Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

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O2 ABC (Glasgow)

23rd Jan

The chairs were out last night on the main floor of the ABC, ready for Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, a world-touring outfit from Italy’s heel – the Salentino Peninsular. Their music of choice is the very old & very funky folk music form known as Pizzica Tarantata, which I had the great fortune to witness in its home region three winters ago.

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The support act were a highly delightful vocal group from South Africa, known as COMPLETE, who served up a fine sample of zulu-inspired native songs. Cue amazing harmonies & synchronised foot & hand movements & a completely enthralling sound that made me feel as if I was taking a nice hot bubble-bath. Pockets of Gospel broke through into their music, but unfortunately they completely butchered Yesterday by Paul MaCartney! For the last two songs they were joined onstage by Hannah Beaton & Tom Cannister, & it was lovely to see the Gaelic & the Zulu vocal traditions forge in a seamless blend.

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Then came the Italians, an amiable bunch of polished performers, who have played across the planet, including a Burmese music festival. Formed in 1975 by the writer Rina Durante, it has changed personnel on many occasions, but never its quality interpretation of the Pizzica music that has been performed in the piazzas & tavernas across Salento for centuries.

Heralding from Lecce, the gorgeous capital of Puglia, they were led by Maura Durante through a rich ensemble of songs & dances. One of these was an exceptionaly poignant piece, & uses the poem ‘Solo Andate’ Erri De Luca for its inspiration & lyrical contect. A testimony to the fatal one-way ticket that many African immigrants buy on the flimsy rafts to Italy’s shores, Durante reminds the audience that, ‘we are all sons of immigrants.’

Some of the songs in partucular really explore the paramaters of the individual chord, with a massive tamborine & boiled-egg shaped fist-drum kicking on the single bum-bum-bum of the stomping bass, with the violin, lutes, bagpipes & accordian holding the same note in a brutal & dynamic surge of sound. The only melody comes from the enchanting singers, while in front of them a beautiful woman dances elegantly, strutting & parading her stuff with a liberty forged from the unrestrained energies of the Pizzica.

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About me, like flash-fires breaking out in the September hills above Santa Catarina, handsome couples began to shimmer in a ritual meant to cure the poison of a tarantula’s bite – hence the name, Pizzica Tarantata. It comes across as something of a mating-dance, with twirling girls, arms arching from their hips, being courted by the barefooted boys buzying about them with their own arms stretched to Heaven. By the end of the show it seemd the whole place was dancing, & joining hands they danced around the ABC to settle in front of the stage to acclaim their heroes.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

(from Solo Andata)

It was not the sea to gather
We picked up the sea with open arms.

Dropped from the highlands burned by wars and not from the sun,
traversed the deserts of the Tropic of Cancer.

When he was in sight of the sea from a height
It was the finish line, hug the foot waves.

Africa was over the sole of ants,
caravans learn from them to trample.

Under the lash of dust in column
Only the first has an obligation to raise the eyes.

The others follow the heel above,
the journey on foot is an ice-backs.

King Creosote

Royal Concert Hall

22nd Jan

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Last night at a packed Glasgow Royal Concert Hall we were witness to a magnificent musical and visual feast. King Creosote’s 9 piece band and 8 singers pulled off a stunning accompaniment to Director Virginia Heath’s lovingly collated images of a bygone Scottish era. It’s fair to say that both the music and the film could almost stand alone as fully formed pieces, but in combination, in a live setting, the experience was simply overwhelming.

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Kenny Anderson’s keening tenor was the perfect foil for the nostalgic and evocative images. Opening number Something To Believe In set the tone for the whole performance as images of; docks, North Gardner Street in Partick, the Highlands and Islands, foggy cobbled roads and dockland flashed by to a beautifully realised number played by the whole band.

The film was split into sections giving us Scotland at work, war and play. Over the course of the film we were taken to the smoky streets and factories of the city to the beauty of the Scottish countryside and beyond to the bleak Island Scottish fisheries. In Miserable Strangers we even got as far as New York with Scots emigrating abroad.

 

 

Industry contrasted pouring molten metal in a steel work with the bottling of whisky. Bluebell Cockleshell gave us girls skipping through the streets to traditional songs. The music throughout matched the mood of the film perfectly and the band rose to the occasion.

 

 

Support act Tiny Ruins are basically a vehicle for singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook and were the ideal addition to the evening with dreamy melodies and Fullbrooks pure vocal.

All in all there was too much to digest or describe in a simple review. Suffice to say that the evening perfectly represented the aims of Celtic Connections and that King Creosote and Virginia Heath have much to be proud of.

 

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Andy Fairweather / Band of Friends

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O2 ABC (Glasgow)

22nd Jan

Last night, at the ABC in Glasgow, I found myself at 38 years old either the second or third youngest in a crowd of about 300 people. All around me were men of distinction & women ‘of a certain age’ (who did actually look cute when the lights dropped), who would have been teenage acolytes of the two rocky-bluesy bands bands that were about to take the stage.

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First up was Andy Fairweather, accompanied by the Lowriders, of whom Andy said, ‘In 51 years ive never had a better band.’ The music was tight & full of lovely juxtapositions betwen the instruments sax, drums, bass & Andy’s several guitars – & its no wonder that he’s worked with such leading luminaries as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan & Jimi Hendrix.

When singing, I noticed that his lips hardly moved, & I was informed by an audience member that it was a trademark of his, that cocky little mod-smirk that made people love or hate him in equal measure. Having only 50 minutes for the entire set, there was no banter between songs, only frantic guitar-swapping & slightly quicker versions.

The songs were diverse, from Reggae to Beatles b-sides (I’ll Get You), which were lapped up by an increasingly ‘digging-it’ audience, who cheered loudly when they heard the first notes of his great classic, ‘Wide Eyed & Legless.’I especially enjoyued ‘If Paradise is half as nice,’ originally perform’d by Fairweather’s first band, Amen Corner.

The headline act was the trio BAND of FRIENDS, a tribute to the Irish guitar-god, Rory Gallagher, who died in 1995. Two of the band, bass-player Gerry McAvoy & drummer Ted McKenna, had played with Rory in the past, with – jamming for 20 years with the guy. The singer was the Dutch looklike, playalike & singlike Marcel Scherpenzeel, who did a tremendous job, but I dont the band were ready for a bunch of grumpy, over-loyal Weegies.


To some, Ballyshannon’s Rory Gallacher was & still is a hero – selling 30 million records without ever appearing on top of the pops. A member of the audience told me how he’d seen Rory’s first band, Taste, in Inverness in ’68 & seen him 15 more times.

But Scherpenzeel was no Rory, a little too static on stage; you could really at times cut the tension with a knife, shouts of ‘turn it up’coming from a crowd not quite prepared to see their hero being replaced by an imposter – & at one point a plastic empty glass whizzed Scherpenzeel’s head. Still – the timless genius of the music won out in the end, & by the final songs the crowd had finally de-shocked & warmed to the band, urged on by the ever-manic McAvoy.

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Reviewer : Damo Bullen

In The Round

Oran Mor

21st January

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Youth, Charisma & genuine Talent were all present in abundance last night at the Oran Mor, for the showcase of the ‘Middle of Nowhere Records’ family. Sat together in a semi-circle, bantering freely & accompanying each other’s self-penned orphic hymns were Glasgow’s marvellous velvet-jacketed Roddy Hart, Stornaway’s soft-voiced Colin Macleod & elfin-minded Miss Irenie Rose, Mull’s shy but beautiful Sorren Maclean & of course  Aviemore’s Rachel Sermanni, about whose divine vocals & remarkable fretswomanship the Record label was initially woven.

Rob Hicks, the boss of ‘Middle of Nowhere’ has an excrutiatingly annoying eye for talent – his charges are really that good. So happy with them I believe he is, that when he discovered that his one-off vinyl edition to accompany the show was still in transit from Germany (the weather apparently), he was still bloody grinning, so sure was he of his lovely team. He took orders on teh LP, by the way, & offered to pay postage for free!

 

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The show was sold-out, packed to the rafters & really enjoying the hootenanny laid up on such a harmonious platter. It felt a bit like being sat in the Gaslight Cafe, Greenwich Village, 1959, with the young Bob & Dylan shaking the midwest dust from his feet – then in walks Joan Baez & the rest is history. For me, it seems like the natural genius of the folk music of the Highlands & Islands could well be instrumental in some kind of national revival. These guys are young, with the world at their feet, with many a beautiful song yet to be written, yet to be plucked from the glens & the streams, yet to be sung on the desolate hills.

I think the best way to finish this review is to simply let the kids do the talking for themselves, so here are a few you-tube clips, & a link to their record label, where I am sure you will soon be purchasing an album or three.

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Danny Kyle Open Stage

GLASGOW ROYAL CONCERT HALL

 21 January 2015

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January is, traditionally, a healthy month spent recuperating from festive frolics and exertion. Fortunately, Glasgow fails to comprehend the term quiet night in, and an array of parties to choose from continues, from the formidable King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution to the endearing and irreplaceable Celtic Connections festival. With snow blanketing the suburbs, it was down to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to thaw the fingers and draw the crowds in. The Danny Kyle stage, named after the legendary Scottish folk singer, is held within the Exhibition Hall and has been the platform where a number of now-established names presented their talents. This free-entry stage welcomed submissions from rising musical acts to exhibit their songs in an effort to reach a ticketed showcase concert on 1st February 2015.

 

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Now five nights in, and with Celtic Music Radio streaming the event, tonight’s acts included one of the Vale of Leven’s most-loved bands, Have Mercy Las Vegas. Described by Jim Gellatly as “an ideal festival band with stacks of energy”, the Vegas have been building up a steady following across the country over the last couple of years with their obstreperous, rollicking sounds blended with congenial polyphonic harmonies. With debut album ‘That’s Life’ neatly tucked into the rear-end of 2014, the band were keen to propel their West Dunbartonshire-flavour of roots and blues and rally the frozen audience into stamping grit off their boots; raise one mitten to the roof.

 


With no fewer than six band members, most stages are usually squeezed to fit the full Vegas crowd in. It was apparent from the start that bassist Marc McLean would be forced to play much of the set with his back to the crowd in an effort to avoid feedback. This ploy worked as the band eased themselves into EP release and fans’ favourite “Tear To My Eye”. The glorious echo of the line hanging out with an angel quickly had the seated crowd yearning for more. This was followed by a frenetic, feverish “Barn Stomp”, led by Andrew Napier’s agitated fiddle and Stephen Scott’s equally frenzied banjo-playing. It was a smart move by Vegas to showcase different strings to their bow, pardon the pun, slowing things down with lead singers Crispin McAlpine and Eilidh Trotter sharing harmonies on the lesser-played “Plastic Promises”, before rounding off their 4-song set with the wonderful “Bonnie and Clyde” from their debut album.

Have Mercy Las Vegas performing on the BBC Alba programme, Rapal.
Have Mercy Las Vegas performing on the BBC Alba programme, Rapal.

Second to the stage was student Tom Vevers. This was a far more intimate performance which allowed Vevers to demonstrate a sweet display of acoustic guitar and vocal dynamics. Opener “Wait And See” had shades of Tom McRae, captivating the 250 capacity-filled audience. A slower-paced love ballad “Science Class” followed after Vevers’ witty repertoire between songs, begging the subject of the piece Where do you think the light goes when it leaves your eyes?, and one final song “Low” wrapped up a short, but effective set.

 

Following Vevers was the treat that was Granny Green. This trio consist of a trumpet, an accordion, and a much-cherish tuba. Stamping their own mark on an established opener, it was left to tuba player Rachel Brown to provide a quite breathtaking opener for second number, “Fnook” (Ladies, correct me if this is not the right spelling but I do remember that it is a Norwegian word for ‘something small’). A fascinating display of musicianship which managed to make the tuba sound like a didgeridoo and a drumkit in places, and a true delight to see and hear live. The Granny Green girls rounded off their set with a third song, mournful to start with but gradually twisting, turning, bordering on film noir as they reached the climax. This was the first band since Grousebeater Soundsystem at Loopallu Festival in 2009 that has made me  smile ear to ear at sounds that belongs to no genre and are entirely original.

 

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Granny Greeen

 

Shetland lass Chloe Robertson filled the fourth spot with an acoustic set similar to the afore-mentioned Vevers – each song improving on the one before it. Robertson’s warm manner shone through songs “The Symptoms And The Signs” and “Stitches” – the latter was described as a gentle let-down. Feasibly the strongest song that emerged was the clever “Insomnia”. Hardly breaking new ground on subject matter, but Robertson’s ability to lend her own personal experience in the songs draws listeners in like moths to a flame. The fifth and final number “Fish Out Of Water” was penned when Robertson was a mere 15 years old, which makes it all the more remarkable that this was a delightful way to finish her turn on the Danny Kyle stage.

 

 

The final act of the evening was the recently-formed Talisk. This trio had already performed at the Royal Albert Hall and were a clear favourite among large sections of the audience. The balance between concertina, fiddle and guitar quickly engaged the audience into hand-clapping and whooping along with each number. Talisk’s interpretation of traditional music wasn’t to my own tastes, but a version of “Baby Broons” was a welcome addition within their set, and Mohsen Amini’s concertina on final song “Kettles” was highly moving, suggesting that this band deserved their place every bit as much as their peers this evening.

It was then left to host Liz Clark to thank all who had contributed to a wonderful evening and wait to hear in approximately one week’s time which successful act will proceed to the illustrious ticketed event.

 

Reviewer : Stephen Watt

Wee Dub Hogmanay

Studio 24

Edinburgh

New Year 2015!!!

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From half way down Carlton Road you could hear the sound of Studio 24″s musical masterpiece that they had put on for the end of 2014 !!!!  On entering Studio 24 the music took hold of you like a warm embrace from a close friend. THE WEE DUB was in full swing, blasting out the tunes that make them unique…  The music, the dance and the vibe was electric. Without further thought I plunged myself into the crowd, onto the dance floor and allowed the music to take me on a magical musical journey through the first few hours of 2015.

With Mungo’s Hi Fi, Prince Batty and Dread Squad, we were all in for the long haul.  A  Five Hour mash-up of friends, dancing, drinking and loving was only what most people had in mind.  With a great vibe and friends you couldn’t have asked for a better way to see in a New Year and ending the last one with a Bang !!!! Well done to all the staff at Studio 24 and to the Wee Dub crew for putting on a great show.

Reviewer : Spud

Dunedin Consort : Handel’s Messiah

Queens Hall, Edinburgh

21/12/14

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Handel composed this sacred oratorio in 1741 to raise money for 3 Dublin charities, his librettist Charles Jennens provided the text compiling verses from the old and new testament to depict the life and death of Jesus and the tragic injustice of his life in order to bring salvation to mankind. Handel was in poor health at the time, but the result was Handel’s most revered oratorio, which was extremely well received from its first performance through to the present day.It has certainly stood the test of time, and provides a welcome refuge from the commercial emphasis of Christmas in our modern times. The music brings this spiritual text an emotional depth and moves us in a way that would be much harder with the text alone. Shifting from major to minor keys, dynamic string parts, and beautiful harmonic progressions. Solo parts follow choral parts, covering the emotional spectrum of hope, melancholy and sorrow, conflict and ultimately celebration and joy of Christ’s resurrection and mankind’s liberation.

The orchestra and choir were relatively small and gave an intimate atmosphere that I quickly adjusted to. The music was performed to a very high standard, conducted and directed by John Butt. Mhairi Lawson the solo soprano was the highlight for me, with her moving arias and relationship with the audience. Rowan Hellier, sang the alto parts with delicate precision and Thomas Walker tenor sang the beautiful ‘comfort ye’ and other arias with sensitivity and poignancy.

David Shipley with his regal bass voice added majesty and richness to the performance. This is an annual event at the Queen’s hall which many no doubt attend year in year out, with such a beautiful piece of music so expertly and sensitively performed, it is surely soul music that is much appreciated at this time of year. FOUR STARS

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Reviewer : Sophie Younger

Holly at Christmas

Eden Court – One Touch Theatre

Inverness

11-13 Dec 2014

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Buddy Holly and the Cricketers provided some festive fun and entertainment and certainly got the crowd rocking at Eden Court’s One Touch Theatre. Even though the music was from well before my time, I found I knew most the words and like most people in the audience was singing along and even had a dance in the second half.

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The couple next to me said they saw the show last year, so it seems it has become a Christmas tradition for some. As expected they played plenty of Buddy Holly hits such as Peggy Sue, Heartbeat and Oh Boy along with some other classics of the era such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Frankie Valli to name a few.

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With a talented line up line of actor musicians, who have featured in West End shows such as Buddy and Lennon there was a good mixture of music and comedy and I was quite impressed at the ease that some of the band where able to both sing and play several instruments (sometimes during the same song). They finished off with an exciting & triumphant extended encore,  a medley of songs which really got the blood thumping. All in all, a lively fast paced rock and roll show that will really get you into the Christmas spirit. THREE STARS

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Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne

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

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Reviewer : Mr Scales

Surveying International Music