Sunday 9 August 2015

Edinburgh festival 2015!

The Edinburgh Fringe and the official Edinburgh International festival have started now in August and I look forward to going over for my yearly visit soon - to enjoy the fun buzz and entertainment of the high street, the shows, exhibitions and much much more…
I grew up in with Edinburgh festival and looked on it as a normal event – with no idea until I was older that it was such a massive festival attracting visitors worldwide.

The mix of shows, the arts festival and mostly the Edinburgh International book festival - which hosts the many respected writers; novelists, poets, journalists, comedians, musicians, illustrators and children’s authors and more. Edinburgh festival will be as big and bold as ever! Edinburgh is my hometown so I always enjoy visiting its cobbled streets and strong sense of its historic and cultural past. 
The festival is brilliant, sassy, innovative, creative, all encompassing, extreme, highly visual - from the highest quality choral evening, the silliest fringe show, the thrill of scary acrobatics, informed talks, the daftest comedy to the beauty of singing or dance. Check out reviews Scotsman.

Monday 3 August 2015

Michael Marra at Mugdock festival theatre

'He paints with Words'
I have heard Marra perform twice at the Mugdock theatre, which with the grand piano off to the left is simply the perfect venue for him, and I list his concerts there back in 2007 and 2008 as some of my favourite ever small venue gigs. When Marra arrived at Mugdock he discovered one of the perfect small theatres there.  It seats around fifty in a tiered semi-circle and to the left of the small stage sits a shiny grand piano. It was built with music lovers in mind. 

I managed a short chat with Marra. He appeared to recognize me from last year's festival and I sense he doesn’t miss a beat.  He had his green shirt laid out on the side table.  He said that last year in 2008, he had travelled through the rain and the winding country roads and had wondered where he was going to.  He told me how he loved the Mugdock theatre and the beautiful piano there. You could feel his excitement.

The Gig. All eyes are fixed on Marra throughout.  He was unforgettable playing the small Murdock theatre. His songs are humorous and insightful and with his clever use of words and images he takes us inside his colorful characters.  The first thing that I noticed at his gigs was how frail he looked but then when he performed he surprised me with his energy and his distinctive gravelly voice. 

With endearing heart and ironic dry wit Marra led us through his medley of songs which were brim full of unforgettable characters and carefully crafted images of places and time.  Oddly he props his keyboards on top of a small ironing board.  

Marra played piano and guitar during his set here and he sang songs with grand titles such as -  'If Dundee was Africa', 'Bob Dylan's Visit to Embra', 'Grace Kelly's Visit to Dundee,' 'Muggie Shaw', 'Freda Kohl's Visit to the Tay Bridge Bar', and 'Lonesome Death of Francis Clarke'.  In 'Schenectady Calling', Marra paid tribute to Peerie Willie Johnson, a noted folk musician from Shetland.  He finished his set with a Burns song ' Green Grow the Rashes O' and an encore song 'Mary Skeffington' by the late Gerry Rafferty of Paisley.  

Marra finished with a perfect version of Robert Burn's song ‘Green Grow the Rashes O’ and his smile said it all. For his encore he sang a moving song when he talked about an uncle he never knew who died and about family being in the huff with each other - and he sang the words, ‘Did you forget the world and did the world forget you?’ 
 His music has grown out of both his Scottish Dundee roots and his American fantasies and musical tastes - he calls his sound 'groovy traditional music.' He writes songs about topics such as football, ladies choirs, and American idols!  His stories and songs are highly amusing while other songs are thoughtful and touching. There are echoes of his poet and musical hero, Bob Dylan. He cleverly uses humour and irony to describe the diversity and irony of human nature. His musical influences include - Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Bob Dylan. He was a strong character for photos with his wry fun and the light in his expressive eyes.

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'. 

Although predominantly known as a songwriter, Marra worked extensively in theatre, radio and television.  Marra's children, Alice Marra Clark and Matthew Marra, are members of The Hazy Janes. Marra was in a band called Skeets Boliver in the late seventies. He died in 2012 at the age of 60, a very sad loss.
'There's Love in this world for everyone, Every precious smile you make, Be sure love is out there looking for you.'   Michael Marra

**In 2007 I enjoyed shooting one of my first music festivals – Mugdock music festival. I took photos again at Mugdock festival in 2008 and also in 2009. Mugdock country park lent itself to an intimate and fun festival. Headliners included Aly Bain, Battlefield band, Red hot Chilli pipers, Karen Matheson, Michael Marra, Kris Drever and John McCusker and more.  
 The festival was brought together by the fun energy of director Erne Parkin who sang with the Crossborder band, sadly died in 2009. 

This weekend a NEW Mugstock festival takes place at Murdock - check out their top line up here - http://www.mugstock.org

Monday 27 July 2015

Scottish Ballet

I enjoyed shooting the Scottish Ballet and sorting into black and white -

``Gaelic Traditions and Culloden

There are false myths of Gaelic traditions and of the battle of Culloden.
 I have been shocked over how much Scottish history is misrepresented and badly taught (if at all actually!) Our true heritage matters greatly for how we feel about our confidence in our country today.

I grew up in Edinburgh and I have always believed that the battle of Culloden 1746 (near Inverness) was a big defeat of the Scots by the English with a great many Scots killed.
It turns out that the battle was part of a civil war and a religious battle between Protestants and Catholics. 

When Queen Ann had no successors to protect the stability of Protestantism and because of concern over the wars with France - the English parliament brought over George of Hanover to succeed her. On the Hanoverian side were English, German and Scottish troops.

On Charles Edward Stuart’s side (Bonnie Prince Charlie) were Scottish, French and English troops. For instance the MacDonalds of Skye were on the Hanoverian side. Considering the importance of the Protestant movement in Scotland much of the Scottish Lowlands did not support the Jacobites (John Knox 1514). There was also an English Civil war of 1642 – 1679, between cavaliers and roundheads.
 Culloden was a marshy moor land and Charles would not listen to advice. This was the last major battle on Scottish soil. After the battle the Highland clans were suppressed. Gaelic culture was suppressed by the UK government after the 45, with the Act of Proscription to break up the clans and prohibit the wearing of tartan. I believe Scott helped to revive Scottish culture with his books. In 1822, Walter Scott, author of Waverley, a story of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, arranged a pageantry of Scottish traditions for the visit of King George IV to Scotland when the monarch dressed in a kilt. The tartan pageantry was popular and the kilt then became Scotland's National Dress.


Gaelic speaker Coinneach Maclean The nephews of the great Gaelic poet Sorely Maclean, has been writing up his thesis at Glasgow university and he has been lecturing on Gaeldom. After studying for a tourist guide qualification at Edinburgh university, he was shocked at the total lack of Gaelic history in the course. In fact he claims the tourist course was full of factual errors. Tourism is a big industry for Scotland and it matters greatly that correct and authentic accounts are given to visitors.

According to Tom Devine the Episcopalian church were greatly worried about the Union and many were Jacobites. Religion played a much bigger part then today.  

Has Gaelic culture been written out of Scotland’s Story? David Ross, The Herald.
Coinneach Maclean, former deputy chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland and acedemic, says the country is squandering an irreplaceable heritage while making billions from it