The Future of Our Past

24 Jan 2011 in Music

Strathclyde Suite, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 22 January 2011

IT’S ALWAYS fascinating watching seedlings grow from first green shoot to full grown plant. Something similar applies to musicians. As Professor Phil Cunningham reminded us, this was the third year that the RSAMD has showcased its students at Celtic Connections, so the rather nervous class of 2008/9 are now rather more confident third years.

Things got off to a flying start with the half dozen pipers of the current first and second years; a great credit to their tutors (see link below) who would have surely have been pleased to hear the professionally smooth transitions from tune to well-played tune, nicely set off by accompaniment from piano, guitar and flute. In many cases students were not introduced at all, and as a result it’s hard to give particular praise where it’s due, but the guitarist was later introduced as “Calum”. There was also some fine but sadly anonymous harp playing.

Singer Claire Hastings performs in last year's concert

Singer Claire Hastings performs in last years' concert

The extra polish that each year gives was again evident, particularly in the fourth years who launched into their Big Pipe Set at a spanking pace. For reasons that were not explained, more than half of them were missing; and though the delivery was still powerful it lacked the potential to damage roofs and buildings which was there last year.

They were joined for a set of songs by Claire Hastings (whose voice, mentioned in both previous showcase reviews in Northings, has continued to blossom), Robyn Stapleton and Ainsley Hammill, both the latter also blessed with voices whose development it will be interesting to listen to.

The second half featured an exuberant set by a group of tutors and pupils from the Spanish school of traditional music in Vigo (a place most of us are probably more familar with in a Shooglenifty title) which blazed like a beacon in the Glasgow gloom. Even the casual listener cannot fail to notice that the music of Galicia shares much of its DNA with our own; hearing it is like meeting long lost cousins. The similarities – pipes, fiddles, pentatonic scale – and the differences – much more percussion, including castanets, of course, but also what looked like a pair of scallop shells – are equally fascinating. During the final sets they were joined first by all the pipers, then the rest of the RSAMD students, and finally by Professor Phil himself.

Congratulations to the organisers, RSAMD’s Josh Dickson and Finlay Napier, and very particularly to Jenn Butterworth for some delightful musical arrangements. However it was notable that the students were generally subdued compared to, say, Feis Ceilidh Trailers or Plockton pupils. As the Vigo contingent demonstrated, part of our shared musical DNA is ‘oomph’.

© Jennie Macfie, 2011