Last night we went to Dundee, as I was performing my concert on board the Unicorn. We travelled in early just so we could have an hour or so wandering around the centre of town to see if anything was happening.
In city square there were perhaps a thousand people with flags and music, very peaceful and friendly, lots of family groups. They organised a procession around the block, so we followed on at the end.
We left the gathering and headed down to the docks. The Unicorn is a really beautiful ship, genuinely old and not over-manicured like many historical things. On board, the captains cabin had been cleared and was set with chairs; the wine was laid out on a table ouside the cabin entrance, on the main deck. The ceilings on board are very low!
As it got dimmer, people started arriving. There was not a huge turnout, but the low ceilings and the homely atmosphere of the ship seemed to draw people out; everyone was talking to each other in unexpected intimacy.
For the first half of the concert, I played a selection of 18th century music, from the pibroch Maol Donn to the breezy baroque Blossom of the Raspberry. My fiddle tune went OK and was well received – especially with the story about it.
In the interval everyone went into the main deck for wine and conversation. This went on for quite a long time!
Then for the second half I played the Lament for the Union set. People were interested and sympathetic to the sentiments – it felt like a historic moment, thinking about the beginning of the Union in 1707, on the eve of the historic referendum to undo it. Especially with the evening glow from the docks through the windows…
Walking back up through the town late at night to the bus station to catch our ride home, we saw a battle of the billboards. Looks like Yes is winning this one!
As well as doing some work canvassing for the referendum, I have been preparing for a couple of forthcoming events in Dundee. On Wednesday 1st October I am presenting Scottish music 78s for the Wighton lunchtime concert, though more imminent is my concert on Wednesday 17th September, on the eve of the referendum. I’m playing the harp in the elegant and unusual setting of the captain’s cabin on board HMS Unicorn, moored in Dundee docks. This classy wood-panneled room will be a lovely setting for the replica Queen Mary harp. There will be an interval with a glass of wine, and for the second half I am planning to play my “Lament for the Union” programme.
For the first half though, I am thinking of continuing the “300 years ago” theme with a selection of 18th century harp music. Normally I use the Downhill harp for that, but I know the Dundee people love the Queen Mary replica, and I only recently commandeered the Downhill back from my student who has it, so I am thinking laterally. Perhaps one of the ports played by John Robertson on the original Queen Mary harp in the early 1700s will allow me to joke about “Port Athol, Port Gordon and Port Seton” given the nautical setting!
I am also thinking that, as I always like to in a longer performance, I should pull something completely different out as a novelty and so I am thinking of playing a tune on the fiddle. Port na bPucaí has a suitable marine story to go with it and I think might be a nice suprise item. I just have to practice enough to be able to play it convincingly! We’ll see if my resolve can hold until next week!
Last night Ealasaid and I were in Edinburgh for the exhibition and announcement of the winners of the poster competition organised by Bella Caledonia with other groups.
We had a great time looking at and discussing all of the entries. Of course, my entry did not win – far too oddball I think!
I got a copy of the winning poster, signed by the artist Ciaran Murphy
You can also see the shortlist of 20 designs, including mine. I think they are all excellent!
Thanks to Karen Loomis for this nice photo!
Today I performed my Lament for the Union concert in St Andrews. I played the programme of music from my CD-single of the same name, and I used my Downhill harp for the event. The big growly voice of this harp worked very well for this pungent 18th century music, and suited well the airy acoustic of All Saints Church hall.
As well as the candles lit, we also had a big vase full of red and purple roses. At the end audience members each took a rose away “to remember the Union”.
I was quite suprised to be shortlisted for the Bella Caledonia poster design competition! Ealasaid and I will be at the Hemma Bar in Edinburgh a week today to see the exhibition and find out who will win.
Next Wednesday, I will present a topical concert of tunes from three hundred years ago when the Act of Union was signed between England and Scotland.
The concert is on Wednesday 3rd September, at 12.45pm, in All Saints Church Hall on North Castle Street in St Andrews, and is titled “Hot political tunes from three hundred years ago”.
I will present tunes from my new EP-CD Lament for the Union – thoughtful musical pieces which were composed or played in the years around 1707. They reflect contemporaries’ feelings on the newly signed act of union, and express a wide range of emotions felt by people at the time, from sorrow, to anger, to excitement, to cheeky practical joking.
For this concert, I plan to use my reproduction of the baroque Irish “Downhill” harp made in 1702.
I have recorded the Lament for the Union programme and I am putting it out as a handmade CD single!
http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/union/ will get you the details as well as a sample track.
It’s not officially released until 1st July, but I have made up some pre-release copies to take along to tomorrow morning’s performance, 11.30am at Cupar Corn Exchange.
I have long been interested in the organisation of society, the use of symbols and ideas to motivate people and populations, and the structures and institutions that express and control the aspirations and ideas of peoples. Many years ago I got hold of a copy of Uniting the Kingdom (ed. Grant & Stringer, 1995), a book of historical essays on the relations between Scotland and England from earliest times through to the present day. From that point of view the current Union is a curious and unusual settlement.
I find it very interesting to be here at the time of the referendum, when people are talking passionately on all sides about the way that the nation and the state and society are set up, administered and controlled.
I have for some years been aware of the pibroch titled “Lament for the Union”. Now that I have finally got it up and running as a harp tune, I love it! The ground is a plaintive, emotional lament, full of regret and pathos. The variations by contrast are very different, with unexpectedly changing rythym from 4-time to 3-time and back to 4 time, and with a brooding, urgent, almost menacing sequence of theme notes, and a progression of gestures which becomes quite frantic, like the excited chattering of political activists.
I have put together a programme of a few other tunes with direct connection to the political events of three hundred years ago, when Scotland and England stopped being independent nations and joined together as a united kingdom. I will be playing this new programme for the first time at a referendum-themed art exhibition in Cupar this coming Saturday. I don’t know how many people we will get turning up at 11.30am on a Saturday morning but either way it will be a good opportunity for me to shake down this new programme!
Corn Exchange, Cupar, Fife
Saturday 21st June 2014 , 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
featuring contributions from
‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Undecided’ writers, artists, and musicians