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ALISON MCMORLAND, GEORDIE MCINTYRE AND FRIENDS - Tolbooth, Stirling - 23 October 2015

If one way of judging the success of an event is to leave the audience begging for more, then this gathering of singers and musicians certainly met that criteria. The evening began with Geordie and Alison singing Inveroran, penned by Geordie. This song, in praise of the Highlands of Argyll, had a short refrain which was picked up immediately by the audience, setting the scene for the rest of the night.

Helen Fullerton’s song, The A83, came next, sung by Alison and her daughter Kirsty Potts, with Steve Sutcliffe on concertina. Helen had travelled this road in Argyll daily from Glasgow to the Navvy camp near Inveraray, bringing provisions to the workers. As I listened to the words, I could hear members of the audience quietly extolling the beauty of this part of Scotland - lovely to hear recollections prompted by the song.

Rowan In The Rock, another of Geordie’s compositions, is centred on the folk lore of the tree and focused on its ability to flourish in many diverse places. It is set around Schiehallion, the Fairy Hill at Loch Rannoch. It also brought to mind the heritage of John Muir who was instrumental in the creation of National Parks.

Three of the “Friends” were husband and wife, Steve Sutcliffe (again on concertina), Jo Miller (on fiddle) with one of their sons, Neil, who composed the first of a set of jigs, namely Alison & Geordie’s Jig. Neil played accordion on this set, but plays other instruments too. Jo, a renowed fiddler and singer, then sang Three Bunches Of Black Ribbons.

Alasdair Roberts continued with his song, Waxwing, enhancing his rich singing with amazing guitar accompaniment and then he played for Kirsty’s next song. Sometimes it can be difficult for a singer of ballads to hold the attention of the audience. No problem for Kirsty who gave a marvelous rendition of Binnorie. Geordie sang The Arctic Star, Alison MacCrimmon’s Lament, remembering Jeannie Robertson, then together they took us to the interval with The Golden Vanity.

The second half opened with Neil on piano, then Jo, Alison and Kirsty sang in harmony bringing Robert Burns’ song, Westlin Winds, to life. Geordie was inspired to write From Gulabeinn on hearing the story of what happened at the scattering of good friend Hamish Henderson’s ashes. This mountain is near where Hamish grew up and was dear to his heart. If you want to know what happened, get hold of the CD, Where Ravens Reel.

Songs and tunes followed - Alasdair with another of his own, Song Composed In December, Cajun tunes from Steve and Neil, and Alison’s jig doll dancing along, to calypso from Kirsty singing Shame And Scandal In The Family. For those members of the audience trying to remember where they had heard it before, it was recorded by Trini Lopez. All the performers concluded with another of Geordie’s songs, John Muir, however in response to calls of “More!”, without leaving the stage, the entertainment continued. Neil’s rich voice launched into a rare burst of Rattlin’ Roarin Willie, with Kirsty concluding the evening with In Freenship’s Name, learned from the late Willie Scott.

With seven singers/musicians on stage, the task of balancing the programme is not easy. Traditional, self-penned and modern material was skillfully put together, giving each a platform for individual talent, while keeping the atmosphere relaxed. The wish to acknowledge the contribution to Scotland’s heritage through the songs of Jeannie Robertson, Willie Scott and Hamish Henderson was achieved seamlessly in the spirit of Hamish Henderson’s coined phrase the “Carrying Stream”. To sum up, it was indeed an evening of friends. Roll on the next gathering of these exceptional bearers of Scottish music in all its forms.

Kathie Costello