Norman Chalmers meets two people who are harping on about harps, and reports on other folk events.
Taking their name from a (’iaelic poet. Mary MacMaster and Patsy Seddon set off from Edinburgh to convert the world to the clarsach. the Scottish harp. Three years and two albums later. I asked Patsy how the mission is going. ‘Well. we played and taught at a harper's meeting in Germany. It was surprising. there were about a hundred there. mostly men. Some of the usual romantic. celtic twilight attraction to the Scots/Irish. but a considerable number of them were writing new material. evolving new techniques and playing in the style of the old European small harps. But it‘s not unusual. the harp is coming back. everywhere we go there is healthy interest. and we are always meeting other players.’ Some time ago they took delivery ofone ofthe first Electro-l larps. taking up the possibility ofsignal manipulation. and direct amplification. ‘I love playing it. and although we only use it at the moment in song accompaniment. we have just bought some new effects pedals. and can even eliminate completely the sound of the fingers plucking. and get pure sustained sound.‘
Mary and Patsy are both singers and perform a good number of traditional songs in (iaelic. which they learned at Edinburgh Lfniversity. ‘We really like the songs and love taking them to places they would never be heard.‘ But what about singing them to an audience of native speakers? Patsy smiles. ‘that can be a bit nervewracking. . . but Morag Macl.eod has been very supportive. she says we‘re good enough and that'sthe (‘eltic Department seal of approval . . . things are changing though. we did an S'I‘V recording the other day. for a new (iaelic music programme called Form. and because of audience demand. from the non-(iaelic speakers that is. they are going to subtitle the songs with an English translation.
‘After the Festival we are off to America again. We start in St Louis. play in Canada. go to California sometime . . . it‘s a lot of hopping about. but we're used to it. and you do get spells in the same place. We were teaching in Ohio. at the Scottish Harp (iroup. That was nice. they are
all adults. mostly women. .whereas in Scotland it is mostly children.‘ But does that not augur well for the harp‘s future. a generation hence‘.’ '()f course.‘ is the laughing reply. 'it's going to take over. . . and oust all the other instruments! I Sileas Acoustic Music Centre. 24th. 7.30pm. £3 (£1.50).
m> ’ “
ACOUSTIC MUSIC CENTRE
Folk. Roots and traditional music is centred'during the Festival round the very large nurnberof performances in the (‘hambers Street Student Union. renamed for three weeks the Acoustic Music Centre. It operates all day with meals. snacks. bars. exhibitions. drama. poetry and childrens shows. And concerts in the two halls. lnthe spacious cellar bar area there are organised informal sessions with local musicians. basically the liasy (‘lub. in residence. Admission to the (‘oncerts is by ticket from the box office. Admission to the A M(‘ is free up till 8pm. when it costs 80p on weekdays and £1 .60 at weekends. The (‘entre is host to a near l()()per cent Scottish music programme. The Burnt .Ilur‘Nr’i/s ('anadian Scottish. 22nd. 33rd. Three guitarist songwriters play the ground floor this week. From lingland one ofthe (‘1th scene favourites of the last twenty years. Alan Taylor. 19th and 20th. 8.30pm. £3 (£2); [um .llur‘lhmuld is a relatively recent arrival. with a (iaughan produced album of generally contemporary material. l7th.21st.2‘)th.10.30pm. £2.50; and lastly singerof
old Scots and modern jazzy mid-Atlantic. Rod Paterson who will be spending a lot of time in the club. playing every night in the downstairs cellar with the Easy Club. one night upstairs with the Picts. and one night solo. 19th. 10.30pm. £3(£2). Northumbrian Piper and fiddler. Kathryn Tic/(ell has a universal appeal. so obviously enjoying the tunes. funny and informative. 21st. 7.30pm. £3 (£2). The Md 'u/muns harmonise. play and tell old jokes for only two nightsthis week. 19th 20th. 7.30pm. £3; and East Lothian singer and guitarist Davey Steele launches his new Summer I.ee album. with a concert of friends. on the 23rd. 7.3(lpm. £3 (£3).
lhad been a bit apprehensive about this; the prospect of going to see a Bolivian folk group playing in a vegetarian restaurant in the Converted crypt of a church had led me to fear that I might find myself sitting alone amongst a large contingent from the macrame pot holder and lentil curry crowd. Yuraj
seemed a tad nervous too.
at first. as did the audience. who clearly didn't know what to expect when the group came on in spectacular native costume. playing a
strange. discordant piece on bamboo ﬂutes. All this apprehension soon faded. however. There was a wide mix ofpeople in the audience and. once Yuraj got into their stride (which happened when they let loose their wizard charango player) everybody quickly warmed to the native Bolivian tunes and songs being performed.
Yuraj play quite a range of material. from the purely traditional music of the Inca. Aymara and ()uechua peoples. which is largely devoid of the Hispanic influence which we are so accustomed to hearing in South American music. to self-penned songs and tunes in the more familiar and more easily accessible style popularised by such groups as Rumillajta (who were in the audience.) with guitar accompaniment. 'l’o both stylesof music they bring enormous enthusiasm and a good humour which had us all first foot and finger tapping. then clapping and stamping. and finally almost. but not quite. dancing: the (‘orncrstonc ('afe is just perhaps a shade too formal a setting forthat. (lain (irant)
I Yuraj ('orncrstone (are. St John‘s (‘hurch (downstairs). l.othian Road. L'ntil 3 Sept. £3.50 (£2.50)
I Elsewhere in the Fringe there are sometine concerts. The Assembly Rooms. George Street. has the wonderful Amampondo. a wild swirl olBlack Southern Atrican music. costume. rhythm and dance. till the 30th. 11.45pm. £5 (£4).
I The Queens Hall isthe venue lorthe natural acoustic pipes. tlutes and tiddles oi the seminal British tolk band. Boys Of The Lough. celebrating two decades on the road. there onthe 19th. 20th. 7.30pm. £5.50 (£4.50). 21st. 7pm.
QUENAS AND CHARANGOS
I Colourtul Bolivian band Bumillaita play StJohns every year. butalso have two concerts in the Reid Concert Hall. Edinburgh University. 215i and 22nd. 4pm. £4 (£3).
I Down in the dark shadow otCalton Road lies The Venue. Sitting room is minimal. dancing is a better idea. What should really be a memorable few nights stretches from the 22nd to the 24th when the Andy White Band take over. It is made up from Elvis Costello's rhythm section. halta dozen well known lrishtraditional instrumentalists. Wee Free Kings. Swamptrash and Deal Heights Cajun Aces. in various combinations. And it goes on trom 8pm through till 4am!
I The tact that there are a few major Festivals in town won't make much ditterence tothe regulartolk musicin the pubs. Places where you can hear intormal. reliable. and tree music arethe Scottish accordions etc. in the Fiddlers Arms. Grassmarket. on a Monday night; Ensign Ewart. in the Lawnmarket nearthe Castle. has some of the well known traditional tunesmiths on a Tuesday night; the Monday and Thursday nights whenthe Green Tree is shaking in the Cowgate.
People who like sitting down and being sung at. can take themselves oft to Scotch And Rye. on George IV Bridge where they have tolk entertainers each night. Friday nights in Platform 1. Rutland Street. havethe cheap (tree)and cheertul North Sea Gas.
40 The List 19— 25 August 1988