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Review Queen's Hall My Edinburgh!!

Item posted: Friday 7th April , 2006

Ceilidh Culture Opening Concert



LAUNCHING Edinburgh's annual spring programme of traditional arts activity, Friday's concert was themed, aptly, around the Scottish capital itself. The first half featured fiddler Anna-Wendy Stevenson's suite My Edinburgh, premiered at this year's Celtic Connections and performed by an eight-piece ensemble comprising string quartet, piano, saxophone, mandolin/bouzouki and percussion.

The piece also incorporated spoken-word recordings among the tunes, recalling diverse aspects of Edinburgh's history and folk culture, complemented by a slide-show backdrop.

While the music was largely rooted in traditional forms, its expansive compass and artful arrangements created a succession of contrastingly atmospheric snapshots, variously conjuring the stately beauty of the city's architecture, the shadowy past of its Old Town closes and the effervescent conviviality of a Sandy Bell's session.

After the interval, Stevenson joined Jock Tamson's Bairns, Billy Kay and Siobhan Miller for a part-reprise of Fergusson's Auld Reikie. Another words-and-music celebration of Edinburgh, this one centred on the poet Robert Fergusson's descriptions of the city during its 18th-century heyday, interwoven with traditional tunes and songs, the latter including a lovely unaccompanied rendition of Mary Mild, from Miller.
There were also a few contemporary numbers to bring the story up to date, including Rod Paterson's impishly catchy Auld Town Shuffle and the New Town Stride. Despite the performers' calibre, however, the evening was notably short on any real sense of occasion, or ambition. The programme was largely recycled from other sources; a barely-adequate PA resulted in often thin sound quality, and attendance was poor - all reflecting the fact that Ceilidh Culture, purportedly Edinburgh's flagship folk event, is essentially a branding strategy that ill conceals the capital's lack of a properly resourced festival in this field.