Spring concert

Sunday was the return leg of the annual combined concerts with the Corran Singers (Mid Argyll, red jumpers) and the Kilmallie Singers (Fort William, blue hooped sweaters). I missed the first leg in Fort Bill because only a private Harrier jump-jet would have gotten me there in time from Ipswich.
This year’s programme was:

  • Haydn – Nelson Mass
  • Mendelssohn – Hear My Prayer
  • Mendelssohn – Extracts from Elijah
  • Mendelssohn – There Shall a Star Come out of Jacob

The full credits include:

Conductor: Sheila McCallum
Organist: Morley Whitehead
Soprano: Charlotte Sutton
Mezzo-soprano: Marion Ramsay
Tenor: Warren Gillespie
Baritone: Benjamin Weaver

Only a small audience, but then the Public Hall in Ardrishaig is not one of the west of Scotland’s top venues. In fact it’s a bit of a hole and the fact that this is it as far as arts venues go in the Lochgilphead are tells you everything you need to know about the attitude of the local council to culture.

Anyway, back to the main event. Your writer is to be found lurking in the bass section desperately hoping that someone will confidently (a) be counting the intervals accurately and (b) sounding out with the right note. I like the Haydn; this is something I know I’ve sung in the past, probably as a teenage bass, and I enjoy the dynamic movement of the piece. The Mendelssohn on the other had I can quite easily never sing again. I find the Elijah musically trivial and the other pieces terribly bland. All goes to show how little of a music critic I really am (or ought to be).

Still, no major bloopers from the bass section, at least none that earn a scowl from the conductor, and we leave the field bloody but unbowed, honours even, until the next year.



    I wish I was down in Somerset next weekend. The very excellent Skerryvore are playing at the Square and Compass Inn in Ashill on Saturday (21st). I was listening to their two previous CDs earlier this morning and thought I’d check their website, only to find they’re going to be down in my old stomping-ground.

    Skerryvore are a great local favourite, which is always a sign of a good band. The local high school engage them every year for the “formals” – the end-of-school leaving dances for the sixth-formers. Any gig they play locally sells out fast and they play excellently and joyfully, always good criteria in my book.

    So, if you’re in Somerset, or anywhere within travelling distance thereof next Saturday, get along and hear them play. These guys are going to be big.

    Report from the fun day

    The village held its annual Fun Day yesterday, which was opened with the usual flourish by the Mid Argyll Pipe Band:

    This year they were joined by a pipe band from Poland, who, with the occasional borrowed drum, gave a fantastic performance in front of the village hall:

    There was the usual fish race, although the event was run over the jumps for the first time, with the burn course being chosen in preference to the fast straight of the river. John can be seen entertaining the anxious crowd in the first picture as news from the upper reaches of the burn was anticipated; in the second picture he is gathering in the also-swams:

    My personal favourite from the afternoon was the peregrine brought by the local falconer. Just admire her:

    Local crafts were on display and the church held a television-themed flower show:

    In the evening we had a ceilidh and the hall was, to use the local vernacular, mobbed. We’d sourced some scrumpy from Somerset and we strutted our stuff with the ceildih dances we’d been trying to learn over the summer, with more or less success.
    The plan is to try to do something different next year and we are contemplating a local real ale (and imported cider) festival over two days, with local food and music. So far, all gathered opinion is favourable and, you never know, it might even come off!

    Saturday night is music night

    Word having got around the village that some locals had formed a band, the village hall committee seized upon the opportunity to hold a musical evening with barbecue on Saturday night. After two weeks of unbroken sunshine, it was inevitable that advertising a barbecue would catch the attention of the rain gods and that part of the proceedings was, inevitably, conducted under umbrellas.
    There was a pretty good turnout at the hall, about forty folk in all, and with the lights down, it looked like a good crowd. Having been here for two and a half years, I’ve gotten over most of the social angst that normally strikes at community events.
    Since the intention of the evening was to induce audience participation, a bag containing assorted and mysterious instruments of percussion was passed around the tables. I hit upon a wonderful set of wooden “spunes” – exactly like salad servers but with the spoon elements on the outer faces. Since I fancy myself as a wee bit of a spune player (see Spike Milligan for the source of the spelling), I literally hit upon these.
    I’d also taken along my treble recorder (yes folks – it’s a real musical instrument) and after a while was invited to sit in and tootle along with the uilean pipes, fiddles, mandolines and guitars of the band. Much to my interest, the piper couldn’t sort a tune from the recorder.
    Needless to say, a far amount of drink was taken, the willow was stripped and the gays gordoned. Herself retired early the worse for sleepiness and I was rather blurred at the edges on the morrow, but a band’s a band for a’ that.

    Feel the hose …

    It’s astonishing the things that go on in the local primary school, but this is the sort of thing that can give a kid a life-long interest in music. I can still remember my trumpet teacher playing a music stand …

    Some piping links

    You’ll no doubt be aware of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, who have recently pushed the envelope of piping to a sufficient extent to make it onto prime-time TV. Here are a couple of links to some interesting pipers, the Chillis included:
    Red Hot Chilli Pipers
    Fred Morrison
    Both have streaming music and are well worth a listen.

    Karine Polwart and Seth Lakeman

    Just got back from Glasgow having seen Karine Polwart and Seth Lakeman in concert at the Old Fruitmarket. Will add to this post tomorrow when I get more time, but suffice to say, a most excellent evening.
    Later …
    Friday was a great day, albeit a long one. I was on Islay for the day, which meant leaving home at the habitual 0530 to catch the 0700 to the island. Reasonable crossing, if a dozy one, most of which I spent snoozing at my seat. No fabulous sunrise this time, but a good couple of jobs done. Managed to grab a few toggies on the pier at Port Ellen waiting for the ferry back to Kennacraig, herewith:
    Prawn creels on the pier at Port Ellen

    The empty pontoons at Port Ellen in winter

    Sheep off to market in Stirling

    Safely back on land, met up with Her Maj and boarded her car for the drive to Glasgow. Got in to our hotel and out again in short order for a meal in the Baby Grand piano bar – mushroom pasta for me and fish and chips for her – and over the the Fruitmarket just as Karine Polwart started her concert.
    The Fruitmarket is a smashing little venue in Glasgow’s Merchant City area with a lovely retro feel. Not sure what the capacity is, but there must have been around 600 people there that night and it felt absolutely fine. Karine’s singing is simply rapturous to listen to and the poetry of her words is a continual delight – in the same song she writes the two (separate) lines, “a wither of skin and bone” and “you can’t grow a tree from a fallen leaf”. Her writing and music are an emotional and melodic dose of medicine at the end of a long and busy week.
    Seth Lakeman was the second half of this Celtic Connections concert. Seth is the fiddling phenomenon from Dartmoor who has rather set the folk music world alight in the last year or so and is, like Karine, just getting some radio airplay. His music is percussive, passionate, physical and, to be honest, not a little strange, if compelling for all that. His fiddle playing is muscular, almost butch, and forces itself on your attention. His songs are rooted in folk legend from his native Dartmoor and Devon, although he did make a raid across the Tamar in adapting a Cornish tale for one song. He had the whole place jumping, which isn’t bad for a violin or ukulele player.
    Altogether a fantastic evening of music, but both Her Maj and I agreed on one thing, it may have been Seth who rocked the joint, but it was Karine’s music and words that stayed with you afterwords.