This year the festival was held in a marquee in the walled garden, which seemed much simpler while missing the activities in the courtyard. The Mugdock festival brought together a broad range and depth of artists and had a strong international flavour. The Shawlands, Chinese and belly dancer dance groups brought colour. The flamenco dancers and musicians brought energy and colourful African drums with Arawarra. Seylan Baxter and Cheyanne Brown played their warm flowing harp and cello tunes. The Sighthill Project was a fresh, well taught group of talented youngsters from different countries, who sing and play violin together.
Headlining this year were John McCusker, Michel Marra, and the Battlefield band. The Battlefield band played a fun energy-filled set of Scottish tunes. McCusker. Woomble and Drever, three talented artists plus Heidi Talbot, have joined forces to produce a class album of contemporary tunes with folk influences. To our delight Scottish singing royalty Eddi Reader turned up and sang on a couple of songs with the group!
Some artists are both unassuming and also brimming with talent and they play intelligent, insightful and instinctive music. Michael Marra and John McCusker both fall into the category in different ways. McCusker has that ability to sink into the emotion and grip you with his music through his expressive dynamic fiddle playing.
Michael Marra at Mugdock theatre
When he arrived at Mugdock he discovered the perfect small theatre. The theatre is fairly new and seats about 50 in a tiered semi circle and with a shiny grand piano to the left of the small stage. There is one side entrance and the door to the back stage room. It has been built with music lovers in mind.
I managed a chat with Marra and he appeared to recognise me from last year. I sense he doesn’t miss a beat. He had his green shirt laid out on the side table and he said how much he loved the Mugdock theatre and the beautiful piano. You could feel his excitement. Last year in 2008 he said he had travelled through the rain and the winding country roads wondering where he was coming to.
Marra's is unforgettable playing the small Murdock theatre. His songs are both very humorous (as is his chat) and insightful and his clever use of words and images in his songs, he takes himself into the others heads. There are echoes of his poet and musical hero, Bob Dylan. He cleverly uses humour and irony to describe the truths of the diversity of human nature. He draws on Dundee his home town often and of the football team Dundee United FC. All eyes are fixed on Marra throughout.
Marra finished with the Robert Burn's song Green Grow the Rashes O and his smile said it all. For his encore he sang a beautiful, moving song, He talked about an uncle he never knew who died and about family being in the huff with each other
He sang the words, ‘Did you forget the world and did the world forget you?’
You could feel Marra’s joy of it after his encore song. A perfect ending to the Saturday.
Whenever I think of the special audience connection this has to be the perfect small venue where that magic can happen. Buckley calls it the 'romance of the small venue'.