In 2008 Greentrax Recordings released the album ‘Far, Far From Ypres – Songs, Poems & Music of World War 1’ - CDTRAX1418 - a double CD. The album was critically acclaimed and is played widely on radio, especially around Armistice Sunday each year. The album sells extremely well, especially in Army Museums and WW1 Visitor Centres and Museums in Belgium and France.
The album resulted from an idea by Des Brogan and Jim Paris of Mercat Tours, Edinburgh, who regularly tour the WW1 battlefield sites and cemeteries of Belgium and France. After such a tour, Ian Green of Greentrax invited Ian McCalman to record the marching and trench songs of the soldiers, plus the popular music hall songs of the time for CD 1, while Ian Green compiled mainly retrospective songs, poems and music for CD 2. Both Ian McCalman and Ian Green committed themselves totally to the project and a classic double album resulted, which both are extremely proud of.
The album was described in reviews as: ‘A masterpiece’; ‘A very special compilation’; ‘A stunner’; ‘Beautiful songs from terrible times’; and ‘Contains powerful, poignant and entertaining performances’.
In a remarkable development, a copy of the CD ended up in the hands of a family in Australia where a 92 year old lady, recognised her father, John Hastings, as one of the soldiers on the front cover. John Hastings, who was born in Glasgow, was in the 51st Highlanders during WW1. He fought in France and experienced the Christmas truce – when the soldiers came out of their trenches all along the line and shared drinks, food and photos of family with the enemy – as depicted in a recent film Joyeux Noel. John shared many of his memories with his family, telling them of life in the trenches. Not all soldiers were able to speak about their experiences and this connection with John’s family gives us a rare living link through folk memory back to the trenches of WW1.
John Hastings’ daughter also has another interesting Scottish link, this time to WW2. She emigrated to Australia as a WW2 war bride, after meeting an Australian bomber pilot who was billeted to her home in Glasgow in the latter part of the war. John's other daughter, now a sprightly 97 year old, also lives in Australia. His grand-daughter, Anne Wilson, is a secondary school teacher in Australia and she took a group of students to the Western Front a few years ago. The memories clearly live on and as a result of the CD and the concert, we expect more stories to unfold.
In October 2011 ‘Far, Far From Ypres’ was one of four very popular themed sections within the Greentrax 25th Anniversary Concert in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. Ian McCalman produced this section.
Following the concert, Celtic Connections invited Ian McCalman to produce ‘Far, Far From Ypres’ as a stage presentation in the Strathclyde Suite of The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, It was a stunning success and a very emotional experience for the sell-out audience.
‘Far, Far From Ypres’ will be presented in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, on Thursday, 16th August, 2012, from 7.30p.m. Tickets are available from the The Queen’s Hall Box office (0131 668 2019): £16.00 (£14.00 Concessions). The cast for the Queen’s Hall will include: Siobhan Miller, Sineag MacIntyre, Dick Gaughan, Ian Bruce. Nick Keir, Ian McCalman, Stevie Palmer, Stephen Quigg, Dennis Wilson, Donald Hay, Tom Ward, groups ‘Sangsters’, ‘Soopna’ and ‘Ragged Glory’, plus Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland. Peter Heywood will provide overhead projection.