Staging Scottish music

Kenny Mathieson looks at a celebration of a millennium of Scotland’s music.

The regular complaint that the Edinburgh Festival finds no place for Scottish music will have to be set aside, at least for this year. Scottish Music Through The Centuries is a series of live concerts tracing its evolution (or at least glancing at some of its manifestations) from the 8th century to the present, backed up by a symposium and an exhibition. The series has its origins in John Purser’s mammoth 30-part radio history Scotland '5 Music, and the subsequent book of the same name, published earlier this year by Mainstream. Not surprisingly, Purser will host the Symposium on Scottish Classical Music (Church of St Andrew’s and St George’s, George Street, 27 August, 2.30pm), while the attendant exhibition will run at the McEwan Hall in Bristo

John Purser. re-discovering Scotland’s music

Square from 16 August—5 September.

The five concerts range from early Celtic chants to the Scottish premiere ofJames MacMillan’s new Percussion Concerto with Evelyn Glennie and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which will arrive fresh from its world premiere at the BBC Proms. They include much music which Purser (and scholars like Kenneth Elliot and David Johnston) discovered or rescued from neglect in the course of the research for the series.

Purser admits that he was astonished by the amount of material he uncovered in the course of that preparation, a task which occupied him ‘night and day for four years’. The history of our music, he contends, has been veiled in appalling ignorance, and his contagious enthusiasm for it is

matched only by his anger at its neglect, particularly from educational institutions.

‘Important finds were being made all along, but the sad thing is that much of it is basic research which should have been done long ago. It was enormously exciting, though, to hear something which we only knew through a tattered old manuscript suddenly come to life, often after centuries of silence.’

The concerts will reflect something of the often close relationship between formal composed music and traditional music, and will include

substantial but seldom played works '

by Carver, Clerk, the Earl of Kelly, Oswald, the Victorian composers Thomson, MacCunn and MacKenzie, and contemporary works.

‘MacKenzie. for example, was much admired by Elgar, but his music is rarely played today. His Scottish Piano Concerto should certainly be on CD, but if he is remembered, it is because he was the principal of the Royal Academy of Music and the man who set up the Associated Board, not for his composition, which is entirely

typical of the shameful way in which .

we have treated our great musical figures.’

I From Columba To Carver Greyfriars Kirk, 19 Aug, 8.30pm; From Home To Home Queen’s Hall, 23 Aug, 3pm; Thistles, Kisses And Crescendos Usher Hall, 29 Aug, 8pm; Scotus Germanlcus Queen’s Hall, 2 Sept, 7.30pm; The Scottish Virtuoso Usher Hall, 5 Sept, 8pm.

ma- Hell Bent, Heaven Bound!

I put it to you, Barb Jungr, halt oiJungr and Parker and seasoned Fringe pertormer though you may be, that you’ve gone too iar this time. Punters will run ior cover at the very thought at a show like ‘Hell Bent, Heaven Boundl’. Even it It is a collaboration between Jungr and Parker and two at Britain’s toremost vocalists, Christine Colllster and Ian Shaw, a show leaturing nothing but songs about death hardly sounds a bundle at laughs, does it? That, Ms Jungr attempts to persuade me, is where l’m wrong.

‘I think it people come along, they'll have a really great time, because it's

going to be a rare opportunity. You wouldn’t normally get to see Ian Shaw, Christine Coilister and us on the same bill unless you went to a talk festival or a big jazz festival and went between venues. And we do combine, we’re not each playing our separate bits, we do play with each other. You’re going to see a lot oi tour-part harmony work.

‘Hot only that, it you start looking at the wealth oi popular songs about

death, it’s iantastic how many there are. All we’ve done is put them under one umbrella and go through a series at emotions, which does include comedy. ldon’t think it’s in the least bit down. “You think the idea might shock people? Well, I hope it does, to be honest. When you think about it, it’s the last taboo at British culture. We don’t talk about death, but we used to. Think about the old lunerals in the East End - although I wasn’t there - everybody singing and dancing, enjoying themselves. And with Aids in our culture, we have to think oi death in dliierent ways. These are underlying agendas. These are not explored in the show in as much as we don’t talk about them - all we do is we sing a collection oi songs- but I think everyone that comes will iind something in there that moves them.’ (Alastair Mabbott)

Hell Bent, Heaven Bound! (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 14—16, 18-20, 23, 25-27 Aug, 1—5 Sept, 6pm, £6.50 (£5.50); 21, 22, 2840, 6pm, £7.50 (£6.50).

I Michael Marra Reckoned by many to be Scotland‘s finest living songwriter, Marra has seen his hard work pay off over the last couple of years with wider public recognition. Michael Marra (Fringe) Acoustic Music Centre ( Venue 25) 220 2462, 17, 31 Aug, 10.30pm, {6(1‘4). I Tam White The gruffest voice this side of Hadrian‘s Wall, and a commanding presence in the blues world, White recently released Blue Eccentricity featuring some of his best work to date. Tam White (Fringe) Acoustic Music Centre (Venue 25) 220 2462. 14. 15 Aug, 7.30pm. £6 ([5). I Advent Chorale 0i Handsworth A third Fringe appearance for the Birmingham choir, which has already taken its repertoire of gospel, spirituals and chorale around Europe and the Caribbean. Advent Chorale ()f Hands worth . (Fringe) Seventh Day Adventist Church (Venue 122) 17—22 Aug (not 20 Aug), 7.30pm, collection at door. I Dmitri Hvorostovsky Winner of the 1989 BBC Singer OfThe World competition, the young Russian baritone is now one of the world‘s most in-demand voices. in a full-scale recital at the Usher Hall with pianist Julian Reynolds, he sings Romances by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Dmitri H vorostovsk y (International Festival), Usher Hall, Lothian Road. 2255756, Wed 19Aug, 8pm, [5—[15 I The Oprlchnik Who knows what it will really be like? Tchaikovsky’s first surviving completed opera does not even boast a place in the index of Kobbe’s Complete Opera. They say it will be ‘fascinating, touching and torrid’. Make up your own mind it will be your only chance. The Oprichnik (International Festival) Scottish Opera, Usher Hall. Lothian Road, 225 5 756, Thurs 20 Aug, 7pm, £8—£22.

The List 14 - 20 August 199: 55