The Campbells and Joy Dunlop

22 Jan 2011 in Gaelic, Music, Showcase

St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow, 20 January 2011

CLAN Campbell’s perfomers for this Celtic Connections concert, Mod gold medallists all, were Kenna and her brother Seumas, Kenna’s daughters Wilma and Mary Ann Kennedy, and their cousin Maggie Macdonald; something of a testament to the enduring strength of the female line in Gaelic culture.

They began by unleashing their weapon of mass delectation – their unaccompanied voices – in “Cnoc an Cruive”, a hymn to a small hill on the way to their family home. A home “at the end of the road beyond the end of the road” which is also, said Mary Ann Kennedy, the centre of the known universe. Are there other cultures who have such a deep connection with their landscape that they write lovesongs to it? If so, they’re probably all here at Celtic Connections.

Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop

Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop

The Campbells’ voices, comfortably, naturally and seamlessly interwoven, were the centrepiece of the evening and the most moving sets were those where they were either unaccompanied or where the accompaniment was at its most restrained and minimal. The sound of voice, feet and hands – nothing more was needed to fill the full height and breadth of this lovely old venue. So the wonderful special guests, from Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas who seem incapable of playing a note that is not perfectly beautiful, to that very fine young piper from Argyll, Lorne MacDougall, were the icing on the cake.

Cheers and whoops accompanied Canadian stepdancer Nic Gareiss’ every appearance. He must have had a pair of wings, or at least a helium bodybelt, judging by the height, ease and lightness of his leaps, twists and turns, though Wilma Kennedy who joined him from time to time, was no slouch herself. Their dance to a Lughnasa puirt from Uist seemed to open a window in time to an age where every season was marked by its especial song and dance. Scotland’s cultural wealth is greatly enriched by families like the Campbells who are so generous in handing down their lovingly curated heirlooms. A book of their will be launched in the summer

Earlier, willowy 2010 Mod gold medallist Joy Dunlop had set the scene singing waulking songs, puirt, strathspeys and reels. A natural performer, she was accompanied by a trio (which included Breabach’s Patsy Reid) who produced some unusual and interesting musical underpinnings to create a fine setting for the lovely richness of her voice’s lower register.

© Jennie Macfie, 2011