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(M) 3 out of 52
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Rating Guide
None = Unmissable

= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme



The McCalmans (page 113)
Drams Full glass
The Band Ian McCalman (vocals); Martin (D18 Guitar, Ovation guitar, Weirdolin, Bodhran); Stephen Quigg (Vocals, Guild guitar, Mouth organs, Bodhran); Nick Keir (Vocals); Martin (J40m guitar, Bushby mandolin, Hohner mouth organs, Generation & Clark flageolets)
Venue The Queens Hall (Venue 72)
Address Clerk Street
Reviewer Pauline Archibald

The McCalmans
What can I say? Not only are the McCalmans fantastic musicians, songwriters and singers but these guys are seriously amusing. Not many acts could get away with opening their one night at the Edinburgh Fringe with epitaphs to a bachelor lumberjack and a washing mangle.

The camaraderie between McCalman, Keir and Quigg had a packed Queens Hall eagerly anticipating what the next joke would be never mind the next song. With the audience ranging from 8 to 80, the jokes were clean if not a little risky.

With numbers like Highland Tomorrow, the McCalmans are able to be traditional without the tartan shortbread tins and plastic kilties.

Sheena Wellington's Women o' Dundee, is one of many of the evening's highlights and really got the audience going. The sound of the bodhran and McCalman thumping his guitar mirroring the sound of the looms that the women worked at to keep '… the bairns o' Dundee fair' was great. The vocals were second to none and gave the song a very powerful edge.

Applecross and Twa Recruiting Sergeants give the audience their historical fix, with the latter an especially forceful and poignant song. With more banter and a very odd but very funny story about a Lucky Puppy the guys brought the first set to a close.

The second set opened with what has to be one of the funniest songs ever written to those who know the A830 Fort William to Mallaig road, the band claim that this song saves lives by putting off tourists from using it. The audience sang and laughed their hearts out and all about a 43 mile stretch of tarmac, the 'Highland daily dodgems it's the 803.

From roads to hangovers: Wrecked Again struck a cord with nearly everyone in the audience as they sang along to a simple chorus of 'Ohhhhhhhhhh wrecked again' and they sang loud - very loud to a song which simply aims to explore what a hangover is all about - cramp in your thumb apparently!

This was a truly entertaining night, the best in Scottish music, humour and story telling. The Queens Hall is one of the better venues with decent acoustics and a lay out that give a more intimate atmosphere than some others that won't be mentioned. The one dram needed to get through an evening with these guys is merely to wind down, relax and enjoy.

© Pauline Archibald. 15 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
   

Brian McNeill (page 97)

Drams 0
Venue The Reid Hall (Venue 201)
Address Reid Quad, Bristo Square
Reviewer Pauline Archibald

Brian McNeill
Brian McNeill
The programme provided an excellent mixture of historical, political and very personal songs and instrumentals. McNeill demonstrated an immense versatility not only through his voice and musical ability but also in humour and story-telling.

The show opens with the first of many biographical songs,'The Lads O' The Fair, putting to song his youth in the then cattle market town of Falkirk.

Not only does he perform his own material but also work from his years with The Battlefield Band, most notably the powerful Snows of France and Holland. Pushing the fiddle to its limits, this haunting ballad soon turns into a foot-stomping, hand-blistering jig that gets the small, enthusiastic audience going.

>From the personal, comes the political. Having made his views on the interpretation of Scottish history clear, McNeill chooses Flora Macdonald as the subject of his piece Strong Women Rule Us All With Their Tears and lambasts the Scottish feminist movement for not holding her in higher regard.

The highlights of this show however came towards the end. Bring The Lassie Hame, a potent song about his parents meeting during the war, is McNeil at his best. The musician jokes that he could well have been brought up a wee Austrian boy; instead his father brought his Austrian mother back to Scotland after the war - something the Scottish music industry should be eternally grateful for.

The penultimate song lifts the audience yet again; No Gods and Precious Few Heroes is the most political of them all and gets right to the bone to the state of Scotland today. It's political with a small 'p' and he's critical of all sides of the political spectrum, nationalists and unionists alike.

McNeill was let down by a venue that stripped the gig of much of its atmosphere, too large, too formal and bad acoustics. Despite this, and possibly because of it, he gave a fantastic performance that was very much enjoyed by everyone there.

© Pauline Archibald 10 August 2003
   

Music makes friends (page 98)
Drams (for effort)
Music A medley of items (see below)
Musicians Usworth Youth Orchestra, Rupert W Hanson (Director)
Venue St Mark's Unitarian Church (Venue 125).
Address Castle Terrace
Reviewer Charlie Napier

I really do admire the dedication of Rupert Hanson and his team of assistants for the work they do with the children of Usworth, one of the more under-privileged areas of the city of Sunderland.

They have worked very hard to give children between the ages of 8 and 15 years the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument and to play music together, in the orchestra, in small groups or on their own. They have put together this presentation of music, song and dance, which they have brought to the Edinburgh Fringe for the second year in succession.

When I saw their performance advertised last year I wondered why they were not included in the British Festival of Youth Orchestras just up the road in the Central Hall. When I heard their performance last year I understood why. I thought that it would be a few years before they reached the standard required for that festival. When I saw that they were performing this year, I had to go along to see what had been achieved in a further year.

One thing that was noticeable was that the size of the orchestra had increased, as had the number of different instruments that were included. This year they had violins, one cello, flutes, one oboe, clarinets, trumpets, one horn, a side drum and a bass drum. Rupert is planning to strengthen the bass section of the orchestra during the coming year. The standard this year was a little better than last year, but there is still a lot of hard work to do. The orchestra played very simplified arrangements of some of the well-known classics. While there may be something lacking in quality, you cannot help but admire the enthusiasm, and the courage, of these young people.

One must not underestimate the size of the task that the children have undertaken. Not only do they have to learn to play their chosen instrument, but also they have to learn to play together. On top of all that, they have to help to raise the funds to pay for their instruments, their lessons, their music and, of course, their trip to Edinburgh. Rupert told me that on top of all that, they help him to raise money for other children's charities in their area by performing with him, raisning in total about £15,000. This is a temendous feat and must surely benefit the children's development. I wish them every success.

They started with the Gallop from Rossini's William Tell Overture. Then Guy Barret and Lee Croucher gave as a version of a Mozart Romance for two clarinets. Laura Handy then gave us her version of the song On My Own from The Lion King, to a recorded orchestral accompaniment, which I'm afraid was a little too loud. The orchestra then came back with Kalinka the Russian folk song made famous by the Red Army Choir. Rupert got the audience to clap along while the orchestra repeated the last section.

John Carr then gave us three Irish jigs on his oboe, playing from memory. John must be fond of Irish music, as we will see a little later. Two of the assistants, Diana on the violin and Dianne on the piano gave us a rendering of a Brahms Hungarian Dance. The orchestra returned with Autumn from The Seasons by Vivaldi, followed by Sophie Norman playing Edelweiss from The Sound of Music. This was a very brave effort by Sophie, her first time playing solo in public! The rest of the trumpet section joined her and they played the march See the Conquering Hero Come by Handel. Rupert sang The Worm Song to remind the children to do what their mothers tell them. The orchestra finished this section with Can you feel the love tonight, also from The Lion King.

There was some rearrangement of the stage going on while Dianne played a Debussy Arabesque on the piano. The programme was completed by the Carr boys: Jacob, James and John, treating us to some Irish dancing, followed by Rebecca Scott, and Frances and Hannah Barret giving us The Dance of the Little Swans from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (twice!), all accompanied by recorded music. Finally, the orchestra played The Can Can from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. A nice rousing finish to this concert. I look forward to hearing further improvements next year.

© Charlie Napier, 22 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com

For further information contact: Rupertwhanson@aol.com



(M) 3 out of 52
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