The Edinburgh-born harpist, fiddle player and singer Rachel Newton was Radio 2’s Musician of the Year in 2017. She sings in both English and Gaelic and is a member of The Shee, The Furrow Collective and the Lost Words Spell Songs. We walked with her on the Isle of Skye in November 2019 where she was taking part in the wonderful Festival of Small Halls, in which top Scottish musicians come together to tour the community halls of the island. So, as well as our walk by the Fairy Pools, where Rachel plays and sings with the water bubbling behind her, you’ll hear extracts from packed gigs in the village hall at Glendale and the Old Inn at Carbost. And there’s even a cameo appearance by our old friend the fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm.
One of the most popular British psychedelic bands of the late 1960’s, The Incredible String Band are close to our hearts here at The Parts You Don’t Hear. Even listening to them today in our culture of been there, heard that they are an astonishing, unique listen to which we’ve never heard the likes of again. In a way they are key to the Sound Techniques studio story because their rise in the music scene mirrors the studio’s fast growing popularity.
A look at the Scottish music scene’s coronavirus response, with Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale, Sneaky Pete’s owner Nick Stewart and SMIA’s Robert Kilpatrick
A feeling a lot like Doomsday fell about town last weekend. Up until then it had felt like business as usual, but while Boris Johnson told the public that schools would stay open and sporting events could go ahead, Nicola Sturgeon seemed to confirm on Thursday afternoon what Scottish promoters had feared for weeks – that large gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned in Scotland, starting Monday.
Events that were scheduled that weekend could still go ahead, and at Wee Dub Festival the room was full. That’s not to say there weren’t lingering signs of the coronavirus pandemic – events colleagues opted for the more hygienic elbow bump over hugs, and MC Natty Campbell shared on the mic how nervewracking passing through Edinburgh Airport had been. “It’s scary out there,” he said, “but tonight is about the music.”
“The show must go on” seems to be the operating mantra amongst promoters, though with each passing day that is becoming an ever more daunting task. In Edinburgh, the lack of large venues initially felt like a benefit. Smaller clubs, like the 100-capacity Sneaky Pete’s, could technically still keep their doors open, while nights like Church Edinburgh said that they would cap numbers for their night in the Liquid Rooms (now cancelled) to stay under the 500 limit.
But come Monday, it materialised that Sturgeon’s message was not an outright ban, just strongly-worded advice. In his first daily briefing to the public, Johnson avoided ordering a ban, in favour of discouraging people from communing in clubs, pubs and restaurants, and said that emergency services would no longer be in attendance at large gatherings. It is left to the musicians, promoters, and venues, then, to decide whether to press forward with their events.
Whether these individuals ethically feel that they can keep bringing people together is one thing. On Saturday, EH-FM resident DJ Andrea Montalto announced that a night he was supposed to play in The Jago in Dalston was cancelled. “Due to the lack of measures taken by the British government it’s very important to take responsibility and act in any way to protect the weakest,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “What is happening at the moment in Italy is a warning that we can’t avoid looking at.”
‘Closing venues for a few weeks could be a disaster’
But many who have staked their careers on live music have little other choice. A lot of these events are built by an army of freelancers, who must all now rely on the generosity of their clients to pay for work that might not go ahead. This line of work is already famously hand-to-mouth, and with a rapidly emptying calendar many have found themselves cut off.
No matter what happens in the referendum over Scottish independence this week, the wit, expressive depth and wisdom of the Scottish people is something to be cherished. They know a thing or two about stoicism in the face of poor fortune, and there’s a clear knack for cutting through airs and graces too.
So here are are few expressions and truisms that should come in handy when everything turns as black as the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat.
Note: Where absolutely necessary we’ve also provided a brief translation from Scots dialect into English:
• Failing means you’re playing. Translation: It’s better to be doing badly than not taking part.
• Mony a mickle maks a muckle. (mickle = small thing, muckle = big thing) Translation: Look after the pennies and the dollars look after themselves.