Friday, 21 August 2009


20/8/09, The Hub (Edinburgh Festival)

Billed as "triplepipes, lust and spilt blood" it appeared to have none of the latter two and only a little of the first, at the very beginning, when the piper Barnaby Brown and the singer (and harpist) Patsy Seddon came on singing a Gaelic son. Later he played the bagpipes. D complained she'd been short-changed and I was inclined to agree.

A concert by Concerto Caledonia, a Scottish early music group (harpsichord, viol, flute, harp and pipes -- the flautist came from Nova Scotia and the harpist, judging by his accent, from somewhere equidistant between Glasgow, Dublin and Brunswick). With them they had Seddon, a Glasgow folk singer and guitarist called Alasdair Roberts and, an unexpected delight, Martin Carthy, who hadn't been named in the original Festial brochure and who we've never seen live.

And though his voice is reedy his stage presence put him head and shoulders above the rest of 'em.

He and Roberts sang different versions of the same song (called Lord Randall in Carthy's version, Lord Ronald in Roberts's) with recongisably similar words but set to quite different tunes.

There was a fine version of Sir Patrick Spens (which I've never heard sung) by Seddon, a medieval Welsh harp piece (essentially ten verses, each a variation on a very simple theme, with a common refrain) and an utterly impenetrable 17th century pipe song which reminded one of quite how tuneless traditional Scottish pipe music is.

The Hub is an unforgiving venue, made less forgiving by a decision to keep the house lights up. An evening for the most part of academic interest, though one can imagine in the right setting it might have been quite engrossing and involving. We emerged into a cold evening to mingle with the crowds leaving the Tattoo.

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