Scott-Land at Celtic Connections
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is the landscape Scott drew on for Lady of the Lake. As part of the park’s celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the poem, composer Phil Cunningham wrote a new instrumental work, The Trossachs Suite.
It’s always a challenge to write instrumental music about something, to create music that is neither too literal nor too abstract. Cunningham did this very well, drawing on his deep connection with traditional music as well as touches of classical influence. As the program had its first performance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall during Celtic Connections, the six sections of music were interspersed with readings from Scott’s work by actor Bill Paterson. Cunningham, on accordion, was well assisted by band members including Michael McGoldrick on flutes and whistles, Kathleen Boyle on piano and keyboards, Ian Carr and John Doyle on guitar, Martin O’Neill on bodhran, and Fiona Johnson and John McCusker on fiddle.
The Trossachs Suite was the first half of the evening in Glasgow. For the second half, singers Karen Matheson and Eddi Reader joined in to offer songs written by Scott, and ones, as Cunningham said, “we think he would have liked, and ones that we like!”
It proved a stellar selection and a varied one as well, with Reader starting things off with with Jock O’ Hazeldean, and Matheson continuing with McGregor’s Gathering. The two then joined together for what at first might seem an unexpected choice, Schubert’s setting for the hymn Ave Maria. It was, in fact, Schubert’s reading about the song in Lady of the Lake which inspired the composition, and two of the best voices in Scotland had the audience in cheers and in tears as they ended the piece. Wild Mountainsde, a contemporary piece on homecoming and choices and a Reader favourite, was also on the program, and Matheson brought her Gaelic background with Ailein Duinn. The two singers joined forces for a lively set of Puirt a Buel to conclude the music -- almost.. Things finished off with an encore of all on stage and in the audience joining in singing Loch Lomond.
You have to think that Walter Scott would’ve enjoyed the evening.
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