dinner money and bought a ticket. Jengerisers did the same. As you can guess I was very very excited as this was my first proper gig ever and I was about to see Toyah in real life. It was fantastic performance art that still resonates with me 38 years on. The Changeling brought to life while visiting all her earlier hits. I fell in love with the big gig experience that night. The morning after the gig, Me and Jengerisers bunked off school and headed down to the Norfolk Gardens Hotel to see if we could meet Toyah and her band. Our mission was successful Toyah was Lovely and we got autographs from all of the band, It was then that I became a fan for life.

This was when the evolution of Makeup began for me too Toyah set the benchmark for looking brilliant. I soon learned that looking that good took a lot of time and effort to achieve. It was The Its A Mystery EP and Toyahs makeup on the cover that was what I was aiming for. Both Toyah and Steve Strange enthralled me for the same reasons. Where faces became canvases for rich expression of Temporary Art. The style that easily transcended gender and looking as good as possible was an evolving process.

Bradford, back in the early 80’s was a pretty grim place, still held in the fear of The Yorkshire Ripper, 3 day weeks, unemployment and being in the hell hole of a school called Grange. Toyah, Gary Numan Bowie and Visage gave me the escape that I needed. I never adhered to be a rock star. But I did adhere to looking that good. That was the key inspiration. It didn’t come easy, the makeup I mean, it took many years and countless hours of practice, I even did a beauty therapy course to perfect the look. Dressing up became a full-time occupation. A big colourful fuck you to Thatchers Britain and an education system that failed me. , Dance, Style, Makeup, Music and making love, were my reasons for living and escaping in equal measure.

As I write this preview and look back at the photographs of Toyah that I fell in love with as a kid, I can still feel the inspiration to be creative that gripped me 38 years ago and completely understand why I was so excited and inspired. Its been a lifelong inspiration, even now at 52 years old I put just as much effort into doing my makeup as I did when pushing the boundaries of Northern Working Class Culture, Back in the early 80’s Homophobia was rife and this was one of the reasons that made my school life hell. This all started before I began wearing makeup, I never have been Gay, men and cock never has done it for me so I would have made a crap puff. However, I found the strength and courage to start a personal transformation that would indeed give people cause to think that I might have been Gay. The funny thing was that the more makeup I wore, the more girls wanted to get off with me. This turned my tormentors blue with fury. And the echos of “Calvert ya Queer” echoed around my consciousness for the best part of a decade. It certainly opened my eyes at a young age that being Gay was not a bad thing. I always felt safe in Gay Clubs and Bars. The torment and abuse did have an effect on me, I knew I might have looked femme but I knew I wasnae gay, so I set about proving that I wasn’t and that involved getting off with as many beautiful Ladies as I could, I guess to prove to the world that I wasnae gay. I loved sex and there was a lot of it. When one looks that fabulous it goes hand in hand with having a Good Time ❤ Toyah shaped my life. I love her. ❤

Investigating Toyah has been a rich experience in understanding what makes a person be themselves in the face of absurdity. Indeed looking amazing seems to go hand in hand with healing the inner child. Beginning her life with a physical disability and a lisp. Both of which Toyah overcame to become a fully formed successful artist and pioneer. How Toyah has the healing power of the Divine. and Spirituality came to her at the age of 4 with the realisation that we are all just a speck of dust in relation to the vast infinity of the Universe. What an inspiration she is. ❤ Make up, Divinity, Creativity and Performance Art. My first inspiration and the longest lasting. It is only just now that I realise why. Toyah had the answer. Toyah is a Spiritual Healer too. Make Up and fruity coloured hair has Powers. beyond being Punk As Fuck.

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I got to The Liquid Rooms in time to see the support band Gothzilla. A local Edinburgh Goth Band that got me boogying straight away, Gothzilla are like a Veteran Sisters Of Mercy, Three guitars and a drum machine. Aye they really rocked tonight the perfect warm up for Toyah. I was having such a Good Time. Once the support band had finished, the place was rammed in anticipation of The High Priestess Of Punks return to Aulde Reekie. She looked marvellous and I was much closer to the front of the stage than I was at St Georges Hall, back in the olden days. Toyah looked Marvelous with a tight-fitting mirror ball dress, she looked strong and majestic. The penny really dropped tonight, Toyah set the benchmark for my ideal Woman back in 1982. and she still has it, fit as fuck, with Punk Rock attitude.

She performed a balanced set of classics and songs from her new Release. In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, perfect for live performance and taking its lead from classic Led Zepplin. There were a few first-night gremlins and on the whole I think the performance was too big for the club, The Sound even cut out completely on Good Morning Universe, apart from the vocals and only briefly, as you can guess Toyah was more than a little miffed.

She really wrestled with the sound all night. Not that it hampered our enjoyment the sound was perfect for the audience. My favourite moment was Brave New World. Indeed it was Brave New Worlds art that I fell in love with as a kid, as she sang I could see the picture disc that I had when I was 14. I think I lived that song more than any of the others. Aye Awesome Stuff.

Toyah still held the same beauty tonight as she did back then. She was just as sassy and sexy. Robert Fripp is one lucky man. Toyah eventually got over her sound issues and ripped into the classic singles. Ieya, Its A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, she did a marvellous rendition of Martha And Muffins Echo Beach and some really nice album tracks like Danced and Angel And Me from The Changeling. It was fantastic, Toyah had me completely, I couldn’t stop singing it was really really good fun.

Slipping in a new song called Come, Toyah got all sexy and I fell in love with her that little bit more. the last time I saw her live was 38 years ago and Toyah thrilled me tonight just as much as she did back in the olden days. My guess is that the sound glitches will have been worked out over the rest of The Thunder In The Highlands Tour. If you get the chance go and see Toyah. A True Divine Nemesis.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert