Living and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:
Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.
I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.
Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.
Almost a month since the event and I finally managed to get my act together to edit my first longer video from the Islay Sessions 2017. I’ve decided to go slightly out of sequence and start with the later evening sessions in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel, where everyone gathered after Adam’s and Mark’s Concert in the Conservatory (which I’m aiming to edit next).
Sometimes a delayed ferry can be a good thing. I’m usually booked on the afternoon ferry when leaving after one of my Islay visits. This November visit Calmac called to inform me that due to delays in the dry dock (the MV Hebridean Isles was having her annual overhaul) the one ferry timetable would be running slightly longer and they had to move me to a ferry leaving in the evening. Initially I wasn’t too happy as it meant I would arrive at my hotel (which I had already booked and paid on one of those non-changeable, non-refundable deals) much later than planned, but then an unexpected benefit turned up:
As it turned out the long anticipated launch of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook took place the afternoon of the day I was leaving. Under normal circumstances I would have missed it, but because I was now on a later ferry I was able to attend.
The launch took place at the Islay House in Bridgend, a very nice venue for the event. After some mingling and chatting with various people in the foyer we were asked to move over into one of the rooms for the main launch event. Lynn MacDonald opened the proceedings, talking about how the project came to pass and more. Kenneth Thomson spoke about some of the songs and poems included in the collection and how he came across some of them. Finally a representative from Acair Books (unfortunately I’m not sure of her name) spoke about working on the project and the importance of recording the old Gaelic songs and poems. Then it was time for some of the songs. Various singers including Mòd Gold Medal winner 2017 Alasdair Currie sang a variety of songs, some with audience participation. After the music we enjoyed a few biscuits and cup of tea/coffee while talking about the event and buying our copies of the songbook. A very enjoyable afternoon!
The songbook itself is a lovingly collated and designed book, not only for singers and Gaelic speakers, but for everyone (including me who doesn’t know much Gaelic apart from a few words and is musically challenged). Each song receives two pages, on the left are the notes, on the right the words in both Gaelic as well as an English translation. Various beautiful black and white pictures of Islay are spread through the book. Lynn and Kenneth provide an introduction and foreword while at the end of the book we find author biographies. The songbook is ring bound, as someone explained to me that makes it easier to place it on a note stand when performing a song.
Less than a month to go to the Islay Sessions 2017 taking place in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. And after having to miss it last year due to my heart operation I’ll be back to enjoy them even more this year. This years programme includes a variety of artists, some I’ve seen before, others will be new to me.
The Islay Sessions 2017 start on Friday 17/Nov with a Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement will be performing. After the concert there will be informal sessions in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar, I expect until late into the night.
There will be workshops on Saturday morning, the participants will then also perform at the big concert on Saturday evening 18/Nov at Bruichladdich Hall. I hope many local musicians young and old will join Tannara, the Joy Dunlop Trio and Jenn & Laura Beth.
The weekend will close with another Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Sun 19/Nov (followed by more informal sessions in the bar I hope), this time with Innes Watson.
Sorry I’m a bit late, I got my dates mixed up and for some reason thought it’s in a week. But then again it’s not too late yet. The annual Cantilena Festival on Islay officially starts today (there were a few warmup events this week already). Beautiful music played in various venues across Islay, here’s an overview of the programme starting tonight:
The Festival opens at the Columba Centre in Bowmore with a programme of chamber music including Mozart’s Piano trio in G major and Schubert’s Trout Quintet. Players involved in this concert are Scott Mitchell (piano), Angus Ramsay (violin), Michelle Dieux (violin), Stephen Shakeshaft (viola), Sarah Harrington (cello) and Ben Burnley (bass).
The Festival continues on Monday in Laphroaig when our students from the Royal Conservatoire of Music have the opportunity to showcase their talents individually and then as part of the whole ensemble.
Tuesday will see the group at Lagavulin when the programme will include Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bach (double violin concerto) and Rossini. This concert will also feature our guest artist – Tobias Ringborg. He is a renowned Swedish violinist and conductor and Cantilena are pleased to welcome him to Islay which he has never visited.
On Wednesday Tobias will feature as soloist as will Havilland Willshire. The programme includes a Frank Violin Sonata and also piano music by Chopin and Beethoven.
Viennese Evening at Ardbeg. This will be the programme for Thursday and is a new addition to Cantilena’s repertoire. Music will include waltzes and polkas with composers Strauss and Kreisler.
The Festival concludes on Friday 14 July at Bruichladdich, in the Village Hall and will feature soloists and all the players in Mendelssohn’s famous Octet and our usual ‘Classical Ceilidh’
Some general information:
Cantilena is very generously supported by distilleries across the island. Come along and enjoy the music; sample the various malt whiskies; and have the chance to chat to our professional players and students throughout the evening. All concerts start at 7.30 pm and ticket £12/£10 may be purchased at Celtic House in Bowmore or at the door on the venue on the various evenings. There is no charge for school age young people.
And that’s not all, there will also be some whisky and music:
Whisky and Music afternoon
Martine Nouet celebrated whisky expert presents a Whisky and Music afternoon on Wednesday 12 July in Islay House. Martine will guide you through several Islay malts which will match with music which Cantilena will play.
Just a short update on yesterday’s post about the Mac Ìle CD with Fraser Shaw’s Islay tunes. Yesterday I wrote I couldn’t share any tunes, but I’ve since found out that the album is actually available online to listen to (to get you interested) and more importantly to buy. You can find it on Bandcamp:
While you can buy the download I would highly recommend buying the physical CD, Somhairle‘s artwork is as beautiful as the music.
As I’m writing this The Islay Sessioners will be playing some beautiful tunes at Bruichladdich Hall on Islay, for today is the Fraser Shaw Islay tunes CD launch I mentioned back in May. Sadly I can’t be there myself as my recent holiday didn’t last long enough, so I’m doing the next best thing, listening to the CD.
I picked up my copy from the Ardnahoe distillery shop in Islay House Square last week, it will also be available at Bruichladdich distillery and I assume at the Port Charlotte Hotel, a big supporter. Probably also other places on Islay. And if you can’t get to Islay to get your copy you can of course order it online from The Fraser Shaw Trust website.
I can’t share any tunes here, so for now the beautifully designed CD (artwork by Somhairle MacDonald) is all I can give you.
But of course the music is the most important part. Of course I’m not a music critic, my knowledge of music extends to ‘I love it’, ‘I like it’ and ‘No, thanks, that’s not for me’. This CD is firmly in the first category, I love it. My favourites are the Pipe Set (#5) and Cairn’s Set (#9), I’m going to quote Ciara MacTaggart from her review in The Ileach:
There is a pipe set on track 5 that is powerful and toe-tapping with harmonious piping riffs. The type of tunes that fill you with energy and tunes as a musician you want to learn immediately. Track 9 Cairn’s Set does something similar. It has the power to turn stressful worries into a positive, lifting your mood immediately. In fact, the entire album has this contagious air about it.
It should be obvious that I highly recommend it. A fantastic job by all the musicians and everyone else involved in this project. I had the pleasure to see many of them during the Islay Sessions over the last few years and hope to see and hear them again in November.