Last weekend, I was in Carrier Waves Studio, Glasgow with The Routes Quartet. We spent two full days recording with engineer Spad (Treacherous Orchestra, Halcyon) for our debut EP.
The EP will consist of four tracks, all arranged by the quartet. We really enjoyed the whole experience and it was a pleasure to work with Spad.
Plans are currently underway to record our debut album, so watch this space for news!
Playing at this were some of the most recent Ceòl Mòr participants along with some alumni of the course, and Routes for the final three numbers. We really enjoyed playing with the group one last time, and it was lovely to catch up with everyone again!
Celtic Connections is in full swing and I am still reeling after a very special, fantastic night on Saturday (Jan 16th) at the Islay Night concert, which took place in the Strathclycle Suite of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. It consisted of a plethora of talented musicians local to Islay and also, "The Islay Sessioners" playing the compositions of Fraser Shaw. Back in November I wrote a blog on the Islay Sessions, where I spoke about a group of us (the Sessioners) playing Fraser's tunes at the festival concert. This was the very start of a project in which the aim is to release a book of all of Fraser's tunes, along with an album of his music. In preparation for the Celtic Connections concert, we built on this material. Islay Night was to be the official launch of The Fraser Shaw Trust, which aims to raise money for MS charities through a range of projects celebrating Fraser and his music, including festivals, concerts, and of course, this tune book project.
Lastly were the Rowan Brothers, a very talented and lively young accordion and piano duo. In between each act, Iain chatted to the crowd, telling some lovely stories about Islay.
The Islay Sessioners performed for the second half of the concert. This big band consisted of Angus MacKenzie & Calum MacCrimmon on pipes & whistles, Kevin O'Neill (flute), on fiddles were myself, Adam Sutherland, Lori & Innes Watson, Laura-Beth (LB) Salter (mandolin), John Somerville (accordion), Tina Jordan Rees (piano), Jenn Butterworth & Ross Martin on guitars and finally Duncan Lyall on bass. On vocals were Lori, LB, Jenn, Innes, with backing vocals from Duncan and Calum.
Another set I really enjoyed playing was Strings & Blowy Things by Fraser, along with Turas Friseal a Glaschu, co-written by Calum & LB. Both tunes were combined into a lovely string arrangement by Duncan, and then to finish of the set a very popular tune called £50 Cashback was played. This is a jig co-written by Fraser, John & Kevin and is an old favourite within the Scottish folk scene.
There were also two more sets that were heard at the Islay Sessions; Murmuration & Aurora - a spectacular piece of music, and two really lively reels, Slumberland's & K's. The reels were a great finish to the concert! The Islay Gaelic Choir then got on stage for an encore, with the old Gaelic song Sine Bhan. They sang it beautifully and all the musicians joined in for the chorus. As the song ended we all started playing an old favourite written by Fraser called The C-Side. A number of the musicians from the first half of the concert joined in with us and it was a fantastic end to the night!
Afterwards there were some drinks at the Strathclyde Suite bar to toast the launch of the project. It was great to catch up with everyone! We then went on to the festival club where the Islay Sessioners played a spot to a very lively crowd. They thoroughly enjoyed Fraser's music and even sang along!
It was an absolutely brilliant night and a great celebration of Fraser's music and spirit. He would have been chuffed to hear so many of his tunes played on stage.
Massive thanks to Lesley and the Celtic Connections crew for making Islay Night possible, and to the very generous sponsors, Bruichladdich and Calmac Ferries.
Keep up to date with the latest news regarding the trust and it's projects here.
I had a great time performing with Ryan Murphy and Adam Brown last weekend at the Ceòl 's Craic
concert, which ran as part of Celtic Connections. The night started off with a group of young Gaelic singers, under the instruction of the lovely Maeve MacKinnon. We were on next and played a half hour set of Irish jigs and reels. A few of the sets were newly arranged and we were delighted when they went down well! We finished off our spot with The Windmill Set, an old favourite of ours which we recorded last year (listen here).
LMN is a charity which works with a very diverse range of people that rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to experience live music - some of whom are very disadvantaged. They often face difficulties in communicating, cut off from the joy and pleasures of participating and sharing with others. The charity provides access to live music for people like this, who otherwise might not get this experience. At the same time, the initiative aims to inspire young musicians by providing them with unique performance opportunities.
Routes are really looking forward to bringing our music to the wider community, working with people of all ages and from all backgrounds. We are also excited about the opportunities this gives us as a band, performing regularly and testing our new material to live audiences. Performing with us for LMN gigs will be our fiddle dep. Charlie Stewart.
Last weekend saw the fifth running of the Islay Sessions festival. This one was anticipated to be a particularly poignant one, as it was the first since Fraser Shaw (piper/whistle player/composer) passed away. Fraser was one of the main organisers of this new festival, being an Islay resident for the past number of years. He was always seen by all his friends, musicians and otherwise, as the "link to Islay". Along with Grahame, Ciara and Andy, Fraser built this festival up from scratch and would have been very disappointed if it stopped in its tracks.
Tina and I drove up together early Friday to catch the morning ferry. Once on Islay we got settled into our accommodation - we were staying in on of James Brown's cottages on Octomore farm with John, his wife Natalie and their newborn baby Findlay. John, Tina and I then went down to Port Charlotte Hotel to say hello to Grahame and Isobel and everyone. All other musicians were staying either in the hotel or in flats in the village.
After meeting up with everyone, all musicians made their way to one of the flats for a rehearsal. The plan for the Saturday night concert was for four smaller groups to perform separately throughout the concert, and then for all musicians to join up at the end for a few sets. The groups were G&T, Adam & LB, Eilidh, Ross & Angus and The Maverick Angels. Each group was to perform a mixture of their own material and some of Fraser's tunes.
The aim of the weekend was to get the bones of a few arrangements of Fraser's tunes, for the ending sets of the concert. These arrangements were also to be the starting point for material for the performance as part of the "Islay Night" at Celtic Connections. This music will eventually be recorded on a CD, to accompany the release of a Fraser's tune book.
After a lovely dinner, we were taken down to Laphroaig distillery for a small concert and ceilidh. Eilidh, Ross and Angus stayed behind to play tunes in the hotel. Performing at Laphroaig were a number of kids from Islay in various groups, including the high school trad band who played two of Fraser's tunes; The C-Side and Grahame Allison's Reel. We also got to hear some groups that performed and won prizes at this years national Mòd - all sounding absolutely brilliant!
After the wee concert, John and Innes and a few more sat down to play a few ceilidh sets, to which all danced. We also heard a couple of songs from Maeve and from LB which went down really well. The ceilidh ended just after 9pm and we went back to Port Charlotte, where we joined in on the tunes and craic there which went on late into the night.
It was then back down to the conservatory for a quick run through of all we had arranged, before we had to break for dinner, after which it was time to go to Bruichladdich hall for set up and sound check. G&T were first on stage for a couple of sets and we played an old favourite of ours Winter Sun/Off to Islay along with Fraser's set of reels with Ross on guitar. Maeve was up next for some lovely Gaelic songs accompanied by Ross on guitar and Innes on fiddle, and then LB & Adam were up next for some of Fraser's tunes mixed in with their own, accompanied by Innes on guitar and Duncan on bass.
The second half of the concert seen some fantastic music, more gorgeous songs from Maeve including Clachan Uaine, a song that Fraser's old band Cluanas used to perform. We also had some fiery sets from Eilidh, Ross & Angus, a few songs from Lori (with John, Innes & Duncan)and some old favourites from The Maverick Angels (John, Innes, Kevin & Adam), another of Fraser's bands.
It was then time for all the "Islay Sessioners" to get up and perform, showcasing all our hard work over the weekend. I really enjoyed performing these sets and all went down a storm, particularly Innes's arrangement of Air Chall. As an encore we all played The C-Side, a real favourite and quite an emotional tune, as it is both simultaneously sad and happy, reminding us all of good times.
We all piled into the hotel afterwards for more tunes and a few drinks. This continued well into the early hours again!
Sunday was very much a chill-out day for me so I spent a good while at the cottage relaxing. After dinner some of the musicians sat down for tunes. I however, was completely worn out after a busy, emotional, but lovely weekend and so hit the hay early!
The next day Tina and I drove back to Glasgow. Although the weekend had been a lot of hard work, we really enjoyed seeing everyone, remembering Fraser and playing his tunes. Tina has even included Abandon Ship as her latest tune in her tune of the week project, and can be heard here.
We are really looking forward to putting some more work into his tunes in anticipation for the CD, and for the "Islay Night" concert at Celtic Connections. Tickets can be purchased here.
Last Friday, The Routes Quartet traveled from Morvern to Crear after a four day residency at Drimnin House. Our other fiddle player, Tricia was joining us in Crear, along with three other classical/jazz bands for a Creative Exchange residency project organised by Enterprise Music Scotland. It mainly gave each band the chance to practice within peaceful surroundings. It also included some time for the groups to get to know one another and exchange musical ideas. The other bands taking part in the residency were Baba Yaga (saxophone & harp), The Three Cornered Hat (violin, violin & piano) and Syntonic (saxophone & double bass).
Crear is a beautiful wedding venue situated on the Mull of Kintyre, on the west coast of Scotland. It was a pretty long drive for us, and we arrived fairly late so went straight to our accommodation (a small cottage near the main venue) and to bed.
We then went for a final practice back in the cottage before joining the rest of the musicians for dinner where we all got to chat properly over food and wine. Afterwards Routes, Three Cornered Hat and Karen and Gwen from Baba Yaga settled down with our instruments for a few tunes and each of us took it in turns to teach the group a tune. We also done an bit of improvisation, led by Rufus, wherein the whole group played a grove in a set key and each of us took it in turns to do a solo. While this was going on, Rufus shouted key changes, to "up the anti" a little! It was a really nice enjoyable night, and it was also great to meet new friends.
The next day, after a morning practice at the cottage we said our goodbyes to the rest of the musicians and set off back home to Glasgow. What a great weekend, thank you EMS!
Last Monday, The Routes Quartet made the lengthy journey up to Drimnin to take part in a residency. This involved a few days of intensive practice, and a concert to showcase our hard work. For the first couple of days it was only myself, Emma and our fiddle dep. Charlie. Rufus was to arrive the Wednesday, as he had uni to attend. Joining us on the residency was harp duo The Duplets who are Gillian Fleetwood and Fraya Thomsen.
When we arrived at the house we were blown away by the location - it is overlooking the sea, with the Isle of Mull in plain sight. After getting the grand tour of the gorgeous house, Louise sat us all down to a hearty lunch which was very much welcomed after the journey.
We quickly got settled into our new digs and set to work practicing, starting on an old set of ours, Roisín's. We fine-tuned the arrangement and also added some dynamics. The previous week we had a workshop/review with McFall's cellist Su-a Lee who had said that we had far more potential to use dynamics. Eg we could go magically quiet, or incredibly loud if we wanted to! It was amazing to see just how much we could do with our music purely by working on the range of our volume. We also tore apart a small section of the tune and rearranged it with some funky jazzy chords, which we were very pleased with!
Thursday was spent working hard at our setlist and catching Rufus up with some of the changes we made, namely to his tune Roisín's Reel and the overall dynamics of all the arrangements. That evening we made our way down to the chapel for the concert.
Once the concert was over, all musicians, Derek, Louise, and some locals involved in the trust made our way back to the house for a big dinner. It was overall a really lovely evening and a great way to finish our residency.
The next morning Routes and The Duplets all went to a local primary school to play for the kids. They were all dressed up for Halloween and there were some very good outfits! The girls played first and the presence of the harps were certainly a novelty! They sang some songs and taught them a new song, The Rattlin Bog which we all joined in on. Routes then talked about our instruments and demonstrated how many scary noises we could make with them which went down very well. Rufus even done a very good rendition of the "Jaws" theme tunes which sounded great on the cello (it is played on double bass in the film score).
We then played our set Moose which begins with a tune written by Emma called Moose on the Loose and was named after a mouse appeared in her flat. At the begining of the arrangement we use pizzicato (plucking) on the strings, which really brings to mind a little mouse scurrying about! The children really enjoyed this.
After our school visit it was then time to leave our digs. We said our goodbyes and myself, Emma and Rufus (Charlie traveled back to Glasgow with Gill) set off on a very long journey to join Tricia in Crear for another residency!
To be continued...
I have always been a big fan of Reavy and was delighted not only that this festival was happening, but that I was going to be performing at the Saturday night concert with my band Top Floor Taivers. There were workshops and trad sessions all weekend too, which I was also involved in; I was giving a tune composition workshop and hosting a trad session on the Sunday of the festival.
I arrived in Cavan late on Thursday night, and therefore had a couple of days to relax at home before I went in to the festival. The girls were not flying over to Ireland until the day of the gig, and so arrived at the Cavan Crystal Hotel (where most of the festival events were based) Saturday afternoon.
There were also performances from two groups (U12 and U18) that won the Mullahorn CCÉ Battle of the Bands competition. It was fantastic to see so much talent on the stage, all young people from my home county.
We also incorporated some Scottish traditional music into the performance; O a' the Airts by Robert Burns and a selection of puirt à beul (tunes from the mouth/lilting) in which Heather and Claire sang, I played and Tina done a step dance. This set in particular worked a treat!
After our gig we sat and watched Shaskeen play some tunes. There were sounding great! When the concert was over, we made our way to bar where I caught up with some old friends and listened to a mighty trad session.
After the workshop finished, I made my way down to the Black Horse Bar, to join in on to one of the many trad sessions taking place about Cavan town that day. This particular session was being hosted by James McGovern, Oliver Loughlin and Breda Shannon. I was looking forward to some tunes with this lot and I was not disappointed! A few more joined in to the session including Andy McGovern and Gemma McDermot and it was a lovely relaxing afternoon of tunes which I really enjoyed. It was also great to catch up with all the local musicians, whom I don't see very often with living away.
I then made my way back to the Cavan Crystal Hotel, as I was to host a session with my brother Lorcán, Karen Dolan (a banjo player from Mullahoran, Cavan) and Malachy Bourke. A great fiddle player originally from Galway, Malachy has now settled in Cavan and is now a regular on the local trad scene. I really enjoyed catching up with him and was delighted when he gave me his most recent CD, a recording with fiddler Frankie Gavin.
After a mighty session, it was home and to bed for the night. I was very tired after a weekend filled with great music and chat! The Ed Reavy Festival is now set to become an annual installment in the trad music calendar and I am already looking forward to next year!
The night kicked off with a solo performance from Innes Watson. Instrumentalist, singer and composer Innes has worked with almost everyone on the folk scene from Gaelic singers and ceilidh bands to contemporary composers. He plays with folk/funk band Man's Ruin and is a founding member of the folk/fusion super-group Treacherous Orchestra. It was wonderful to see Innes play solo, and he played a lovely variety of songs; folk, blues and some of his own compositions.
Mec Lir were on next and what a lively set! The band consists of Tom Callister (fiddle), Adam Rhodes (bouzouki), David Kilgallon (piano) and Greg Barry (drums), and the lads play (mostly) Irish tunes on fiddle accompanied by bouzouki and piano with a huge backdrop of drumbeats and effects. They had the crowd up dancing in no time. There was a pretty good crowd in the venue at this stage, many of them students from the music course at the Conservatoire.
Next up was the G&T band. On stage we were joined by Craig Irving on guitar, Paul Mc Clure on bodhrán and Cammy Maxwell on double bass. We performed all the sets from our new album, including tunes with Tina on flute and whistle.
The trad disco then commenced once we had finished and this went on until the early hours. A great night was had by all! Big thank you to Kevin O'Neill on sound and Alistair Cassidy (ABCassidy Photography) for his great photos.
We are looking forward to doing another couple of launches in our home towns of Cavan (Ireland) and Clitheroe (Lancashire) with some shows in between. More details to be announced soon.
Buy HIGH SPIRITS here