Bringing you the best from Scotland's premier winter music festival, The List's five-page guide takes you through the highlights of this year's CELTIC CONNECTIONS.
Horse McDonald and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra may look like an unlikely combination. However. their appearance together at Celtic Connections is part of a success story which began several years ago, resulting in a new album Both Sides.
The unusual pairing stemmed from Horse‘s early musical inﬂuences: ‘l was a child in the 60s, so all those big string arrangements must have sunk in‘, she explains. ‘Our first professional recordings had a couple of classic string arrangements done by Audrey Riley and these were stand-out tracks. and I thought it‘d be cool to have a few other songs done.‘
This idea blossomed and in 1995 the collaboration became reality with a concert at Glasgow‘s Barrowland. The former ballroom has always been held in high regard by rock fans. but what did the SCO make of it? ‘The Barrowland had never had an orchestra in before and the first time I took Roy McEwan (SCO‘s Managing Director) to see the venue. The Stranglers were soundchecking. and the glitterballs were going.‘ remembers Horse. ‘I thought he‘d hate it but he loved it. Having done all that itjust seemed crazy not to record it.‘
The launch of her own record label. Randan Records. has provided her with that opportunity. Anyone looking at the album cover may get a shock to see that Horse has ditched
16 THE lIST 20 Jan—3 Feb 2000
her trademark trousers for a rather glam evening dress. But this doesn‘t herald the beginning of a life of Hello photoshoots. ‘It was about saying, look. this is a different side of me.‘ Horse explains. ‘I think people have an idea of me being some sort of heavy rock chick with bovver boots. and I‘m not really like that at all. People‘s stereotypes will remain unless you take a sidestep.‘
Perhaps not an obvious choice for Celtic Connections. Horse is keen to point out her relevance within the festival: ‘1 did worry what people would say about me being part of Celtic Connections. but I truly believe that I belong here. My tradition is pop music — it‘s not about what pigeonhole you fit into. it‘s where you are with regards to your roots.’ With a further festival appearance in Corrina Hewat‘s New Voices commission. followed by a nationwide tour and an album planned for the autumn, it‘s going to be a busy year for Horse. She‘s on the shortlist for a Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award to the tune of a cool £25,000 for a project which would see her ‘creating an album with no boundaries‘. Sounds like she‘s on the right track already.
Horse McDonald And The Scottish Chamber Orchestra play at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Mon 24 Jan.
PREVIEW String Sisters
Glasgow: Royal Concert Hall,
Fri 21 Jan.
On paper this looks a great idea. While on her travels around the folk crrcuit, Shetland-born fiddler Catriona MacDonald continually ran into her fellow women fiddlers, but hardly ever on stage, Increasineg frustrated by that state of affairs, she began to hatch a plot to get a whole bunch of sharp women players together
Organismg something like that is no eaSy matter, however, but a WOrd in the ear of Colin Hynd at Celtic Connections last year set the ball rolling. The festival has the clout to mount such an extravaganza, and Colin quickly gave Catriona the go ahead for String Sisters.
The concert Will feature not only six ace fiddlers - Catriona herself, Altaiis Mairead Ni lvlhaonaigh, Natallr- Maclvlaster, Liz Carroll, Winnie H070": and Ananorg Lien — but also anon-(u half-dozen (male) musiCians, Sll‘H' each of the women Will bring along .i guest. The entire pool of players Will then work in various combinations across the set. These occaSions can sometimes fall flat, especially if they are simply a Succession of players domg their uSual thing rather than a stimulus to explore new settings. MacDonald is determined that Will not happen.
'It’s gang to be a real collaboration, With lots of dlfft-'in combinations happening durim; the concert rather than Just a tokw (gosture at the end. I'm not doing 'l iJSI because they are all women, :)'.i‘. because they are women who are (llf‘rlt fiddle players. I feel it’s tinit- that women instrumentalists were recognised alongSide their male c0unterparts at the very top level' (Kenny Mathieson)
Six of the best: Catriona MacDonald