The big squeeze
Sinron ihoumire Pronounced ‘Twomire’, and taking the name from their concertina-playing leader. the Simon Thournire Three play in the afternoon series on the Ferry, spotlighting outstanding exponents of out-of-the-mainstream instruments and styles.
From Edinburgh and still at university ﬁnishing off his maths degree, Simon has developed a highly effective and original manner of playing on the English concertina — a type of squeeze box developed in Victorian times and fully capable of playing in any key. unlike some of its diatonic cousins. it was used as a parlour classical instrument in music hall, and eventually to some extent for traditional music. Up to the First War and for a time afterwards, the little instrument had been ubiquitous, at Temperance meetings, on the boats ‘Doon the Watter'. in Sally Army bands and on the street. There were even schools for concertinists in Glasgow and other Scottish cities.
The 60s folk renaissance saw the concertina being rescued from obscurity by the likes of Ewan McColl, old instruments being discovered and renovated and new instruments built. There are now four or ﬁve makers in Britain and one, Hamish Bain, former singer with the McCalmans, is moving his workshop north from the Midlands back to Leith, to become the ﬁrst maker in Scotland.
Among the many contemporary players, Simon‘s technique is startlingly percussive and jazz/blues inflected. Though his music has a strong Scottish component, and he continues to play in the folk band Seannachie, his repertoire for the Trio is complex, exciting, inventive and irreverent.
With two of Scotland's ﬁnest jazz- based musicians, Brian Sheils on bass. and even younger than Simon, Kevin MacKenzie on guitar, they were one of the hits of the recent Edinburgh Folk Festival, and this ‘happening' tn'o have an album. Waltzes for Playboys, due for autumn release. (Norman Chalmers) Simon Thoumire Three (not solo as in Mayfesr Programme). Ferry. Sat 22. 2pm.
Everything But The Girl are far from washed up. Alastair Mabbott spoke to Ben Watt.
‘l was in a pizza restaurant the other night. and this waitress came up to me and said, “Do you have a new record coming out soon?" and l said, “Well, we have this single. ‘The Only Living Boy in New York'. which comes out on Saturday." And she said “Oh. what‘s it like?” and the ﬁrst thing that popped into my head was, “Well. it’s this wall of guitars with a groovy beat!" '
Yes, that is Ben Watt, the gently- spoken jazzy string-stroker of Everything But The Girl. talking; but. if you've already heard their version of Paul Simon's chestnut. you‘ll know that. despite the lukewarm reception to EBTG's last album, ll’orlrlwirle. he‘s not turned into Bobby Gillespie overnight. For extra reassurance. turn your attention to their Mayfest performance. the ﬁrst half of which will be Watt and Tracey Thorn playing acoustically before the rhythm section shows up.
Last year. though. there were fears that Ben Watt might never be seen again, on a stage or anywhere else.
‘l was ill for most ofthe summer.‘ he explains. ‘and in intensive care — it was pretty much touch and go. it was a very rare illness which can cause severe inﬂammation in the body. and before they realised what was going on it had done a lot of damage to my intestines and I had to have quite a lot of it removed. i wouldn‘t put anyone through that. Getting over it has been a
long haul. i came out in September and i‘m still not quite right, but, you know, just ploughing along.‘
Work on the next EBTG studio album (and their ﬁrst ﬁlm soundtrack, for [fight/r Heaven, by a ﬁrst-time French director) was delayed for months. but when it comes out, it will mark a return to their basic concerns of directness and simplicity.
‘l think with the last album we'd come to a dead end, in a way. i felt that we were pretty much at a tangent from our audience. it was a slightly misjudged record. I don’t want to be too hard on myself. but i don't think we were actually giving people what they want from us, and that’s very important to us, to keep communicating with people rather than just talking to ourselves. i felt it was down to the fact it was quite a self-reflective record, quite heavily produced and very sonically concerned. I think, in retrospect, that's just not what people want from us.‘
in something like a damage limitation exercise. they came up with the idea of the 1992 acoustic tour, which was interrupted by Watt's illness, and the hit
Covers EP. ‘The songwriting since that point has been back-to-basics songwriting. it feels like the early days again a bit. Everything seems a bit more incorruptible than it sometimes gets.‘
But what about the Covers 151’, ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ and so on? Doesn‘t it irk Watt that Everything But The Girl‘s cover versions hit the heights far more readily than their own carefully-wrought compositions?
‘Not at all.‘ he answers. ‘lt used to. in a way, but l've got past that. i really do feel like i always felt — and ljust forgot for a while that i felt this — that interpretive pop music is just as valuable as creative pop music. As long as the rendition is great. it doesn‘t matter ifyou didn‘t write it. it‘s the Lennon/McCartney syndrome that we should be creating all the time. but if you do a good version of somebody‘s song, it's a perfectly valid way of having success.‘
Everything But The Girl play The Pavilion on Mon I 7. A ten-year retrospewive. Home Movies. is our on blanrro y negro/W191.
One of the most innovative events in Mayfest’s contemporary music programme this year is the Chamber Group of Scotland’s performance. Formed by composers Sally Beamish and James MacMilian and cellist Robert Irvine, the Group has, from its outset, aimed to bring together outstanding artists from different media while simultaneously presenting a wide variety of music, with a particular commitment to living Scottish composers. Their Mayfest concert - repeated in Edinburgh three days later - neatly fulfils all these aims. iiot only will Edward McGuire’s ‘Zephyr’ (for the unusual combination of trombone and string quartet) receive its first performance, but the group will join forces with the choreographer and dancer Rosina Bonsu.
Administrator of the Group, David Wilkinson, explains, ‘We had seen and admired Rosina’s work and were keen to find some works which are intended to be danced to.’ ‘Legend’, a piece for solo cello and female dancer based on
the story of Joan of Arc by Fortrose- based composer John Bevan-Baker was an immediate choice, as was Bernard Rands’ ‘Memo 20’ for trombone, string quartet and dancer. it was this combination which sparked off the McGuire commission and also the choice of luciano Berio’s ‘Seqeunza V’ for solo trombone, Rands having been inspired by Berlo’s compositional techniques. The latter has now also been choreographed by Rosina Bonsu, as have the ‘liuetti’ for violins, again by Berle.
‘The programme works in such a way
ii the dance items intersperse with
purely instrumental items. We’re also doing the Berio viola “Sequenza” and John Maxwell Geddes’ “Apt” for solo viola, both played by James liurrant.’ says Wilkinson. This mixing of media marks an important milestone for the Group. “it is something which Sally, Robert and Jimmy have been keen to do from the start, but this is the first time that we are actually achieving it.’ (Carol Main)
The Chamber Group of Scotland play the RS“!!! on Sun 9 and St Bride’s
Centre, Edinburgh on Wed 12.
20 The List 7—20 May 1993