FOLK The Michael McGoldrick Band
Edinburgh: Liquid Room, Tue I I Apr; Glasgow: The Arches, Thu 13 Apr.
Last time I talked to Michael McGoldrick he declared himself promiscuous. 'I’ll play with anyone. . . I'm a folk tart,’ he delighted in saying. But the bed-hopping back and forward from top bands like the Afro-Celt Sound System to Flook! to Lunasa to Capercaillie, amid all the other recording sessions and projects has finally taken its toll and now, a year or so later, the Manchester musician confesses he's a reformed character.
'I'd left school and more or less gone straight into being a musician in Toss the Feathers,’ says McGoldrick. ‘Celtic rock, slap bass, all that. I look back on it all as a great time. Great fun. But I was in that band for eleven years. And in the end it changed - became something I didn't want to do, and I found myself in other bands going off in lots of different directions. Then, in the end, that got a bit heavy - trying to balance the travelling and rehearsing Flook! and Lunasa - and I just had to let them go. So it's Capercaillie that's been my main thing over the last few years — and now my own band.’
The recent release of McGoldrick's brilliantly eclectic second album Fused (on Donald Shaw's new, artist-
'I’ll play with anyone . . . I'm a folk
oriented Vertical Records label) shows what a distance the flute player and uillean piper has moved from his family roots in traditional Irish music. Not that he's turned his back on the real thing. He's happy to go out. as he Iaughingly says, 'in a good acoustic trad band for one-offs with all the instruments we can still all fit in one car! And we sometimes go out in a little version of the band, with just me, John Jo (Kelly, bodhran) and Ed (Boyd, guitar) as a trio.’
The Big Band from the album is the one he's bringing to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The trio is expanded to six, and there's a back line of bass, drums and keys from the Capercaillie/Shooglenifty axis. McGoldrick regrets that the only musician from the band who can't make the Scottish gigs is ‘a fantastic trumpeter, Neil Yates. He played with Edward for eleven years, and he loves Seamus Ennis (the late Irish piping master) and has adapted that way of playing to the trumpet, but can then go off and play solo, or sit In a brass section.’ The jazzier element in McGoldrick’s own playing is often obvious on the album and will feature later in the year when he's made an honorary Scot — he's to be one of the Sons of Alba, saxophonist/composer Tommy Smith's big fusion piece for this summer’s Glasgow Jazz Festival. (Norman Chalmers)
’We are tackling big works, but we manage to make them more intimate'
ensemble ranging from piano and five string players up to the eleven-piece orchestra for Butterfly. ’We specifically offer opportunities to young Scottish singers,’ says Squires, ’so they don't feel that they have to base themselves down south to find decent quality work.‘ So, for instance, members of the Scottish Opera chorus may find themselves with the coveted chance to perform a major role. ’lt’s also a great aim of mine, to draw on students from the RSAMD,’ explains Squires, ‘so that they can be inspired in what is not just a college-based environment.’
In Madama Butterfly, the title role is
CLASSICAL Opera on a Shoestring
- Madama Butterfly
Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre I2, 14, 15, 18,20, 22 Apr.
It may not even have the short change of some full-scale opera companies for a budget, but Glasgow-based Opera on a Shoestring doesn’t let lack of finance stand in its way. Dedication, commitment and sheer ingenuity are what really count in this small, independent, professional company.
Ready to tackle Puccini's Madama Butterfly (in their six year history the same composer’s Tosca brought a Herald Spirit of Mayfest Award), it seems that nothing daunts them. ‘We’re aiming for two major productions a year’, explains Musical Director, Chris Squires. ’One at the Citizens’, plus a smaller production at the Cottier Theatre.’
Although the company started out with a concert performance (Don Giovanni), all of its subsequent work has been fully costumed and fully lit, with soloists, chorus and instrumental
taken by Lorna Rushton, who greatly impressed as Violetta in last year’s La Traviata. Director James R Carson, who spent some of his early career working in Japan, brings a mid-20th century feel to the piece, all the while happy to work within the inevitable financial constraints. ’We are tackling big works,’ says Squires, 'but we manage to make them more intimate. It’s the same story and the same musical language, but in reduced numbers. If we act and sing well, the audience can be drawn more into the opera and get a different perspective.’ (Carol Main)
Hefner Edinburgh: Venue, Sat 8 Apr.
Hefner may not be throwing many rock star shapes but they certainly understand the geometrics of indie fan obsession. 'lt’s like when you're at school and you had to draw Venn diagrams,’ explains frontman Darren Hayman. ’Here are the Hefner fans and here are the Belle And Sebastian ones, but the real nutters are in that ellipsoid in the middle. 'And when, one wonders, did you last hear a musician drop ’ellipsoid’ into the conversation with such casual aplomb? ’Oh, and can I say that I think our fans get laid more often than Belle And Sebastian fans?’ adds Hayman as if to totally undermine the effect.
Not that the B&S connection is entirely spurious. If devotees of Stuart Murdoch et al were willing to outvote a numerically superior army of Steps followers at the 1999 Brit Awards, keepers of the Hefner flame were doing their bit during last year's Festive Fifty. The band scored a prolific five hits in John Peel's end of year listeners' poll, including numbers two and three. ’I was listening and when it got into the top ten there were bands like Gorky’s and Elastica and The Fall — proper bands, not like us! We were flabbergasted.’
When not writing wonderfully guilt- ridden, yet life-affirming, Jonathan Richman-esque songs about religion, girls and cigarettes, Hayman is a charming contradiction of brazen honesty and poetic mischief. ’Did I say that?’ he asks of one quote I throw back at him. ’I do lie sometimes in interviews.’
Hefner’s third LP, Boxing Hefner, is their Harfu/ of Hollow, a collection of b-sides, rarities and radio session tracks revisited. ’It gives us a chance to rewrite a little history,’ he says. ’I know the excuse that it’s due to demand is a bit hackneyed. God, I sound like that guy out of Mansun. Every time I see an interview he’s always going on about his fucking fans, like he’s Mark Owen or something. But, yes, this is what the fans wanted.’ Take that.
(Rodger Evans) 'I think our fans get laid more often than Belle And Sebastian fans'
30 Mar-I3 Apr 2000 THE U31“