CALUM MacCrimmon will be much to the fore. As a 2007 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional
Award finalist, he will be playing in the Grand Final
on Sunday, 28 January.
Finalists each perform for 15 minutes in a concert setting, as a part of the Celtic Connections
Calum MacCrimmon’s pipes and step-dance band, Breabach, currently in the running for the “Up and
Coming Artist of the Year” title in this year’s BBC Scots Trad
Music Awards, has a rising
national and international profile and will also feature at the festival.
With Donal Brown (pipes, whistles and step-dance), Ewan Robertson
(guitar, pipes and vocals), Patsy Reid (fiddle, vocals), it takes the stage at the Glasgow Royal
Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite on Sunday evening, 28 January, in a programme with the
Welsh ensemble, Fernhill, which incorporates elements of traditional, jazz, world music and rap into
its music, and Shetland fiddler Jenna Reid, who was voted “Up-and-Coming Artist of the Year” in
the 2005 Scots Trad Music Awards Breabach’s Celtic Connections booking in 2007
follows on from its winning of the Danny Kyle Open Stage event in 2005.
“Breabach’ s going well,” said Calum Mac Crimmon. “Our album, The
Big Spree, comes out in January.” Since the band got together in 2002, Breabach has played at
festivals and folk clubs across Scotland, Europe and Canada, with a sound that is defined by the
Calum MacCrimmon’s flair on the Highland pipes, a presence that has a lot to do with Donal
Brown’s step-dancing and a varied repertoire that embraces slow airs and songs as well as full-on
A week after Breabach’s show, on Sunday, 4 February, Calum MacCrimmon
is back at the Strathclyde Suite to present his New Voices concert: a commissioned
presentation of his own compositions and arrangements called Outside the Circle. He is a
prolific composer, and usually composes in public.
“I get ideas, maybe walking down the street, and I start diddling to
myself, then I record it on my cellphone,” he said. “I can’t seem to come up with tunes any
other way. A couple of days later, I go back and listen to what I’ve recorded over the last little
while and work it out from there. Sometimes I haven’t consciously realised at the time whether
it’s a pipe tune I’ve come up with or a whistle tune.
“People who see me singing into my ’phone at the train station must
think I’m a bit of a weirdo — that’s pretty much me all the time: it gives me the freedom I
need. Whatever notes come into my head, that’s where it goes.”
For New Voices, Calum MacCrimmon has put together a strong
line-up of seven other musicians: pipers Lorne MacDougall and Alastair Henderson; bass guitarist and
double bassist Duncan Lyall; guitarist and fiddler Innes Watson; fiddler, tenor banjo picker and
vocalist Celine Donaghue; pianist, flautist, whistle-player, vocalist and Scottish step-dancer
Hamish Napier (nominated as a solo artist in the ‘Best up and Coming Artist’ category at the Scots
Trad Music Awards in 2005); and percussionist Andrew MacPherson.
It is a gathering of friends and fellow musicians from Calum
MacCrimmon’s student days at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, where he
completed a BA (Scottish Music) Honours degree.
“I wanted to get musicians with whom I’d played before and who are
friends of mine outside of the scene,” he said. “I think that that’s important, to involve
people you know, especially when you’re doing something that’s based on your own inspiration and
Donald Shaw invited Calum MacCrimmon to take up the challenge of a New
Voices com-mission in September.
“I’d been planning to look for funding myself to mount a concert —
so, when he approached me for Celtic Connections, it was an absolute blessing,” said Calum
“I already had half of the show put together. Nevertheless, I’ve
been very busy since September — it has to run 50 minutes on the night and that’s quite a lot of
Alongside his performing, composing and arranging commitments, Calum
MacCrimmon teaches for Feis Rois in Inverness, running traditional music workshops, teaching tin
whistle and leading group work classes at primary schools in Ross-shire and Inverness-shire under
Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative and Traditional Music in Schools schemes.
He also gives a lot of time to the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland — as
a tutor, producer and backing musician, playing guitar. And, to fully fill out his time and absorb
his creative impulses, has started a four-piece fusion band called Ladies From Hell — no,” he
said, “it’s not a military nostalgia group — although the name originates in the Germans’
perception of Scottish troops during the First World War — and I don’t know that I’ll get
everyone into kilts: the ‘Ladies’ have a driving and contemporary sound, with a bit of funk and
country thrown in to the mix; it’s a lot of fun.”
Outside the Circle’s first rehearsals were held in early
December. “I’d sent out a recording of the tunes to everyone, then the sheet music, said Calum
MacCrimmon. “I hoped this would eliminate some of the early problems.
“It’s a chance for me to put together what I’ve done and what I
do. I’m not really going for a theme apart from the fact that I’ve been influenced by both
piping and folk music over the years. This will not be a typical representation of the Highland
bagpipe and its music.
That’s where the name comes from: Outside the Circle.
“It represents the influences that have come into piping over the past five to 10 years.
“A lot of the tunes are more rooted in rhythm, for example; there’s a lot
of internal rhythms in the melodies — that is something I’m into. I’m not sticking to what
other pipers might call ‘kitchen piping’ but there are lots of reels and jigs in the repertoire.
I’m intending to present something that stands up in its own right, utilising rhythm, harmony,
The show consists of medleys of tunes, he said, “not just on Highland
pipes but on whistle as well… and there’s a Gaelic song. “I originally wrote it as a Gaelic
air and, after several people told me it should be a song, it now has words to it, thanks to help
from Darren MacLean. I wrote it for my sister Katie, so it’ll be a praise song for her.”
Something that probably will happen with Outside the Circle is that there’ll be a
commercial recording; “that’s certainly what I hope to do with it,” said Calum McCrimmon. And
a book of tunes is a possibility, in collaboration with his father, Iain MacCrimmon, who is also a
composer: “Dad has a lot of unpublished tunes that he’s s written and we’ve always talked
about doing a book together so, once this is done, it might happen.”
MEANWHILE, elsewhere on the Celtic Connections programme, the Annual
Piping Concert starts at 12.30 p.m. in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Auditorium on Saturday, 27
January, headlining the fifth-time world champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, with pipe
major Richard Parkes, MBE, and the ScottishPower Pipe Band led by Chris Armstrong. Compeering the
show will be Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson.
On Wednesday, 24 January, 8 p.m., Asturian piper José Manuel Tejedor, with
his brother Javier, on accordion, bagpipes, flutes and percussion, and sister, Eva, on percussion
and vocals, share the stage at ABC with Scotland’s five-piece Finlay MacDonald Band — Finlay
MacDonald, fiddler Chris Stout, guitarist Kevin Mackenzie, John Speirs on bass and Fergus Mackenzie
A Gordon Duncan Tribute concert on Friday, 26 January 2007, 8 p.m. in
the Strathclyde Suite at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Strathclyde Suite bills Ireland’s Paddy
Keenan (accompanied by Tommy O’Sullivan), Scotland’s Allan MacDonald, Ross Ainslie with Jarlath
Henderson and José Manuel Tejedor. There is also a Gordon Duncan Solo Piping Competition for
the Gordon Duncan Trophy presented by McCallum Bagpipes of Kilmarnock. It will be held at the
Holiday Inn, City West, on Sunday, 28 January, starting at 2 p.m. Players include Roddy MacLeod,
Simon McKerrell, Stuart Cassells, Ian Duncan, Herve Le Floch, Sylvain Hamon, Charles Noim, Jacky
Pincet, Pierre Gallais, Ryan Canning, Alen Tully, Harry Stevenson, Kenny Stewart, John Wilson and
Fred Morrison, whose orchestral composition Paracas, opened the 2005
festival, plays with guitarist Innes Watson, percussionist Paul Jennings, bassist Duncan Lyall and
Douglas Miller on piano and keyboards, on Saturday, 27 January, 10 p.m. at the City Halls Old
Fruitmarket venue. This is a double billing with Scotland’s popular Salsa Celtica band, which has
spent much of the past year on the road, including an official showcase slot at WOMEX in Seville.
Rory Campbell, with Jonny Hardie on guitar and Donald Hay on percussion —
the line-up for his Intrepid album — shares a billing with Martin Green and his
nine-piece jazz-folk band, the Green Machine, on Sunday, 28 January, 8 p.m., at the Classic Grand.
And there is more…
Something rather different is a Burns Me la at the City Halls Old
Fruitmarket on Sunday, 28 January starting at 8 p.m. Piper Iain Mac Innes will be taking his place a
multicultural night of music, dance, food and poetry that combines a celebration of Robert Burns
with the energy, colour and spectacle of an Asian mela.
Put together by the Asian-underground artist Sushil K Dade (Future Pilot AKA),
the line-up here includes the percussion of Johnny Kalsi and the Dhol Foundation, DJ Tigerstyle,
Realworld vocalist Sheila Chandra, Dundee’s Michael Marra, the early music group Concerto
Caledonia, piper Michael McGoldrick on flute and whistle with tabla virtuoso Parvinder Bharat. The
master of the Indian bansuri flute, Hariprasad Chaurasia, will appear with his quartet, and Future
Pilot AKA will perform as ‘The Burns Unit’. A specially convened ensemble and mystery guests
will be performing dub versions of Burns’ songs. And there will also be a Burns reading by Scots
novelist and illustrator Alasdair Gray. The ticket price includes a Burns-inspired buffet, supplied
by Harlequin Indian Restaurants.
The festival’s Ceolraidh, (“inspiration” in Gaelic) concerts
derive from a series of concerts created by Feis Rois to encourage the sharing of knowledge and
artistry between a seasoned expert and a gifted youngster. So, in a Ceolraidh presentat ion
on Monday, 29 January, at the National Piping Centre, uilleann piper Jar lat h Henderson, winner of
the 2003 BBC Young Folk Award, and Paddy Keenan of Bothy Band fame, share a billing with harper
Rachel Newton and Unusual Suspects co-founder Corrina Hewat. Rory Campbell is the featured piper for
a celebration of Barra’s Gaelic musical traditions, hosted by Maggie MacInnes with Cathy-Ann
MacPhee, Rory Campbell’s sister Mairi-Ann on fiddle and their father, singer Ruairidh Campbell.
This presentation will be held on Friday, 19 January, 8 p.m., at St Andrew’s in the Square.