Welcome to the. List’s coverage of this year’s Celtic Connections. Over the

Celt Figures

Kicking off Celtic Connections with a bang, Edward McGuire's L'EPOPEE CELTIQUE takes a musical look at celtic culture from its roots to its modern day expressions. Words: Norman Chalmers

An epic in scope and in title. ‘I.‘Epopee (‘eltigue‘ is the massive opening concert of this year‘s (‘eltic Connections. Composed wholly by Glasgow’s own Iiddic McGuire. whose credentials as a classical composer are well estab- lished at home and abroad. it fuses his other passion for traditional music within an orchestral context. McGuire won't be conducting but will be on stage playing flute in his veteran Scots folk group. the Whistlebinkies. Baton-wielding duties fall to Guy Berrier. conductor of the two previous performances of ‘I.'Epopee' at Lorient‘s Festival InterceItique in Brittany.

While the work explores what we mean by ‘celtic‘. McGuire is at pains to distance himself from any celtic nationalist tendencies. ‘I’eople should know that I‘m an Internationalist. indeed a Marxist. I‘m not at all in support of celtic exclusiveness which becomes sort of frightenineg Wagnerian/ Arian. I belong to one humanity. I want in this to express our basic common humanity. our shared past and our links to the Iiast.’

The structure of the piece. McGuire explains. is a metaphor for our evolving society. ‘It opens with a kind of musical archaeology. the call of the ancient Pictish brass born. the carnyx. There’s tumult and turmoil. volcanic forces. human voices a wordless choir. a sense of contact with other distant cultures

24 THE “ST /-7.I Jan 1999

'Some of the tunes I've written are folk tunes, and if they eventually end up by being played at sessions in pubs I'll be happy.’ Edward McGuire

next four pages we give you the highlights of the forthcoming festival as well as comprehensive listings. Our coverage continues next issue.

Almost as big as Dino De Laurentis production, L’Epopée Celtique promises more depth than Loch Ness

and a continuing struggle for civilisation. Things gradually begin to calm down. melodies start to appear. and I suppose. it starts to get a bit sunnier.‘

Accessibility. he feels. is paramount. but not at the expense of musical value. ‘I want it to be a true blend of music and period.. agrees McGuire. ‘but I've also integrated what I would call the discoveries of 20th century music. organised dissonance and modern harmony. and attempted to blend both traditions. Some of the tunes I’ve written are folk tunes. and if they eventually end tip by being play ed at sessions in pubs I‘ll be happy'

Scored for orchestra (the RSNO with full woodwind. brass and percussion). the Welsh Flint Male Voice Choir. two pipe bands (Scottish Power and Brittany‘s Bagad Kemper). Scots and Gaelic traditions (the Whistlebinkies with added viola). Galician pipers and percussionists. uillean pipes. Manx. Irish and Scots Gaelic. and Welsh language songs. and with John Kenny on the aforementioned warhorn. the score was a major undertaking. but McGuire had most problems.

not with the notes. but the words. ‘I wrote the lyrics of

the songs myself.’ he notes. ‘They're sung in Manx. Scots Gaelic and Welsh. none of which I speak. So I needed help. and worked in collaboration to hold the rhythms in translation. but they‘re my words.’

()n a simpler level. McGuire‘s own celtic connections are woven in to the work: like many people in Glasgow. my family was originally from Donegal. and I was young when I first went back. and of course the old cottage was a ruin. But I‘ve tried to set that in the Irish song. in a poem of ruin and exile. And. on a happier note. I've also included a cheerful tune, a march that I wrote in Brittany on my first visit to Lorient. way back in I970?

L'Epopée Celtique is performed at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Wed 13 Jan.


TRANCE Bagad Kemper

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, lit/ed 13, Sat I6; Old Fruitmarket, San I7. ,

Stretching through the ought III Villages and towns all over the North West of France, long lines of dancers :nr h 'oar k and forth forming spirals and loops, driven by the incessant rhythm of a musm pulsing to an elemental heartbeat. it's a Fest—Nor. it seems medieval, and probably is, but :t's as popular still in Brittany as the latest 1 Club dance sounds. If's a r..u.'.'n.rlist groove, a tl(i(llil():"-(1I ‘rrorrop, (a frame dance scene induced by nothing more than natural endorphins and an

endless cascade of btrcitlllltll Breton melody.

Whether song :I‘. the oft; response style or played. ‘wtte'idrl‘y’, r ' brnrou and bombar'de .terry unmade and strzdent shawrrtr, Elwin) a (listlntuve, p<):g:‘:arrt, I‘vllt a! s'rrtplu'rty that allows great expr'r‘sswer.ess in performance, and a tr. :le mppi; of dance musu and an: at from =.zr‘,g'.rlar, sweet-arrrl~so-,ir (rods; lute". 'r r- Slots have even borrowed :>t)'l‘(’. &-\e"rr'.nrnber the ’Tvva Corbré’ls ytui leafs-"ti at SLIIOOI or heard the (errata s..".';!'if‘ rr'r org Tv' footage? That": (i Bunion

But the Bretons tram 3:",0 something from us the Highland bagprpe, the great, éoorl, be-tartaned thing that you hea' buskrng every day on tdularagrk High Street After World \f-xar pine bands, based on the Sunfish mode. .2: ti playing the 3(otti3’r titres, staring to emerge alr over Bl'l‘.l.i",’ B',’ adapt: their own tunes to i-.."t‘ (tott- Instrument, son'etrric. the (.hanter, aritt'at-i set tons of equally loud bombardes in .r. r'.i:"(;)t).(li to the bagpipes, anti esper zazy est.':i>l.',‘rur‘.g a less formal, mzxerl th‘lltlt’! and less militaristic approach to performance, these Breton bangs have treated a wonderfully refreshing talxe on what can Often, for all its noise arid (olou', be a rather staid (nusa :il thaw-"MK e

You can hear the host or :i‘ose Ration hands when Bagad scrape" Heat’s Breton for the Qt; nit“ F‘rnr- l'iu'li‘ performs in the ope-nun) E'popc-t-

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Celtrgue event, and (an: (I lite when they support ( .i'it)‘\ None; '7: the Concert Hall. Or you em all: sing with most of then; when they get down to some starroos Breton ceilidhrng at the Fest-Non (Norrvran Chalmers)

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Dance yourself dizzy with Bagad Kemper