Homecoming at Henderson’s Review
At any other time of the year it would have looked an odd sight - a snake of folk in Thistle Street carrying champagne flutes, trouping into Henderson's Restaurant. But this is Festival time and they had come from Henderson's Gallery in anticipation of an evening's entertainment and a three course vegetarian meal from the legendary Henderson's, know to locals as "Trendy Hendy's".
The audience is seated in the rustic-like cellar bar, with its carved wooden framed mirrors and wine rack, wooden jigsaw bar front, the big painting of the Edinburgh ploy (festival) and the framed railway poster commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Burns that is said to have inspired the actor John Cairney in his depiction of the Bard.
I first met Wendy Carle-Taylor earlier this year when we chanced to be seated together at a show and ended up chatting, a testament to her warm, friendly personality. She started the Homecoming at Henderson's evening by aptly reciting a short poem, In Friendship's Name, and Burns' stark and simple Selkirk Grace before the first course was served.
The rest of the set featured traditional Scottish songs like Oh Waly Waly, a song based on the story of Lady Barbara Erskine, the daughter of the 9th Earl of Mar, who was falsely accused of adultery.
There were several by Robert Burns including Ae Fond Kiss, The Slave's Lament which sensitively shows Burns' deep human empathy, and The Lea Rig, all to mark his 250th Anniversary.
Wendy sings from the heart, and in keeping with her eclectic style, she included the Trash Can Sinatras song Beauty is Within Grasp that had been sung by Eddi Reader at the opening of the Scottish Parliament; a song by singer songwriter Eric Bogle and the Border Ballad, The Twa Corbies put to song. Her smiling eyes and beautiful voice made even the sinister thochts o the twa burds in the sang sound deliciously wicked. It was lovely to hear Burns' weel kent and beautiful A Red Red Rose, though whether it was written for Jean Armour is not certain.
She sang unaccompanied Burns' love song about age and beyond, John Anderson My Jo, following it with Dainty Davie when guitarist Tony Mitchell joined in with some of the audience that knew the song. Her native Aberdeenshire got its rightful place with her sparkling rendition of Nicky Tams. The Ewan McColl's Song of the Fish Gutter and Ewan McVicar's Shift and Spin showed the humour and smeddum that was alive in harsh factory life, some of which was part of her family history.
There was a self-written clarsach solo by four times Mod Gold medallist, Ailie Robertson and two guitar solos by Tony Mitchell, giving more variety to the warm and friendly evening that was epitomised in the audience standing and joining hands and voices with Auld Lang Syne.
This is a fine way to end this Festival, honouring Scotland's Bard with Scottish artists and musicians and sharing food and drink with friends. A human communion.
Times: 16, 23, 30 August, 7pm and 6 September 5pm