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G'I'he List 18— 31 May 1990 T '
Pie and piety
Philip the Good of Burgundy was a l merry old soul, and no mistake. In
1454, following the infidel Turks’
, invasion of Constantinople, he i convened a huge, lavish least in Lille forthe Knights of the Golden Fleece, at
' Warwick Edwards, who came across
which they would swear allegiance on the sacred pheasant to a crusade to recapture the city. No, it’s not 3 ‘Monty Python’ screenplay, it’s a historically verified event, to be re-enacted at the Tramway this month.
‘The Feast Of The Pheasant’ extravaganza was conceived by the Scottish Early Music Consort’s director
two detailed chronicles of the original event, recorded by members of the court at Burgundy. To realise the project, he has hired three groups of six specialist musicians from France, Italy and Switzerland, 20 Scottish performers, and stage director Michael McCarthy.
0n the eve of starting rehearsals, McCarthy describes his task: ‘My difficulty is to translate the original event into something a contemporary audience will appreciate and understand, given that all the Knights of the Golden Fleece would have been very well versed in Greek mythology, so they would immediately have understood any images or symbols presented to them. We’ve created a slightly more formal structure so that the understanding can be put across. The climax was a lament for the fall of Constantinople. Ourwhole thing leads towards that lament as well, and what we have musically will be very close to the original.’
The production is a meticulous
Pie piper: John A. Sampson keeps his ophonsopen.
attempt at accurate re-creation. ‘There is a very strong historical reason behind all that you will see and hear, certainly in terms of dance, music and costuming,’ asserts McCarthy, ‘though there will also be a contemporary intruder who gets sucked up into the action, which will be essentially comic, but useful as a way of showing people how to follow it.’
Central to the staging is the division of secular and church elements. At one end is a choir dressed as monks; at the other, eight-and-twenty peasants huddle under a massive pie-crust, from which they will burst forth in profane- lf sophisticated - harmony.
So will the Tramway be the rallying point for a modern crusade to quell Islamic powers in the Middle East? ‘Well,’ confesses McCarthy, ‘Philip the Good’s campaign never actually happened. There’s a certain amount of question as to whether it was that serious in the first place, or in Iactjust a great excuse for an enormous extravaganza.’ (Andrew Burnet)
music as Mayfest has this year assembled, with singers like Dolores Keane and Mary Black, soloists of the quality of Liam D’ Flynn and Michael D Suilleabhain, and groups like the Davy Spillane Band and De Dannan, I’ll pick on Altan as representative of the enduring vitality of the nation’s musical spirit.
Fiddler and singer Mairead Ni Mhoanaigh and flute player husband Frankie Kennedy have been leading the group on an ever-increasing international touring schedule as their albums have spread the band’s music
far from its Donegal roots.
Now settled in a five-piece acoustic line-up with a second fiddle, bouzouki and guitar, theirs is a driving instrumental sound and a wealth of good tunes in unfussy arrangements. Altan present straightforward high-quality traditional music in an unpretentious way, and every so often Mairead, who was brought up in Gweedore, in the Gaeltacht, will come out with an exquisite song in Irish Gaelic.
The group's name is the continuation of a family tradition. Mairead’s father, another fiddler, had a group also named alterthe local Lough Altan. And if it is Donegal music, then, as Mairead says, ‘the fiddle is the main instrument. Probably the Scottish influence. There's always been a lot of emigration to Scotland and Scots travelling over there. We have tunes, they’re called Highlands, and a lot of them are borrowed from Scotland. It’s not far. My grandmother was born in Scotland although both her parents were from Donegal. It’s a fact that many Donegal people would know the streets of Glasgow better than Dublin.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Altan play the Henry Wood Hall on Sat 26.
I first came across B Shops For The Poor a couple of years back. at the inaugural()uuudelriFesuyquin Crawley. where their bizarre nnxturetujazz,progremnyerockzuul dasmcahnﬂuencesnunh:asuﬂdng impression. The six-piece band incorporauxTTheThuntylhrdstno (heard in both Edinburgh and Glasgow last year. and set fora returntothe'ThhxlEyetni3juhxzw part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival) widuntheuluurup.andexpandedit to include two more saxophonists. and vocalist Sarah Tyla.
Bythetunetheyrekxmethen seHlﬁnancedandruoduceddebut recording. The Iceberg Principle (No Wave CD). in the autumn oflast year. the band‘s music was taking more coherent shape. The (T) was puttogetherbyziprocessof ‘begging. stealing and borrowing equipment‘. and utilised modern recording practices rather than the time-honoured jazz ones.
‘It wasn‘t recorded in a jazz way.‘ i saxophonist Dave Petts admitted at the time. ‘Some jazz people might even call it cheating. because the backing tracks went down first. then i we added the solos on top. We wanted to get our music to a different i audience. though. We feel like ghosts sometimes. just working away in our front rooms.‘
8 Shops For The Poor (they took the name from Brecht's Tllt’ 'I'hreepenny ()pera) are loud. raw. vibrant. and unpredictable. mixing ayant-garde rock with free-form jazz. classical pastiche with lush saxophone unisons. folkish melodies with insane rantings. all accompanied by drum programmes. However the gig turns out. it won't be dull. (Kenny Mathieson)
B Shops For The Poor are at the Third Eye Centre on Fri 25.