City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Breabach, Queen's Hall, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 09 May 2015

Show Details
Queen's Hall
Megan Henderson (fiddle), James Lindsay (double bass), Duncan MacCrimmon (bagpipe and whistle), James Duncan Mackenzie (bagpipe and flute), Ewan Robertson (guitar)
Running time: 

Breabach’s appearance at the Queens Hall coincided with and was part of Edinburgh’s Tradfest, the city’s rather low profile dip of the toe into celebrating indigenous and other traditions of music making.

Formed in 2005, the band has won awards for ‘Best Band’ from both the BBC and the Scots Trad Music Awards (‘na Trads’) and have, in the intervening years built up a deserved reputation for innovative yet sympathetic re-interpretation of Scottish traditional repertoire, particularly its Gaelic aspects.

Duncan MacCrimmon’s playing on pipes and whistle, Megan Hendersons’s fiddle playing (not to mention her step dancing skills), Ewan Robertson’s on guitar, James Duncan Mackenzie’s piping and flute playing, and that of James Lindsay on double bass all contribute to the rich mix of sounds which is Breabach.

Their style and delivery is all their own, as they quickly set about demonstrating in an opening set of jigs, decorated and extended in contemporary fashion, which plays well (pun intended) to current taste and by so doing extends the audience quite literally globally. However, as with any such development, there's a potential concomitant loss, that of context, though Breabach, as with other groups, do seek to maintain connection with the roots of their music.

MacCrimmon’s own composition, ‘Gigface’ followed the song ‘Orange Train Whistle’ and the opening half of the concert concluded with a spirited version of the pipe tune ‘New Paradigm’

‘Glasgow of the Big Shops’ and the late Gordon Duncan’s ‘The 98’ opened the second half, offering a lively, pipe-driven soundscape which was continued in ‘I am Proud to Play a Pipe’, a piobroch composed in defiance of the 1747 Act of Parliament forbidding the playing of the highland bagpipe, here re-arranged for the instruments available and the ‘ground’ of the tune forming a piece somewhat shorter than the original and thus more suited to a concert such as this.

Tempo and mood changed with a song version of Edwin Muir’s poem ‘Scotland’s Winter’ and yet again with the Donald Macleod tunes ‘The Old Hill’ and ‘Dr. Macinnes’ Fancy’, which brought the concert to a close.

If the Scottish lion roared on the morning of the concert (the 8th of May) the audience were certainly still in good voice and good humour by the evening, and their own contributions enhanced the experience, sending us back out into a dreich Edinburgh evening with a fresh spring in our steps and musical remembrances to keep us company.