Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pulling down the walls – or how to arrange an ensemble concert – Celtic Connections 4

Songs of Separation - ***** - Mitchell Theatre
In a festival that has made a feature of ensemble concerts, where a number of artists come together around a theme or event, ten women from Scotland and England showed last night how it should be done!
Jenny Hill
Brought together on the Isle of Eigg by bassist, Jenny Hill, this impressive array of talent showed the importance of both ensuring the variety of distinct contributions were given their own space, but working together to deliver a concert greater than the sum of its parts.
From Karine Polwart’s opener Echo mocks the Corncrake, we were treated to a wide-ranging
Karine Polwart
discourse on Separation – from each other, from the land, from family, from life itself. Sparked by the consideration of 2014’s referendum, the project didn’t come together until after that event, and this produced much more wide-ranging consideration, covering Gaelic, Norn, Bulgarian and music hall songs, as well as newly written work.
As Eliza Carthy pointed out – as they met, the unfolding tragedy of refugees gave a very different and human story of separation. That is reflected in the ensemble piece Over  the Border which powerfully combines, the Scots post-Flodden song,  ‘Floo’ers of the Forest’, the English First World War song ‘Flowers of Knaresboro’ Forest’  and the Scots  pipe tune, ‘Blue Bonnets O’er the Border’ in a call to get ‘the gates, and their borders all wede away’.
Rowan Rheingans
The concert constantly referred to how the project had reinforced connections between the musicians – both directly like Rowan Rheingans and Hannah Read’s arrangement of Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  - and indirectly, such as watching all the women singing Gaelic choruses.
Indeed the musicians – who included Hannah James, Hazel Askew, Jenn Butterworth, Kate Young, and Mary McMaster as well as those above – molded together so well in support of each other, that it’s impossible to believe they haven’t been playing together all their lives! Pull down those walls again, please!
The concert was part of a tour to showcase the album created from the women’s time on Eigg. It is released on the 29 January – check the NavigatorRecords website for more info.

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