Sunday, 28 April 2013

Our Ancient National Airs launched from west to east

launching @Karenmca's book *again* #musicascotica  on Twitpic
Launch at Musica Scotica 2013
My book has been launched across Scotland!  We started at the Whittaker Library (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow) on Friday afternoon, and then launched it again at the Musica Scotica Conference in Edinburgh yesterday.

Friday's event was loud.  We began with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Saxophone Quartet (Jay Capperauld and friends) playing a selection of Alexander Campbell tunes that I'd arranged from Albyn's Anthology (some for quartet, and then some for trio).  A bit of a surprise for our guests, who might have expected traditional Scottish music, but certainly weren't expecting saxophones!  If anyone thought that librarians should be seen and not heard, they would already have been realising it wasn't going to be a quiet night!

Celia Duffy said some very kind words before it was my turn to speak.  I'd planned to say a few words then have a musical illustration, and so on.  Scott Wood played Western Isles Dances (a Skye dance and then a Harris one) from Macdonald's Highland Vocal Airs.  The bagpipes were gratifyingly loud!  

Then, fiddler Eric Linklater played a tune from the same collection, first solo and then with me playing the accompaniment as provided in the book.

Clarsair Karen Marshalsay played a selection from Highland Vocal Airs, followed by a surprise for me - a clarsach tune written by Karen for "Karen McAulay of the Books".  I am honoured - it was lovely.

Robyn Stapleton sang a tune from Albyn's Anthology, with me at the piano.  Poor  old Alexander Campbell wasn't great at setting songs, but this was one of his better arrangements.  (He had no idea that first and more particularly, second inversion chords aren't always the best choice for the beginning of a bar ...)

Robyn next sang Highland Harry as set by Beethoven for Thomson's collection, with violin and cello obbligato (Eric, and cellist David Munn), and me taking the role of the average 'Edinburgh maiden' of modest pianistic ability doing my best at the pianoforte.  That was the last musical example, as I couldn't think of anything more spectacular - or spectacularly inappropriate! - to top it.

I sold and signed several copies, then it was off home to cook tea.  (Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, except that I don't normally cook Mondays to Friday.)  

The next day, I was in Edinburgh for Musica Scotica 2013 - I was a co-organiser and speaker - so we had another launch after lunch, but this was a smaller-scale affair as befitted the occasion.  More books sold and signed, and the flight bag was much easier to transport home!   
What's my next book about?  I don't know yet!  I want to turn the John Callander paper into a respectable article first.  It needs a little revision - hopefully not too much - and then he can be launched off on his travels.  There's something particularly tantalising about a whole paper on the subject of a book that was never apparently written... 

A little postscript - thanks to the marvels of social media, I'm now proud possessor of a signed copy of a book about Callander's family.   More about that in another posting! 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Peaks and Troughs: the Emerging Scholar Emerges

Sometimes, it feels as though I'm not getting "out there" enough, research-wise.  And then suddenly, WHAM! I find myself charging about like a wild thing.  A controlled wild thing, that is.

In the next ten days I have two university lectures (one still to revise for next week), a book launch, and a conference paper - plus a second launch at the conference.  And our son's 17th birthday - I couldn't forget that!

On reflection, it's a good thing I have a Sunday off from organ-playing on 28th April.  I might just don my nicest nightie and stay in bed for the day.  My menfolk can all wait on me hand and foot if they're so inclined.  Otherwise, it won't hurt me to starve for a day - I could do with losing a few pounds.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Echoes of Ossian

'Echoes of Ossian' is the title of my Musica Scotica paper, which I'm giving on 27th April 2013.  It's okay as a title, but in retrospect, I could have come up with something better.  Basically, I shall be looking at John Callander's book proposal, and William Tytler's Dissertation on the Scottish Music (or Musick, depending on the edition). Comparing the books that each author cites is an informative exercise.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Callander, Tytler and a small difficulty with News Steps

 'If you think', John Callander puffed, 'that you'd have found Mr Tytler and myself peching up these steps in eighteenth-century Edinburgh, then you can think again.  These steps weren't even here until 1869.'

'When we were both long since dead and buried', William Tytler affirmed, pausing for breath on the killer steps that lead from Market Street to St Giles Street.

Of course, I did realise that.  I have often wondered if there were other steps before these were built, but what's here is plenty bad enough, and the distance from bottom to top would have been no less!  (You can find out more about the history of this part of Edinburgh on the British Listed Buildings website, here:-

I didn't have the heart to tell Mr Callander that I was actually in Edinburgh to network with an American scholar about Alexander Campbell, and an Australian research-support specialist, purely for the joy of meeting up and catching up with each other's news, and actually I had no intention of literary ghost-hunting on this occasion at all!  Indeed, as I sat in a coffee-shop with a map of the Highlands spread out in front of me, discussing how far Fort William is from Strathspey (yes, of dance-tune fame), we barely talked about Edinburgh Enlightenment literati at all!  And while I had my tagliatelle a couple of hours later, I hardly gave my eighteenth-century musical ghosts a thought.  I hope they weren't too offended!

Mind you, I've been annotating William Tytler's Dissertation on the Scottish Music ('Musick' in some iterations), and there is the possibility I may produce something in print on this subject at some stage in the future.  It's very interesting material, first published anonymously in 1779 and then reproduced attributed to Tytler in several other publications.