OPERA Paragon Ensemble Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket, Sat 31 Jan; Edinburgh: St Bride's Centre, Fri 6 Feb.
Celtic Connections will feature the world premiere of an ambitious new opera when the The Paragon Ensemble present An Turus (The Journey). A full length work for nine singers and thirteen musicians, it attempts the delicate task of re-telling the Gaelic legend of the ill-fated love of Diarmad and Grainne, but set in a 'quasi- modern', non-specific time.
An Turus is a collaboration between poet Aonghas MacNeacail and composer William Sweeney. They have worked together on a number of projects, but a full-scale opera was a new challenge for both, as Sweeney explained. ’I had wanted to write operatically for some time, and I think some of the earlier projects had a sense of that element wanting to get out. We originally pitched an opera to Gaelic television, but it was only when we started talking to Paragon that things began to move. I had been thinking of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as a possible subject, but Aonghas pointed out parallels with the Gaelic myth we have used, and it developed from that seed!
The dramatic tale of Diarmad’s love for Finn MacCumhail's new wife, and its tragic consequences, is played out in three acts, but
corrupt policemen and drugs gangs.
With Altan, Old Fruitmarket, Sat 24. With Varttina, Strathclyde Suite,
They say the harp's in heaven, but in hell it's the accordion. Well, if Maria Kalaniemi is playing it, I want to go to hell, You've got two chances to see and hear this squeeze box master; supporting Ireland’s Altan, or at the Finnish night With the unique, happy,
clever pop/folk of Varttina.
From a folkbackground, but also graduate of Helsinki's Sibelius Music Academy (she now teaches there), Kalaniemi's music — much of which is her of own c‘omposmon, and has echoes of Astor Piazzolla’s complex, brooding tango — is paSSionate, movmg, resonant, exqwsitely played, and, With her five-piece group Aldargaz, beautifully arranged.
One of the first — in 1983 - to enter the ClaSSICal Academy's new course incorporating traditional mUSIC (instigated by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in the last few years) she also absorbed jazz with the classical music. She says: ’The most important thing is to be true to ourselves To be Finnish‘
with a distinctly contemporary flavour, involving
Sweeney has set MacNeacail’s texts before, but is not a Gaelic speaker, and the poet read the lines aloud on tape, allowing him to incorporate a flavour of the spoken language into the rhythmic movement of the music. Otherwise, he was able to work in his normal
An Turus: distincly contemporary flavour
way, developing the musical materials from ’two or
three basic shapes’ in a style that ’is often tonal in an
She explains: ‘lri Finland we hate our own accordion net fingered like anything else lt's got five rows, but you won’t find it in Russia or Sweden or anywhere else It's unique.
'The accordion has been too much the Virtu- oso's instrument \ the lllUSK played to show off complicated, fast fingering, and that's all I wanted to explore the great possibilities in my accordion I learned a lot
uncomplicated way, but then moves into much more chromatic and gestural episodes.’
An Turus begins at 7.30pm in the Old Fruitmarket, and not as stated in the Celtic Connections brochure. (Kenny Mathieson)
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(7,]1‘11:."‘_1\‘I |(“ t")
fiorii player Il‘w riatioriii‘ 1" small llflll/VVIYil: l‘«i’I‘ other-v." r'i’ll‘.’ lief: like (feliiarv) There, there l‘) i 'rieditatioii'
Maria Kalaniemi: as unique as the
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Tannahill Weavers Strathclyde Suite, Fri 23.
Way back in the 19605, the Tannahill Weavers travelled to their first gig outside their Paisley origins, Thirty years later (and With leader Roy Gullane the only original member left) they are still on the road or, more likely nowadays, at an airport somewhere in North America
A relative new boy — he’s been With them for a mere eight years — John Martin was asked to join after Ossian’s late 80s demise and brought With him a huge reservoir of fiddle skills, recording and touring experience -- and Curiosity Tales of the early, groundbreaking Tannahill's overseas escapades are legendary and unprintable, but John amusedly insists ’They were just young Scots guys With a zest for life. Anyway, you’ve heard stories ~~ but I've heard the real ones -— and they’re worsel’
Now With a network of agents in Europe and the States, and a solid relationship developed With the last eight albums With major US record label Green Linnet, the band has matured into a profeSSional outfit performing a repertOire based wholly on the Scots tradition, Yet, ironically, they are rarely heard in Scotland.
’We do at least SIX months of the year domg international touring,’ John explains, 'Which is about as much as we want to. Then there’s rehearsal and recording for new albums, so we’re not about here much America is getting bigger and bigger for us — we’re playing theatres nearly all the time now, moving away from clubs, which is very good for the band's mUSlC.
’We take a lot of care With the material, putting a lot of work into the rhythm and the vocal harmonies (they all Sing). We get the sound right on stage, and we're incredibly tight. But we’re trying to entertain -- not preach and because we all enjoy each other's company, it's fun, we enjoy ourselves.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Tannahill Weavers: lust for life
23 Jan—S Feb 1998TIIEU3131