GLENCRAIG SCOTTISH DANCE BAND Latest Album Reviewed

GLENCRAIG SCOTTISH DANCE BAND Latest Album ReviewedStrictly Ah’m Dancin’! (perhaps a cheeky reference to Bruce…and I don’t mean ‘Robert The’) or so it would appear according to the cover of this recording by the Glencraig Scottish Dance Band. For those of us that still remember with fondness the great Jimmy Shand this album will bring back memories of school days spent in the gym doing simple (and not so simple) Scottish country dances. A few of the tunes like “La Russe”, “The Minstrel Boy” and “Irish Rover” are established favourites whilst those penned by band leader Nicol McLaren including the substantial 13 minute set-piece “Lion Standard Quadrilles” are very much in keeping with the tradition. It’s obvious from the informative sleeve-notes (which include very helpfully the dance ‘calls’) that this is a band that takes both the ‘feel’ of the dance and the music very seriously without any of the stiff ‘how it should be done’ in their performance. Far from it in fact as the rest of the band; Gordon Howe (fiddle), Neil Caul (2nd accordion), Isobelle Hodgson (piano), John Sinton (double bass) and Robert Simpson on drums really put their all into it for what proves to be a very enjoyable ‘Saturday Night At The Ceilidh’ that is beloved of both young and old alike. If you want to party Scots style check this CD out. 

PETE FYFE

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ALISTAIR OGILVY – Leaves Sae Green

The evocative piano introduction to “Wars O’Germanie” by rising singer Alistair Ogilvy puts me in mind of a young Sean Keane. No bad thing if you’re just starting out on a road that will hopefully prove fruitful in your endeavours as a performer. Producer and engineer Mattie Foulds brings out the best from Ogilvy and in utilising Aly MacRae (piano/fiddle/pocket trumpet [?]), Steven Polwart (guitars) and Inge Thomson (additional vocals) provides enough broad strokes of the brush to colour the performance in well balanced shades. Taking a hoary old chestnut like “The Bonny Ship The Diamond” and doing something interesting with it must have been a bit of a challenge but then MacRae’s interpretation (I’m assuming he has a background in jazz) with its dramatic, brooding chords and double-tracked vocals propels the song with just the right amount of theatrics without over-egging it. On another track and with a customary nod towards his Scottish heritage, the inclusion of Burn’s “Crowdie” and its jaunty double stopped fiddle delivery works surprisingly well coupled with an unusual, but none the less enjoyable setting of “Wantonness”. Finally, on a personal note I’d like to thank Alistair for including Andy M Stewart’s anguished song of unrequited love “Where Are You Tonight, I Wonder”…it truly is a classic in the art of song-writing.

PETE FYFE

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FAR, FAR FROM YPRES – ONE OF THE EMOTIONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2012

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.

FAR, FAR FROM YPRES – CELTIC CONNECTIONS STAGE SHOW STARTS WITH CAST OF 12 AND ENDS UP WITH 23.

‘ …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.

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