Folk fail & thrill

There was a standing ovation at the end. I had the feeling that I was the only person in the Union Chapel who didn’t enjoy The Transports:

Its heart is in the right place, and the singing is full of passion, but you still can’t help wondering why this reworking of Peter Bellamy’s ballad opera has been winning so much acclaim on its travels around the country. While there are the makings of a fascinating story in this glimpse of the first convict transportation to Australia, the surfeit of well-meaning narration gives the evening the feeling of a marathon edition of Thought for the Day… The writer Matthew Crampton’s sonorous running commentary proves oddly intrusive. Moving back and forth across the stage and joining in the singing too, he gives us too much information, while the attempt to draw parallels with today’s migrant crisis is surely a prime example of preaching to the converted. Adding Dark Water, Sean Cooney’s song about a Syrian refugee, to the beginning of part two undercuts the flow as well.

Fortunately, Julie Fowlis’s concert at Kings Place was a lot more engaging:

Stadium stars have their light shows and massed troupes of dancers. Julie Fowlis’s only concession to showbiz extravagance was a pair of false eyelashes, which, she confessed, got stuck together during one of the first numbers. Most of us would have been too transfixed by her voice to notice. The Scottish singer’s ballads may be delivered in a language (Gaelic) that few of us understand, yet the purity of her vocals and the deftness of her musicians made this a masterclass in intimacy. That quality came across even more clearly on stage than it does on her latest album, Alterum, where the production values and the occasional string arrangement ensure that she is often shrouded in an early morning mist. A fine album, yes, but the ambience is a little cloying at times — although fans of her singing on the soundtrack to the Disney-Pixar film Brave probably wouldn’t complain about that.

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