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Re-release of Far Far From Ypres: songs, poems and music of WW1

In this the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War 1, Greentrax Recordings is re-launching this critically acclaimed album, first released in 2008. Since its launch a stage version, based on the album, was presented in 2012 at both Celtic Connections and The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. The stage presentation is a poignant and moving live show, which received standing ovations at both 2012 shows. The writer and musical director of the stage show is Ian McCalman.

The idea of a stage presentation came about when Ian Green invited Ian McCalman to produce a short set of the soldier’s songs at the Greentrax 25th Anniversary Concert in 2011. The director of Celtic Connections heard of its success and the rest is history as they say.

After the Queen’s Hall concert, one reviewer said, ‘An inspirational convivial experience, where the audience joined the performers in choruses that echoed into the deep spaces of the hall’ and ‘a standing ovation which raised the roof for several minutes after the show finished. It was a stirring end to a night honouring a terrible tragedy, one that left the entire audience moved and sombre, but strangely elated’.

The sell-out concert on 17th January, 2014, on centre stage at Celtic Connections, with a cast of nearly thirty, which included Barbara Dickson, Phil Cunningham, Dick Gaughan and Iain Anderson, was again produced by Ian McCalman. Overhead projection was by the talented Peter Heywood. Festival Director Donald Shaw wrote afterwards: ‘Overwhelming! This show should be seen by everyone’.

The show will again be presented in The Queen’s Hall at 8.00p.m. on Sunday, 17th August, 2014.

The album is a tribute to all the soldiers from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and also their Commonwealth brothers in arms from all corners of the globe, who fought and suffered together in the Great War and, in particular, all those who died.

The album has a more Scottish perspective than any of its predecessors but when one considers that Scotland suffered the most soldiers killed, per head of population, of any nation that fought in the conflict, such an album was greatly overdue. It is also doubtful if the songs, poems and music of WW1 have ever before been covered in such depth.

This project was first suggested to Ian Green of Greentrax Recordings in 2004 by Des Brogan, Managing Director of Mercat Tours International, who specialise in tours of both WW1 and WW2 cemeteries and battlefields. Jim Paris, who also contributed, is a Mercat Tours Battlefield Guide. Ian, who had read many books on both WW1 and WW2, was interested but regrettably the lack of financial resources at that time caused it to be placed on the ‘back-burner’. In 2007, however, Des Brogan invited Ian and his wife June on one of Mercat’s WW1 coach tours of France and Belgium. June was also finally able to fulfil a life-long desire to visit the graveyard of her Grandfather McLennan, in one of the many beautifully maintained War Cemeteries.

The WW1 Cemeteries and Battlefields Tour is a moving experience and it had a profound effect on Ian, as it does with most visitors. Such a visit is highly recommended. The scale of slaughter becomes very real when you are confronted with huge war cemeteries around every corner, plus large monuments containing thousands upon thousands of names of young men whose bodies were never recovered. The words ‘lest we forget’ and ‘we will remember them’ takes on a new meaning. Ironically, WW1 was described as the ‘war to end all wars’!

CD1 consists of the soldiers’ marching and trench songs, music hall favourites of the time, a Harry Lauder track, a pipe band track consisting of tunes associated with Scottish regiments, the poignant “Flooers o’ The Forest” and “The Last Post”. Twenty-seven soldiers’ songs and six music hall songs were recorded and produced by Ian McCalman at Kevock Digital Studio – and what better a choice could have been made than someone who has been a professional singer most of his life and one of the internationally acclaimed ‘McCalmans’ folk group, since disbanded. Ian was immediately excited by the project and totally immersed himself in it. His contribution to CD1 is immeasurable. The ‘Scottish Pals’ Singers, as we named them for CD1, are Fiona Forbes (Sangsters), Ian Bruce, Tich Frier, Hamish Bayne and the then current ‘McCalmans’ lineup of Ian, Stephen Quigg and the late Nick Keir. Much of the instrumental work is by Maartin Allcock but Ian McCalman, Hamish Bayne and Nick Keir all contributed. Magnificent work by all concerned.

CD2 comprises a pipe band track of tunes named after some of the major battles of WW1, songs written about WW1, or strongly connected with that war, by such amazing songwriters as Judy Small, Alan Bell, Eric Bogle, Dick Gaughan, Jim Malcolm, and the late Davy Steele. Some of the writers perform their own songs on the album but there are also contributions from The Corries, The McCalmans, Malinky, Sheena Wellington and Karine Polwart, Robin Laing and Gaelic singer Donny MacLeod. There is also a chilling contribution from a young Scottish songwriter Steven Palmer, who later recorded a solo album for Greentrax – ‘Heartprint Shadow’ (CDTRAX347). The BBC Radio Scotland presenter Iain Anderson reads three poems and acts as narrator on stage which he does brilliantly. Greentrax is greatly indebted to all the artists on this album. The songs and music for CD2 were selected and compiled by Ian Green

The pipers and drummers on both CDs are from The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming, by kind permission of Lieutenant Colonel James Robinson, Commanding Officer, Infantry Training Centre, Catterick. Thanks to Captain Stephen Small, Director of Army Bagpipe Music, Edinburgh, for his excellent co-operation and for arranging the music. The solo piper on CD1 is Corporal Neil McNaughton, also from the Army School. “The Last Post”, on CD1, is played on the bugle by the fine jazz and classical musician John Samson

The informative sleeve notes are by Des Brogan, Jim Paris and Ian Green. Greentrax will be forever grateful to Des and Jim for suggesting this extremely worthwhile project and for their enthusiasm, tireless help and advice right through to its conclusion. The outstanding artwork is by John Slavin of DesignFolk. The more recent recordings are by Kevock Digital Studio, Watercolour Studios, Bees Knees Media and Pier House Studios. Mastering is by Peter Haigh, Pier House Studios.

This project was a labour of love by Ian McCalman and Ian Green who are deeply proud of what has been achieved on this double CD and by the stage show. The album is now a Greentrax best-seller.

Reviewers said of the album: ‘This is a masterpiece’; ‘A very special compilation’; ‘A stunner from Scotland’; ‘Beautiful songs from terrible times’; ‘I am really impressed with it all’; ‘A labour of love’.

Available from the LT shop.