Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Rounding up the Festival - bar one!

 The Morning Star have today rounded up a few of my reviews (and one by FairPley's Stephen Wright) into a compilations piece, here. The review for Canzionere Grecanico Salentino/Complete has already been published on this blog (previous article). Below is the full version of the reviews of Blood and Roses - the excellent Ewan MacColl tribute, and The Music of Craig Armstrong, with the composer and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Both were at the Royal Concert Hall.
I think that Arthur Johnstone and Friends should have a review to itself and I think the Morning Star is planning that for later this week.

It's a family affair

Ewan MacColl
What’s the best way to celebrate your dad's 100th birthday? Particularly if that dad was a Marxist, actor, singer, songwriter, playwright, folk revivalist and documentary producer? What better way, thought Calum and Neill MacColl, than to gather together the family, friends, and those influenced by their dad, Ewan, and have them sing his songs. On Sunday at Glasgow's Celtic Connections, the city's Royal Concert Hall resounded with the result. Starting with Calum reading a message from his mum and Ewan's widow, Peggy, the night was full of family connections. In addition to sons Neill and Calum, who curated the concert, grandsons, Jamie, Alex, and Tom MacColl and Harry Mead were on hand to play and sing.

Eliza Carthy
Other family connections were provided by a different folk dynasty, Eliza Carthy was joined by her father and mother, Martin Carthy, and Norma Waterson to harmonise strongly on The Moving On Song, and Thirty Foot Trailer.

Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and many other luminaries joined them to demonstrate the breadth and depth of MacColl's talent. From the use of peoples' own testimony to document their working (and travelling lives) - Chaim Tannenbaum on Shoals of Herring, and the Waterson:McCarthy family on Shift Boys, Shift, through to socialist and campaigning songs - Go Down you Murderers, again from the talented Tannenbaum, and the irrepressible Dick Gaughan with the Spanish Civil War song, Jamie Foyers.

Paul Buchanan
But MacColl's talent also ran to the deeply personal yet universal love songs. Calum MacColl and Karine Polwart duetted on Nobody Knew She Was There, his song for his mother, Betsy Miller, and the Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan managed to deliver a deeply felt and poignant version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, a song  covered by so many people the versions were described by Ewan and Peggy as their 'chamber of horrors! Possibly the most personal however, was the ending of the first half by the sons and grandsons gathering to sing the shanties that MacColl sang around the house.

All in all, a tremendous concert and a fitting tribute to a tremendous socialist talent. Where else would you be able to see Jarvis Cocker and Norma Waterson duetting on Dirty Old Town

The Music of Craig Armstrong  

Craig Armstrong
This was one of the concerts that Celtic Connections throws into the mix from time to time to broaden its musical appeal, to open ears to something different, and – let’s face it – to stir up controversy! An orchestral concert featuring film scores is guaranteed to get the critics harrumphing ‘it’s not Celtic Connections’.
As it is far from clear what the criteria are (or if there are any), it is probably best to judge concerts on their merits. The Music of Craig Armstrong  was worth a five star rating by this standard. Armstrong is probably not a household name, certainly he gives the impression of being uncomfortable in the limelight, but it is almost certain that you have heard his music.
He has written the music for numerous films; Love Actually, Moulin Rouge, Romeo & Juliet, The Quiet American, Far from the Madding Crowd amongst them. Yet the main enthusiasm he expressed is for his work with fellow-Glaswegian, Peter Mullan – Armstrong wrote the music for both Mullan’s Orphans and The Magdalene Sisters – and played the main theme from Orphans.
The concert covered many of Armstrong’s film scores and his own albums, with particular emphasis on his new album, It’s Nearly Tomorrow. Armstrong has a huge talent to get feeling into his music, and he and the musicians he works with are equally good in getting it back out again!
Lucia Fontaine
The massive concert featured a galaxy of fine musicians – James Grant, and Katie O’Halloran sang particularly fine versions of Nature Boy, and One Day I’ll Fly Away respectively. Amongst other guests were former Scottish Ensemble leader, Clio Gould and cellist Alison Lawrence, but the standout was young singer Lucia Fontain√© whose voice on Crash outshone the recorded version.

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