Monday, 19 March 2018

Bernard MacLaverty at Hamilton Mausoleum

 The esteemed writer (and grandfather to my children) Bernard MacLaverty attended the live premiere of my Hamilton Mausoleum Suite on Monday 19th Feb. 

Bernard was kind enough to send me his diary extract, allowing me to publish it here on my blog. (btw - I can attest that Bernard's latest, critically acclaimed book "Midwinter Break" is an enthralling read...)

In the evening I go to a unique event organized by Francis at the Hamilton Mausoleum. On the way in there is a thin eyelash moon over the distinctly odd structure. A string quartet with harp playing his composed music – the same music which has just been issued on CD by Shoeshine Records. It is fiendishly cold and the audience sit around the perimeter in overcoats and bobble hats. Almost all of them look up into the distant dark copula. Escutcheons and bare bummed putti throw strange shadows. It’s hard to know what you’re looking at. There is concealed lighting in the vastly tall interior, lighting the stone uprights – undersea green, sky blue, purple, and broom yellow. On the ground is a design of marble marquetry which feels upwardly dished when you walk over it.
The musicians are playing in their overcoats. I can see only one musician wearing black fingerless woollen gloves. Little glimmers of light come from various places. Behind the players four or five lanterns, other places T lights. The cellist’s breath is visible when he exhales past  the downlight of his music stand.
The evening begins with Francis addressing the audience. His voice demonstrates the echo immediately. He tells us about what he hopes we are about to hear. When he turns his head away the sense of his words is lost. They boom into the  surrounding alcoves. He tells us this is close to where he grew up, where he went to school, where he cycled with his friends as a boy. When he finishes there is jagged applause  followed by silence. There is a strange and unexpected sound like a gurgle. My daughter Ciara has had the foresight to bring, not one, but two hot water bottles. She passes one to me for under my coat and the silence is reinstated.
The music begins and so does the controlled reverberation. The notes amplify and echo. They put on sleeves of themselves and the effect is wonderfully satin. The pace of the music is stately so that the melodic lines do not cancel or cross over. The bowed strings are horizontal, the plucked harp vertical. There is a solo piece for the harp which is magically successful.
At the interval Francis tells us that they are  going to let us hear the effect of the echo by banging the huge front door shut. A man in a high viz yellow jacket opens, then slams the door to. It sounds like a gunshot and goes on banging around the place for whole seconds ( the circular building once held the record for the longest echo of any man-made structure). We all feel like applauding the doorman but nobody does. Everyone strolls about to get their circulation going. On a ledge I see ten little black woollen teats, then recognise them as fingers freshly snipped from a pair of gloves.The second half of music broadens the scope of what we are listening to – one piece is consciously paced so fast that the notes impishly smudge and grate. I remember the American modernist composer, Charles Ives, who said to his audiences, ‘Stand up and take your dissonances like a man.’ The whole evening comes to an end with rattling, sustained applause. Some whistles and bravos. A few people attempt to clap still wearing woollen gloves – plump, plump, plump. Others jump to their feet and stamp, more for reasons of heat than anything else. One of the amazing things is that everyone leaving the building remarks on how warm it is outside.
All agree that it is a night they will never forget. Buy the CD. Remind yourself of the music by your own fireside.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Since We Last Spoke...

...I attended the New Music Scotland Awards - fun night at the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow. Hope NMS can flourish for years to come...

I've been digging BBC4's Minimalism docs...

So this brilliant film is kind of about everything....

And this dark, slow-burning slice of show-don't-tell filmmaking stayed with me long after the credits...

Last week I managed to take a photo of Morecambe and Wise just before they jumped through a window in Maryhill Park, Glasgow.

I've been working on music for a thing with brilliant harpist Sharron Griffiths and a string quartet (Justine Watts, Stewart Webster, Emma Connell-Smith and John Davidson) from the Scottish Festival Orchestra.

More on that soon.

This sure is an interesting New Yorker article on the Pablo Escobar industry and 'narcoturistas'...

Did I mention that "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" is now on Spotify?

You know all about Tracyanne & Danny - right?

UK, US tour dates + mailing list subscription all here.

PS: Oh and I loved this...

Monday, 5 March 2018

Tracyanne & Danny!!!

I'm still loving The Young Offenders on BBC One. Funny and heartbreaking. Writer-director Peter Foott is an amazing talent, in my humble opinion.

"Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" is now on Spotify.

Unfortunately the planned performance of the suite in Helensburgh on 13th March has had to be cancelled. It was nice to be asked but 'twas not to be. Aww.

In other news I am pitching music for a TV programme, writing music for a feature-length documentary that I can't say anything about and recording music for a secret advert type thing.

But enough about me.

Tracyanne & Danny is a new project from Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) and Danny Coughlan (Crybaby) - an inspired meeting of musical minds. Their new album "Tracyanne & Danny" was produced by Edwyn Collins and Sean Read. It will be released on Merge on 25th May.

Here's a 1 minute teaser trailer:

And here's a whole song:

And here are the UK tour dates:

And here are the US tour dates:

And here is their website where there are links to pre-order the album + concert tickets and you can join their mailing list:

There. If you can't get a ticket come show time, don't come crying to me. The album is bloody brilliant btw.

What else? Recent films watched (thanks, BAFTA Scotland) = A Fantastic Woman (thumbs up) and Black Panther which let's just say is not going to be mistaken for a fly on the wall documentary.

Whatever you think of awards ceremonies I'm glad The Shape Of Water won at the Oscars. I loved it. Definitely one to watch on a big cinema screen. But then again aren't they all, darling?

Keep in touch.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

Oh my stars, (as a wee girl used to say in a misremembered Victorian (?) children's drama from the early 80s where the actor who played the amiable chef from Fawlty Towers was a mean dad, but I digress...)

So last week we had the live premiere of "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" in the mausoleum itself.
The Mausoleum's cupola
Well, the reviews are in and...*drum roll*'s 5 stars all the way!!  *gong, duck whistle*

"Something a bit special"★★★★★ The Scotsman (read more)
"A huge palate of sound and feeling" ★★★★★ The Skinny (read more)
"Bloody freezing" ★★★★★ The Sunday Mail

I'm extremely chuffed of course, but it was really the amazing musicians who earned all those stars: Justine Watts (violin), Stewart Webster (violin), Emma Connell-Smith (viola), John Davidson (cello) and Sharron Griffiths (harp).

If you listen here from 1 hour 5 mins, I was on the BBC Radio Scotland's "Out Of Doors"  programme discussing recording in the Mausoleum along with very knowledgeable guide Peter.

I'll be introducing one more live performance of the Hamilton Mausoleum Suite at The Tower Digital Arts Centre, Helensburgh on 13th March. Tickets here.

The nice folks at the highly recommended Glasgow Music City Walking Tours asked me to blog about the project - so I did.

What else? Young Offenders Episode 3 made me laugh and cry at the same time.

This is an amazing, suitably epic New Yorker article about Henry Worsley's Antarctic Expeditions.

Tracyanne & Danny is a new project featuring Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura and Danny Coughlan from Crybaby. Produced by Edwyn Collins & Sean Read (Dexys), I can vouch that it is a wee beauty.

UK dates, US dates, album release date and a new song can all be found at:
Toodle pip!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Cacio e Pepe

As I type I am reflecting on last night's live performance of "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite". What a privilege to hear my music played by great musicians in an amazing venue!

Sincere thanks to the musicians, punters, Hamilton Low Parks Museum staff and, well, everyone who has been supportive of my notion which became an idea, then a concept and then a thing.

Here is a wee handheld, lo-fi taster; "Stone Lions Lullaby" (violin & harp) and "The Mausoleum" (string quartet)...

Felt like a culmination of something. Although we are doing it again next month in Helensburgh...
To book tickets go here and click Live On Screen

More info on the "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" album at

I was on BBC Radio Scotland's "Classics Unwrapped" the other night. I'm blethering from 4 mins 43 seconds. You can listen here.

In other news...

I just had a pleasant city break (as they call it) in Belfast. The Titanic Exhibition was fandabbydozy (sp?). The Gilbert & George Exhibiton at The Mac provoked one of my children to announce that it "hurts my brain". G&G might claim this as a victory.

Elle is pretty dark and dramatic. By the end I felt like I'd binge-watched an entire series of a disturbing French psycho-drama.

Lady Bird = brilliant.

I loved "Loveless". I'm all for a long slow film in the hands of an intelligent, confident filmmaker, that keeps me thinking about it days later.

"Young Offenders" is a hoot - the film on Netflix AND the series on BBC One.

Pity Paddington 2 didn't do better at the BAFTAS. Loved that film.

Recipe Corner - this was a revelation...

And finally, Esther....

The Teenage Fanclub bandwagon is starting to roll...

Monday, 5 February 2018

New t-shirt Design: "Comfortingly Orthodox" (The Guardian); "An Artist Of Stature" (The Peterborough Telegraph)

"Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" just got honourable mentions in The Scotsman...

"Fragrant pastoral passages"
...and the Guardian...

"Bach-like harp...pastoral exploration...comfortingly orthodox"
...and the Peterborough Telegraph...
And it entered the Top 50 Classical Artist Charts at Number 30.

Max, Andre & Francis - the Dream Team
In other news I saw Scottish Opera's production of Greek and loved it and The Transatlantic Sessions at Celtic Connections and loved it too. Julie Fowlis always a highlight. John McCusker was there too.

Fortune cookie song idea...
I have mastered Panettone bread and butter pudding, btw - so watch out.

This New Yorker article on women and the mafia is nuts...

What else? Oh! Don't forget "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" LIVE performance in The Tower, Helensburgh next month. The Helensburgh Advertises are excited...

You can order "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite" here - or at all good physical and digital music retailers....

Tinkety-tonk, old fruit, and down with the nazis.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Helensburgh, Here We Come...

Hello - it's yourself.

Classic FM just premiered an exclusive video for "Stone Lions Lullaby" from "Hamilton Mausoleum Suite. The video was shot by Mark Boggis and Charlie Francis. The soloists are Sharron Griffiths (harp) and Justine Watts (violin)...

(I wonder if that's the first time The Pastels have had a passing namecheck by Classic FM...)

Our live premiere of The Suite in the Mausoleum itself was 'sold out' the day it was announced. However, we have one (just one) more special live event in the diary. 

*drum roll* Ta-dah!...

See you in Helensburgh on 13th March? For tickets go here and click on Live On Screen.

If you haven't bought it yet, the album is available NOW - Digitally, on CD and on limited heavyweight vinyl (with download code) from all good record shops and from here.

In other news, you might enjoy Ciara MacLaverty being interviewed and reading some of her poetry:

If you like it you can order Ciara's new pamphlet here.

Two films I'd recommend - and not for their feel good fun - "First They Killed My Father" and...