All posts by yodamo

Glasgow Madrigirls: Music and Readings for Advent

Glasgow University Chapel, 7th December, 2014

 

Glasgow Madrigirls, directed by Katy Cooper and Lavinia Downie, have been going since 2000, and their impact and development is shown by the fact that this concert was standing room only – the chapel was absolutely full. A bit surprising maybe for a programme of medieval lyrics, carols, poems and melodies, but the fresh singing of the choir and the promise of something to lift the spirits on a raw night obviously had appeal. As it turned out, there were plenty moments and elements in the programme that gave real satisfaction and pleasure.

 

 

A mix of (mostly) choral settings, with straightforward instrumentation was combined with readings; and the sources were from all over Europe. A lot of careful work had gone into researching and making the selections, and the notes on the printed programme gave a helpful notion of the context. The musical arrangements, the presentation and the balance of the choir (with a preponderance of altos over sopranos) were appealing and effective. There were some fine harmonic effects, and the direction for the most part created a bright, captivating sound in the slightly daunting recesses of the chapel.

 

One of my particular heroines, the doughty visionary Hildegard of Bingen, featured on two items – an opening antiphon and a lovely setting of her melismatic sequence “O viridissima virga’ – where Mary is praised as a blossoming branch. Other highlights, in a pretty busy programme, were a version of the ‘Cherry Tree Carol’ for two voices, with violin and cello, and also Katy Lavinia Cooper’s setting of ‘Leaves of Life Magnificat’, where Sacha Fullerton was the soloist. It wasn’t always possible to pick out soloists because of the sightlines, but a good proportion of the choir members contributed here, and added to our enjoyment.

 

 

The readings, coming in from lectern/pulpits on two sides, were clear and well delivered; but I wished the content and language had been enriched by Scots to a greater extent. There was little need for a ‘version’ of Robert Henryson – though it was great to have him there, and surely again as a deep and humane resource – and if that audience could handle Middle English they could certainly manage undiluted medieval (and slightly later) Scots. We did get the text, and an excellent choral rendering, of William Dunbar’s resounding ‘Rorate celi, desuper’; and there’s more where that came from, as well as in Alexander Scott and Alexander Montgomerie, for example, and in Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross. And for Gaelic, perhaps invite compositions from Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica.

 

It was good to see a quartet of ‘Madriguys’ in support; maybe occasional ‘Madrigammers’ and ‘Madrigaffers’ are possible too. Done again, with a similar big audience and in the same space, I’d look for modest platform elevation and possibly a bit of sonic lift for the choir. But in any setting this is a group well worthy of support, and praise – as their advent concertb clearly underlined.

Reviewer : Mr Scales

 

 

Beethoven Concert: SCO with Francesco Piemontesi (piano)

City Halls, Glasgow December 3rd, 2014

There were a couple of late changes to the programme for this concert – the more significant being the appearance of Olari Elts as conductor for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), replacing Robin Ticciati, who was unwell. Then there was the perfectly apt substitution of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Op 62 for Webern’s brief Symphony Op 21, with its serial tone row permutations. As it turned out, Elts’ performance was a bravura one, and the inclusion of the Coriolan gave the audience a programme which exactly paralleled the original première of all three main Beethoven pieces – adding the Piano Concerto No 4 in G, Op 58 and his Symphony No 4 in B Flat, Op 60 – which were first performed at a private concert for Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz in March 1807.

The Estonian conductor took control of the Coriolan in good style, and the SCO’s handling of the interplay between the two main themes, one more aggressive, one tender, set us up for more intricate extensions of sharply contrasting moods in the two longer pieces that followed. At one point I wondered if the chamber orchestra’s resources might be adequate for the big acoustic space of City Halls; but with some augmentation of the strings for the concerto and symphony this concern was set aside.

The performance of the Swiss-Italian, Francesco Piemontese in the 4th Piano Concerto was impressive from the outset. Never showy, he appeared relaxed throughout, emphatic when called for, and his tonal control was always attractively aligned with the SCO’s responsive playing. Beethoven’s idiosyncracies come through – critics have pointed to an almost improvisational style, with bold shifts in various aspects – key, tonic, dynamic – all of which the soloist, conductor and orchestra conveyed with spirit: from slow emergence and fluttering hesitation and embellishment to free-flowing, radiant energy. That old rascal, Castiglione used the word sprezzatura to describe “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them”. Castiglione had scheming courtiers in mind; but this fine word for skill applied with apparent nonchalance catches Piemontesi’s playing precisely.

When the pianist returned for an encore, he happily teamed with the SCO guest leader Shunske Sato to give a restrained and sensitive rendering of (I think – my memory’s playing tricks!) the 2nd movement – adagio molto espressivo – of Beethoven’s Sonata no 5 for piano and violin. Anyway – a fine adagio duet. The 4th Symphony paced sweetly and slowly in, and then shifted to the suddenly contrasting elements we were by now expecting: sustained solemnity broken with crashing chords and hints of menace, pianissimo passages, sunny and cheery vitality, premonition, uncertainty, followed by another headlong tilt. The second movement opens with a lovely, dying fall: here and throughout all the orchestral sections and Adrian Bending on the kettle drums, were especially effective. he raised tempi in the third and fourth movements seemed to suit Elst; the mix of charm and sombre recollection, rich tones moving into something more restive – though still carrying –  were freshly conveyed. For the close, everything was exerted: the chase went from sanguine to discordant, from hectic to clear determination. But whatever was being pursued, we were carried right along – and never lost sight of it. FOUR STARS

four-stars

Reviewer : Mr Scales

The Jesus & Mary Chain

Glasgow Barrowlands

Sunday 23d November

jamc

Bible John’s sinister eidolon may well have been present among the number of dark-clothed profiles wandering through Jim Lambie’s album pathway at Barrowland Park, as Glasgow sons The Jesus and Mary Chain returned to the holiest of grounds in the Gallowgate area. Tonight’s gig at the Barrowlands was to commemorate the Mary Chain’s seminal-debut album Psychocandy, released in 1985. The unique scaffold-clanging, abrasive, chaotic and foggy havoc created by the brothers Jim and William Reid was a welcome release from the New Romantic scene forcing Simon Le Bon’s warbles on to the unsuspecting world. The brooding sexuality in the lyrics of songs such as Taste The Floor could almost pass for describing JAMC’s own blueprint for assaulting the music industry:

Here it comes.

Can’t you hear the sound of it?

Just like a big brass drum

and some cunts always scratching it?

This was never going to be a gig greeted by tribes of neon-stitched adolescents, but one would have expected a healthy share of fresh-faced music-goers after the ascent of contemporary bands such as The XX, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Crocodiles – all of whom owe a debt to the distinctive gloomy spell conjured up by the Mary Chain during the mid-1980s. Instead, it was largely an audience with whom the band has grown up with, and this could perhaps explain the pacific stance adopted by much of the crowd; or perhaps Sunday nights really does remove something from the live circuit.

Mercifully, it did not take away the performance on show. Strobe lights coruscating through every set of eyes, William Reid’s sonic assault of the senses during You Trip Me Up that would still be ringing when daylight arrives, flares of feedback on songs such as Never Understand, and all the while Jim Reid standing with one hand gripped on the microphone, either spitting attitude on the crowd or lurking around the carnival of strings behind him. It was all just as it should be. Perhaps unfairly, the Mary Chain’s pop sensibility has often been overlooked and beguiling songs such as Just Like Honey and (the originally omitted from the first album) Some Candy Talking reminded the Barrowlands crowd just how bright the Reid brothers can be when it comes to crafting universal pop melodies – should the notion grab them.

The current five-piece Mary Chain have a good, solid understanding: Minimal chat, tight sound, and occasionally look up from your instrument at the audience. As a drummer for the band, Brian Young must wonder if he is in the greatest or the worst job in the world as pedals and cymbals are suitably whipped into a repetitive babel for the crowd to jerk and judder to. The drums intro for Sowing Seeds almost tricked the audience into believing Just Like Honey was being repeated, only for Jim’s controlled vocal to throw their adoring public off centre.

As the night dissolved your reviewer into a perspiring, bouncing shambles clinging to the front barrier (Speakers directly in front and promising future health issues), the Mary Chain left the stage without an encore despite a short and strange interval half-way through the set; the blinking crowd ushered to leave by the dazzling house lights. Sweated foreheads had turned grey hairs black once more, and a number of revellers couldn’t resist picking up a half-price t-shirt or poster outside the main entrance after being reminded exactly how fantastic their youth had been. It’s a nice thought to think that a number of Glasgow households will once again be adorned with posters of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s sneering faces upon their walls; in a frame, of course. FOUR STARS

four-stars

Reviewer : Stephen Watt

The Levellers

O2 ABC

Glasgow

21-11-14

the levellers

As we entered the hall having half-lost at smuggling in our miniature wines, The Selecter had already begun. Seeming quite vitriolic Pauline Black shouts there’s nothing good about nationalism before singing ‘Meanwhile in London’ and bursting into ‘London’s Burning’ with intense anger. She ended this with a relieved remark of, ‘I feel so much better now.’ As a scot who voted yes in the crowd, I felt this was a little harsh on us… luckily my mood was rescued by watching a fellow smuggler being caught with a wine bottle tail. It looks like the security have mellowed at 02 as the offending booze was confiscated as opposed to the usual ejection of said party from the building.

The band then got down to the business of all their bouncy classics. Black clearly feeling a little subdued by the fact that this was a Levellers crowd at the gig stated here’s a song you might recognize and right enough On My Radio got the crowd up the front and the whole room bouncing about albeit it wasn’t the ska professionalism you’d expect at a ska gig. There was definitely a different vibe from the last time I saw them play with the Skatalites in the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh but well worth it, there was some brilliant theatrical keyboard playing that was quite hilarious.

The Levellers came on with an explosion of white confetti and Beautiful Day. From the offing the sound, visuals and lighting are amazing and exactly what you’d expect from a band that have been doing since the early 90’s. Bless them as you get closer up they have aged and are visibly not as elastic as they used to be. But hey I saw the Skatalites one time at a festival and I’m pretty certain that one of them had a zimmer frame. The band played with the brass section of the Selecter and that was great to hear some new sounds to some old tunes. Unfortunately Pauline Black was lost when she dueted with Mark as was the regular female vocalist. Sorry ladies but those were weak performances.

It was interesting that although the Leve11ers have continued making new music that it is still the tunes that drove me out of my hometown in the mid 90’s are the same ones that are liked best today. They managed to create a real movement out of their music back then. We hear Hope Street, One Way, The Boatman….not in that order because I wasn’t taking notes but I was very surprised not to hear Men an Tol and was delighted to hear some one else shout out for it. A wee bit of dissent from the backbenches. Something a little more dark and atmospheric would have been nice to break it up a bit. I heard this tune performed live at the Barra’s during the Zeitgeist tour and it sent you straight out of the room and onto a foggy mystical stone circle, also it is my favorite. Chadwick quipped at this also saying that we the crowd had chosen these tunes…did you do an online thing asking people Mark? If you did I missed it! Regardless the gig was brilliantly performed without visibly tiring the lads out. Fair shout to them for playing the Devil went down to Georgia at the end. I wasn’t sure about the satanic salute that was encouraged throughout…I felt like I was at an 80’s Iron Maiden gig ….in fact I shouted “what the fuck was all that about?” To which Mark responded something like “we don’t get it either!” I was touched to be in a conversation that I don’t even think anyone else noticed. We had brought a wee caped super hero to to chuck at them but that was confiscated by the security. Obviously they were keen to take that home….along with the wine!

Reviewer : Sarah Marshall

The New Wallace Collection

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, November 21st, 2014  

There was a full house at the RCS for this Friday lunchtime concert featuring The New Wallace Collection brass ensemble, led by John Wallace, former principal at the Conservatoire and now Emeritus Professor of Brass. They were joined by the Royal Conservatoire Brass and soprano Julia Daramy-Williams. The opening item was ‘Concerto for 7 Trumpets and Timpani’, attributed to the 18thC German composer Johann Ernst Altenburg, though we learned that the piece was probably ‘handed down’ by his students. Fitting then, that the composition was played in sprightly and confident manner by student musicians, conducted by John Wallace, who kept things precise, while still conveying his enthusiasm by sashaying from the waist down – prompting a comment later from my companion that she liked the hang of his jacket.

 

In the Scottish première of Eddie McGuire’s sequence of five Songs from the North, members of the New Wallace Collection accompanied lyric sopano Julia Daramy-Williams, a singer in her second year of the Master of Music programme at RCS. Greenland, Iceland, volcanic and other northern landscapes provided settings for these musical voyages, as well as more familiar territory in the Hebrides and the River Clyde. There is also an underlying theme of goodwill and friendship, and the beautiful harmonic and counter-pointed interactions, most often with muted brass,  conveyed this well.

 

 

The qualities associated with a lyric soprano – warmth and brightness with a full, rich timbre – are certainly there in Julia Daramy-Williams’ voice; added to that she had composure, a lively sense of energy when the songs moved that way, and she rounded out everything wth clear assurance. The very experienced players, with trumpets, trombone, french horn, tuba (this had a mute about the size of traffic cone), showed how tact and virtuosity can be combined, and as a result McGuire’s fine songs were wonderfully conveyed. The virtuosity, this time on some historic instruments from the John Webb Collection, carried over into Jules Levy’s signature composition ‘Whirlwind Polka’. Here, John Wallace on cornet, John Miller, also on cornet, John Logan on French horn, Simon Johnson on a Sax trombone and Tony George on ophicleide chased us back to the heydays of Philadelphia and other American hotspots in the late 19th century.

 

Levy had competed with the Scottish-born Matthew Arbuckle and others for billing as the ‘World’s Greatest’ cornet player at the time; but when the white gloves went on and everything kicked off in Glasgow it was evident John Wallace still shaped right up with the best: though whether he was using an A shank and a high pitch slide to speed things on their way I couldn’t exactly tell. The final concert piece involved the Royal Conservatoire Brass group with the New Wallace Collection, conducted by John Logan, to give us Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition arranged for brass and percussion by Elgar Howarth. The composition, which started out as a piano solo, has gone through plenty of arrangements – Ravel’s orchestral one being especially popular – but the colour, and range and vitality of Howarth’s version is immediately attractive.

 

 

In the ‘Whirlwind Polka’ we had mischief, quixotic display and astonishing command. In this performance of Pictures at an Exhibition the ensemble playing brought out the full variety of moods and effects suggested in movement titles like ‘Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells’, Catacombs’, Baba Yaga’ and ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’.  At the same time, the continuing link of the ‘Promenade’ and the conductor’s sure touch provided integrity. There was strength and lightness, there were rumbling undertones and a marche funèbre, then high tremolos, then something else ominous, then passages with squawks and mayhem, straight out of Daffy Duck. When things got solemn and impressive they never were ponderous. All the brass sections (trumpets, French horns, trombones and tubas), and the flugelhorn and the euphonium, and the two percussionists emerged with full credit. Delicacy of tone, drive and impulse, were properly achieved. There is a grand and stately flowering that leads to the finale, and when the conclusion was reached, and applause got underway, you could tell this was an audience that had got full value, that felt something special had come their way. FIVE STARS

5-stars

Reviewer : Mr Scales

* * * * *

Edinburgh Quartet : Postcard from Paris

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
Monday 17 November

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Founded in 1960 The Edinburgh Quartet celebrates an extensive and exciting history as one of the UK’s leading chamber ensembles, having performed frequently at major venues across Britain and toured extensively across Europe, the Far and Middle East, and North and South America. In addition to an eventful concert schedule the Edinburgh Quartet can be heard regularly on BBC radio amongst other stations. The Quartet supports new music and living contemporary composers, such as James MacMillan, Michael Tippett and Howard Blake, however in this concert, ‘Postcard from Paris’, we see they are equally talented in bringing traditional classics to life. Harking back to their origin, they demonstrate what a vast range they can create.

The opening concert of their Queen’s Hall season is entitled ‘Postcard from Paris’, as the schedule is loosely inspired by the growth in Paris’ musical connections. A trio of Violinists Tristan Gurney, Gordon Bragg and Jessica Beeston and solo Cello player Mark Bailey open with Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C. Consisting of four movements, the first is light, jovial and playful, the second turns somber, slow but dramatic and the third is a Menuetto. The musicians performed this piece outstandingly. I lost myself in the music, however Haydn maintains to challenge the conventional and throws in the odd unpredicted surprise to keep us on our toes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/egv2fx#p018662w

(link to the Quartet on the BBC)

After a brief interlude where Violinist, Tristan Gurney explained the Parisian connections behind the performance, he introduced Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor. Debussy lived in Paris and I truly felt I was immersed in the throngs of Parisian life. High in energy, the piece flows from slow meandering emotion to high-tension drama. Then spirals down to a still hum, a highly emotive journey. The quartet delicately pluck the strings creating a jumpy experimental dramatic energy in the second movement. The theatrical dynamic builds with elements of cine magic. This powerful charismatic piece flows, spins, glides and tingles until finally building into a frenzy of spectacular energy. The daring contrasting movements throughout the composition produces a rich story. Debussy’s revolutionary String Quartet is considered by many to be one of the finest quartets ever written and it was undeniably my favourite of the evening.

Following the interval the Quartet were joined by a solo Pianist Simon Callaghan, to perform Cesar Franck’s Quintet for piano and strings in F minor. Franck was a Belgian composer who lived and worked in Paris. The Piano Quintet is one of Franck’s most comprehensive instrumental compositions. The pianist opens the piece with dramatic vigour. The Quartet follow producing a powerful and wonderfully executed piece with tantalising pauses. The pianists hands effortlessly dance across the ivory keys. The emotionally charged piano Quintet evokes great sadness, elegant peacefulness then rises to a theatrical finale. The varied textures and skill of this composition generates remarkable stimulation.

The wealth of talent here was outstanding and it is beautifully well synchronised, not one note is placed amiss. I find it wonderful to be taken to another place for a few hours, away from the rat race. A moment of escapism from every day and some self-indulgent ‘me time’. To lose ones self in the music and the moment. There were times you felt there was only one instrument playing, which demonstrated how exceptionally skilled the ensemble is. The conversation between instruments took us on a musical journey of heart felt energy and drama. FOUR STARS

four-stars

Reviewer : Sarah Lewis

King Eider and The John Langlan Band.

Studio 24
Edinburgh
07/11/2014.
 
The Kelburn Garden Party is a yearly trip into and enchantment of Fairy Tale Castles and Bohemian Splendor. A three day Summer festival held in the grounds of Kelburn Castle and Country Park which overlooks the bonny bonny natural beauty that is The Clyde with a natural view of the Isles of Arran and Bute . The venue itself is worth exploring and is quite simply one of the most beautiful places Divine has had the pleasure to party.The venue itself is worth exploring and is quite simply one of the most beautiful places Divine has had the pleasure to party. Last night the Kelburn Massive, hosted by the very handsome Chris Astrojazz, brought the Garden Party To Edinburgh and with The John Langlan Band headlining tonight’s sonic treat. The night was already off to a winner. King Eider opened the nights live musical feast, with a set of well crafted folk songs performed with a Rock n Roll swagger that instantly brought home flavors of Mumford And Sons. Overflowing with beautiful harmonies and soul. Warming the audience up for the master, John Langlan.
 
 
 
 
I have had the pleasure of seeing John Langlan and his band of merry men perform their fusion of Folk played with a Rock N Roll intensity, many times over the years, the fusion and chemistry of the three brilliant musicians, JOHN LANGAN – Vocals, Guitar, Foot Percussion DAVE TUNSTALL – Double Bass, Backing Vocals, Percussion ALASTAIR CAPLIN – Fiddle, Backing Vocals, Percussion. They always drive their audiences wild and last night was no exception. Like the glowing embers of a fire waiting to erupt, the Audience primed by the brilliant King Eider, did just that as Mr Langlan took to the stage, sexy and confident this band took control and the Gypsy Folk Punk exploded and the Audience went mental. It was Ace. Acoustic music never sounded so good.

 
The Dj’s of the night, Samedia Shebeen, Tex Book Tam and Surfin’ Bear. Held the groove through out playing a Soul and Rhythm and Blues selection of floor fillers. The Kelburn Massive brought the party to Edinburgh and it rocked!
 
 
 
 

 

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Symphony

Traverse
7-8 Nov
19.30
symphony
The concept of this piece was nothing if not original. A live band playing various songs on stage while performing, often at the same time, a trio of short plays related to the music but with no particular underlying theme. The only set being the instruments themselves. Kind of a cross between a gig, a sketch show, a theatrical compilation and a musical. And I can’t deny that the quality of the musicianship was superb, each of the performers switching effortlessly between instruments. And the acting was also of a good caliber. The main thing that let it down was that it all seemed rather light-weight. The most intellectually daring element being the format but unfortunately not the content. And after all is the content not the most important element?
The piece also struggled from a lack of any real coherency. Yes the last two skits were kind of about city living and modern romance but where did that leave the first one? A piece about a 15 year old asthmatic who wanted to play netball…? If I didn’t know better I’d have thought that they just tagged it on because they’d ran out of ideas about urban romance. There also seemed to be a slight confusion in tone about the plays. Which, in fairness, could have been the one element that tied them together. They would each start off in a quirky, slightly sickly fashion, then, as if the writer wanted to prove they had some sort of emotional depth, would veer off into a wistful melancholy. Kind of like starting off as Something About Mary and ending with The Graduate. But never managing to be as good as either.
Still a noble attempt at originality and the audience were largely receptive. So maybe I’m just becoming cynical in my old age. Make your own mind up if you want. You’ve still got one night left. THREE STARS
three-stars
Reviewer : Steven Vickers.

The Audio Soup Halloween Bash

Studio 24

Edinburgh

31st October

Audio Soup, is a yearly festival that has recently found a new home an idyllic oasis of calm in the borders of Scotland, Having been personally involved in the evolution of the festival over the course of the last four years I have always delighted in the diversity of the entertainment that this home grown grass roots three day party has to offer. The Audio Soup Massive brought the essence of this festival to Studio 24. Transforming the venue with the creative spirit that makes all of the Soups events so special, It always attracts a good looking creative crowd and the opening Dj’s set the mood perfectly as the grace of dance engulfed me. I knew this was going to be a good night.

The first band, Supa And Da Kryptonites have been brought to my attention a lot recently, apart from performing at the same venues as Divine, Jay Supa the brain child behind this budding Rock N Roll and Hip Hop blend, is also a very talented poetic rapper that can sing. And an MC that can cut it, Jay blew me away at The Beat Master Generals Drum N Bass gig. Now with an added Horn section.(The trumpet player had the best hair on a man I have ever seen, That alone deserves five stars) And the other vocalist also playing lead guitar..Weaving vocal styles Rock n Rap, With a brilliant Saxophonist and a brilliant drummer, powering the words of wisdom and observation, The Journey of Jay Supa. . Something brilliant is forming with this band. They get bigger and better every time. tonight was no exception. The up for it audience got the groove straight away. And I smiled a smile of knowing. Yes Supa And Da Krypyonites are gonna be very successful. They are touring all over Scotland this coming month. Well done Lads.
The head lining band of the night The Mickey 9’s. A Divine first and a Divine delight. The Mickey 9’s. Rocked the house with a confident performance of original songs played with a certain mastery of experience and stage craft. With echos of Franz Ferdinand, this tight band deserve the recognition that they are currently getting. With songs as good as this played with an indisputable funk that elevated and thrilled this capacity audience. Another example of a band on the rise and a fitting climax to the Live part of this musical experience.
The Dj’s of the night, PJ Coyle Ziggy G, and B2B Era. Kept momentum with groovsome tunes keeping everyone dancing for the duration.
Corn Dolly also brought her creative face painting skills to the party, complimenting the bohemian nature of the night encouraging the flamboyance of everyone.
All in all a very entertaining evening and the perfect tonic to shift the winter blues.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Diviner’ Calvert

‘The Circle is Unbroken! / Ceol ‘s Craic

 CCA, Glasgow,

November 1st, 2014

Ceol ‘s Craic – ‘music and banter’ – puts on events to highlight contemporary Gaelic culture, and wants to draw a general audence as well as Gaelic speakers. ‘The circle is unbroken!’ (or, ‘Tha an cearcall neo-bhriste!’) featured a mix of generations and performers, and brought together emerging singers and musicians with established artists a good bit longer in the tooth. That worked fine for the most part – the near capacity, though fluid, audience (in and out of seats at times like a local hall) responded well, and was dished up a lively mix. A fairly impromptu session set from Neil McDiarmid (fiddle), Thomas McCabe (box accordion) and Alistair Cassidy (guitar), relaxed and chirpy at the same time, popped on through jigs, reels and polkas and launched the thing off fine.

Then we had singer Alasdair Whyte, who has a debut album Las from Watercolour Music, working with Margaret Macleod – a key figure with ‘trail-blazers’ Na h-Òganaich from the 70’s on. Alasdair’s voice is rich, true and strong (swallowed just briefly in lower register) and Margaret was on very good form, especially on puirt-à-beul and a contribution later on to that sexy classic ‘My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him’. I missed or didn’t catch some Gaelic titles here, but the blend of Mull marching (and rowing) songs, and tributes to a range of dark haired lads and lasses was delivered with confidence and warmth. Alasdair shared a duet wth Lavinia Blackwall (who featured later with Trembling Bells); Alex Neilson, Ross Wilson and Teddy Balfour backed up well, even the main man of the night parachuted in to the Gaelic choruses, and the first half ended in a rattling ensemble with ‘Canan nan Gaidheal‘.

Mike Heron’s ‘world music’ contribution, right from The Incredible String Band’ and his ground-breaking 1971 album ‘Smiling Men with Bad Reputations’, has lasted and lasted. Here he was in puckish, smiling, focussed and energetic nick: getting in a lot of numbers with little fuss but close attention. The musical connection between him and his daughter Georgia Seddon was a pleasure to follow, and the ‘Trembling Bells’ around – adding Michael Hastings, Simon Shaw, John (‘Frog Pocket’) Wilson to those not tagged before – chimed in entirely as required. We got the whole shebang: ‘This Moment’, Feast of Stephen’ (Georgia subbing for John Cale); ‘Spirit Beautiful’; the long-legged (Arlo, the Carters) ‘Black Jack David’; Robin Williamson’s ‘Cold Day in February’; one of the most beautiful ever short lyrics in the anthem ‘Air’: “You kiss my blood/And my blood kiss me”; then “slithering and squelching on” to ‘A Very Cellular Song’ before two welcome encores – ‘Sleepers, Awake!’ and ‘Log Cabin Home in the Sky’. Wished I’d heard a bit more singing from Georgia; but Lavinia Blackwall is already beautifully in orbit. Mike Heron is, of course, out beyond Arcturus. Drive on Ceol ‘s Craic!

 Reviewer : Mr Scales