A stage show featuring songs, music, poetry and images of WW1, and inspired by a double CD published by Greentrax Recordings, ‘Far, Far From Ypres’, played to a packed audience at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, 21st January, as part of Celtic Connections 2012.

This premier performance took place in a week when the film War Horse went on general release.  People who had seen both War Horse and Far, Far from Ypres commented on how the human voice in combination with the projected still images in the Ypres show had an even greater emotional impact on them than the film.

Narrated by Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland, the show grew from an initial plan for 12 musicians to a cast of 23 people.  The show was both entertaining and emotional resulting in a standing ovation in the packed hall.  Iain Anderson said that for him this was the most emotional event he has ever participated in.


‘ …The enthusiasm and commitment from all the participants is immense and was a remarkable and unique stage presentation.’

‘Far, Far From Ypres’ presented the Songs, Poems & Music of World War 1, much of it viewed from a Scottish perspective.  The performance was as enjoyable as it was thought provoking and inspirational.  A shorter version of the show was a highlight of a recent concert in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Scotland’s major folk music label, Greentrax Recordings.

The live performance followed on from a critically acclaimed album ‘Far, Far From Ypres – Songs, Poems & Music of World War 1’ which Greentrax Recordings released in 2008.  As well as being successful as a music release, the album is featured in Army Museums in the UK and has become an inspirational resource for many visitors to the Visitor Centres and Museums in Belgium and France.

When Ian McCalman of the Scottish folk group, The McCalmans, was asked to produce the show, he envisaged the size of the cast being limited to 12.  He was then inundated by calls from musicians who had some sort of distant connection to the Great War.  Ian McCalman said; “Budget was not a priority to those musicians, who were more interested in being involved in a project with which they could all identify.  We couldn’t possibly have attracted ‘names’ like Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Sangsters, Stephen Quigg and the other equally talented musicians if they had not been interested in the show’s content.  It is a labour of love for them all and I applaud them for it.”  “The enthusiasm and commitment from all the participants is immense and has resulted in a remarkable and unique stage presentation.”

Ian McCalman committed himself totally to the stage show assembling a cast of experienced performers including Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Ian Bruce. Stevie Palmer, Stephen Quigg, Donald Hay, Tom Ward and folk groups Sangsters, Soopna and Ragged Glory.  Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland was the narrator for the stage show.

Back projection of graphics and photographs from WW1 was by Pete Heywood, Editor of The Living Tradition magazine.  The Living Tradition featured Far, Far from Ypres after it was released on CD and encouraged the idea of extending the project to include a staged version.

The show was sold out two weeks in advance of the performance.

Michael MacLennan – Wolves

Michael MacLennan is a Scottish pianist, singer and songwriter. Brought up in the small village of Nethy Bridge in the Scottish highlands, he began playing the piano at seven years of age. Having won his place at the Royal College of Music, playing gigs 7 days a week, and writing two songs each day for a year, Michael MacLennan’s passion for producing awe-inspiring compositions cries out in his debut album ‘Wolves.’ Released February 20th 2012

Prior to moving back to Scotland, Michael supported himself by playing gigs across London where he caught the attention of Rod Stewart. Laying down his own interpretation of the classic Kriss Kristofersson track ‘For The Good Times’, Stewart tapped his shoulder and said ‘Bloody good job son!’ dropping him a £50 note. His songwriting skill is akin to the greats like Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen but harmoniously blends with the sounds of contemporaries like Damien Rice and Paolo Nutini.

While recording ‘Wolves’ from 2010 till 2011 and playing gigs all over Scotland and through out Edinburgh, Michael worked with many rising producers in the area, including Craig Ross and Garry Boyle. Together the trio found something unique, and their genuine collaboration is apparent in the finished work.Wolves’ is a timelessly brilliant album that could have been plucked from a California recording studio in the 70’s. Mesmerizingly talented beyond his years, MacLennan’s lyricism and instrumentation coalesce wonderfully. The first single on the album ‘To the Fire‘ is catchy, evocative, and relatable and is featured in the video below. Perhaps it is because the piano tracks were recorded amid heavy storms and fear of being snowed in but, ‘Wolves’ is the perfect album to drink a nice stout by the fireplace to on a cold winter night.

Tracks from his EP ‘History’ and recent single ‘To The Fire‘ have gained radio play on BBC Radio Gloucestershire BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Nottingham, Blast 1386, Moray Firth Radio, Leith FM and Q Radio network. With many songs in his backlog and much more music to create yet, Michael MacLennan is a rising star and ‘Wolves’, set to release in February 2012, is a must listen for music fans of all backgrounds!

We at folking.com believe that this could be one of the most important debut release of 2012!

“Michael MacLennan’s songs are as timeless as they are heartfelt, an old school piano-fighter who allies true craft to infectious passion in his music. I often stick one or two of his tracks on my compilation CD’s so I can kid on I’m sophisticated.” – Christopher BrookmyreScottish best-selling author.

“Jaw-droppingly good on the show. I had to stop what I was doing and turn the radio up. Stunning!” –Pennie LatinSenior Producer and Presenter, BBC Radio Scotland.


Founder and frontman of The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the phenomenon of Bagrock, bagpipe rock-star Stuart Cassells (32) has left the band. After nearly 10 years since forming the band, Stuart has decided it is time to step down from Bagrocking stages to pursue his other goals and opportunities.

Always a natural showman, Stuart was the recipient of The BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2005 and was the first person to gain a degree in bagpipes from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.He went on to record with rock group The Darkness for their second album ‘One Way Ticket to Hell and Back’ and for the Harry Potter film ‘Goblet of Fire’.

Phil Collins commented on his piping: “I must say that I am one of those people who find the sound of Bagpipes exciting, invigorating and inspiring. So when Stuart’s CD starts there is an emotion, energy. This recurs time after time with memories of the early Who, believe it or not. His pipes are like the open string Rickenbacker of Pete Townshend. Not much between them”  Phil Collins

Despite achieving much success in traditional bagpipe competitions, Stuart got greater pleasure and satisfaction from entertaining with the bagpipes and soon found himself in great demand all over the world performing at a variety of functions and engagements. It was in 2002 whilst a student at the RSAMD, Stuart thought that there was a demand for a new, modern bagpipe group that could take the bagpipes to a wider audience by putting on show and taking the formality away from bagpipes.

For the last two years, Stuart has been suffering with the condition called ‘Focal Dystonia’ also known as Musicians’s or writer’s cramp. This has meant he has had to have various different treatments to allow him to perform to his high standard, including Botox injections into the arm. He is hoping his time away from performing will allow him to fully focus on recovering from focal dystonia and he can rejoin the band for a few special gigs in the future.

‘Focal Dystonia’ is a neurological movement disorder that affects about 1 in every 200 musicians and it prevents musicians from using the fine motor control required to play their instrument, resulting in cramps and abnormal postures. As well as musicians, the condition can also affect others who perform high precision hand movements such as surgeons and artists. Research is being carried out but at the moment there is no cure.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have been ‘Rockin all over the World’ from New York to Beijing playing to huge festivals and packed venues. The band found fame after winning the BBC One Saturday Night television Talent show ‘When Will I be Famous’ and the band was named ‘Live Act of the Year’ at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2007 and 2010. Their four CDs, which Stuart co-produced, have sold over 250,000 copies combined.

Artist Web Link: www.redhotchillipipers.co.uk