Thanks to Karen Marshalsay, this morning I managed to read some of the Robert ap Huw MS for the first time. I hadn’t realised he played the harp at the court of James VI/I - which means that Robert ap Huw, Tobias Hume, and Robert Fludd may well have met. And what a meeting of Welsh, Scottish and English musical eccentrics that would have been.
Here’s a video of Bill Taylor playing Gosteg Dafydd Athro, the first piece in the MS.
Since Calum sent me it yesterday I’ve been checking the final version of our Hume album, which is still great fun to listen to even now - a good sign. It’s had an ‘on in the background on a hifi system while I work’ listen, an ‘in-ear headphones while walking down the street’ listen, and it now awaits its final ‘critical listening on grownup headphones’ before I sign it off. I’ll post another track on soundcloud before New Year.
On Tuesday night Alasdair, Neil and I will be conferring over the edit of the ballad piano parts we recorded a few weeks ago. Last night we were all at the launch of the Janey Buchan Political Song Collection CD, where Kim Moore did something amazing and unexpected with a Bert Jansch song, a viola, an electric guitar and a loop pedal.
My intake of bakery goods is on the increase again now that Cottonrake have reopened. They haven’t put their own signage up yet, so I’m sure some people think that the shop is named after the neon that David Shrigley gave them as an opening present.
Karen McAulay and I have discovered the joys of the Atholl Collection at the A K Bell Library in Perth: an astoundingly good collection of 18th/19th-century Scottish music with multiple first editions of Neil Gow books, lots of unexpected treasures, encouraging and helpful staff, and a café with home baking downstairs. Thanks to the newly-arrived Nicola Cowmeadow and her brilliant team – we could happily have spent weeks just exploring the bounty on the shelves.
Congratulations to Olivia for signing to Nonesuch – wahey! At the 2014 Radio 2 Folk Awards she’s up for the Horizon Award and Best Original Song for Swimming in the Longest River … yes, the very one that’s on our album Revenge of the Folksingers.
This morning I was up in Glasgow University Library Special Collections for a bit, looking at Abraham MacIntosh’s 1796 book of tunes with its basses ‘corrected by P[ietro] Urbani’. I’ve found three fiddle books now which Urbani saw fit to ‘correct’, and tomorrow I’ll be in the National Library looking at the first edition to see just what it was that he thought he had to fix. The rare books and manuscripts room at the NLS has a fantastic view of Arthur’s Seat, but the view here today isn’t bad either.
On Saturday and Sunday night Alasdair and I were recording ballads with Neil McDermott wielding microphones. It was very satisfying to finally get the piano parts down that have been gestating for the last year or two, and the pianos (and dulcitone) are all sounding great. The Broadwood seems to be coming more to life all the time, and the McNulty Walter piano is discovering its inner Jerry Lee Lewis.
Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures are at least as terrific as everyone says they are. Make sure you listen if you haven’t already.
And ... also this:
Also on the balance between financial and artistic sense, in amongst the chaos at Scottish Opera in the last couple of weeks, the emergence of a strategy document prepared by its now departed music director that suggested building the company’s repertoire around Mozart and Verdi reminded me of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s founding aims 40 years ago to play ‘the Viennese repertoire’. Both notions seem quaintly old-fashioned now, and the SCO has certainly moved way beyond such limited ambitions. But has anyone had the debate about whether Scotland’s most expensive cultural public investment (ScotOp taking about £6m) should be grounded in Mozart and Verdi? The old assumptions that ‘the classics are good for you’ just don’t cut it any more. Arguably, it’s the lack of reliance on an established canon that has made the National Theatre of Scotland a much more interesting artistic proposition than it otherwise might have been.
On Wednesday I visited Dawyck Botanic Garden for the first time in about 20 years and it is just as spectacular as ever: after three hours, staring in wonder at trees was still completely fascinating. And given that Columba is supposed to have converted Merlin to Christianity just a few hundred yards from where I’m sitting, it was great to get one of these in the post this morning …
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