Category Archives: Music

Poetry in Motion


Last night we attended the magnificent untraditional Burns Supper at Giffordtown Village Hall. It was every bit as good as anticipated. For readers from afar I should point out that the point of a Burns Supper isn’t really the supper itself, but the celebration of the bard’s contribution. As I have said before (see my last post), I think the celebration tips over all too often into adulation, and the formula can become tired and boring.

Doug and Jan Wightman and the Giffordtown Village Hall committee put a marvellous event together. What I’m going to do in this post is perhaps a little cheaty; but it was so good I want to share the joy! This is a selection of the inspired ‘slides’ that went into their shadow puppet rendition of Burns’ epic poem, Tam O’Shanter. Doug read the poem, Jan made the puppets, unseen helpers backstage manipulated the puppets and Steve Gellatly (silent movie pianist) did a dashing accompaniment on the keyboard. The poem title link takes you to Brian Cox reading the whole poem. This will have to do you until Doug gets a recording contract!


When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate ….


While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An’ getting fou and unco happy …


O Tam! had’st thou but been sae wise,
As taen thy ain wife Kate’s advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was na sober;
That ilka melder wi’ the Miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That ev’ry naig was ca’d a shoe on
The Smith and thee gat roarin’ fou on;
That at the Lord’s house, ev’n on Sunday,
Thou drank wi’ Kirkton Jean till Monday,
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou wad be found, deep drown’d in Doon,
Or catch’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway’s auld, haunted kirk.


… And at his elbow, Souter Johnnie,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony:
Tam lo’ed him like a very brither;
They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi’ sangs an’ clatter;
And aye the ale was growing better …


… Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow’rin round wi’ prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares;
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry …


… The lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Near and more near the thunders roll,
When, glimmering thro’ the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem’d in a bleeze,
Thro’ ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing …


… As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The Piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reel’d, they set, they cross’d, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit …


… To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch’d,
And thought his very een enrich’d …


Now, do thy speedy-utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stone o’ the brig;
There, at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross…


For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump…


The performance was ace. So were the haggis and neeps and the Tunnocks Teacakes and the alternative address to the haggis; and all the music; and finally, as if we hadn’t had enough pleasure to last a fortnight, a wee dram gifted by an absent friend. Matured in sherry casks so less peaty than you’d expect of a fine Islay. Bliss. Happy Bardic Celebrations, everybody. Keep it fresh.


A lot to be thankful for


Our corner of Fife, bordering onto the Tay, is very fruitful and there’s been a lot of pickling and potting going on. Above is a bowl of windfall pears I was gifted, and made into chutney. More on that later. Meantime, over the weekend, I’ve enjoyed a bunch of events which were set up as fundraisers so here, for the record, are some details:

At work (Lindores Abbey Distillery) we joined in ‘the world’s biggest coffee morning‘ and raised £250 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Lots of people brought in some home baking and our visitors put a wee donation in the box.


In the TICC (Tayside Institute and Community Centre) there was the usual Saturday coffee morning which on this occasion was to raise funds to fight our cause to have our railway station reopened: and we raised £600. A couple of weekends ago a small group of us also put on a wee music-and-words event, with the support of the artist in residence, and raised £150 for the same cause. It would be brilliant to have the line open again. The picture below is of a hamper put together by small individual donations – just normal day-to-day stuff that makes all the difference.


And last night the Troubadour and I attended a concert in Dysart, near Kirkcaldy, to support our singing friend Alan.  We were entertained by two great community choirs – Healthy Harmonies, an NHS staff choir; and Capital Voices, from Edinburgh. The minister made a few introductory comments about having attended ‘Food Crisis Summits’ over the last 20 years – her first was in Botswana in 1998; the most recent in Kirkcaldy. I honestly don’t know what to say about people going hungry in this day and age, either in Africa or in Scotland – or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not just about poverty, it’s about politics. We could all be doing far better in sharing out the bounty. Anyway for the record, those two choirs last night raised £1,200 for the Kirkcaldy Food Bank, and that was a brilliant result.


Finally – here is a beautiful loaf, handformed and baked like a sheaf of wheat – complete with wee mousie having a nibble. It was made by Barry and his staff, of the Wee Bakery, and gifted to the church for Thanksgiving. I’ll use the words of Robert Burns to sign off and wish you always enough food to enjoy and share:

May the moose ne’er leave your girnal wi’ a tear-drap in its e’e’

July in Scotland

Gallagher and Lyle 290717.jpgGreat concert last night: Gallagher and Lyle at ‘The Byre in the Botanics’, in St Andrews – ie the Byre Theatre organising an open-air event. Wet and cold. Extra clothing precautions of vest, long-sleeved tee shirt, jumper, raincoat, socks, long trousers, proper shoes and woolly scarf all proved woefully inadequate. We were in the front row of the polytunnel/marquee and the wind hit us but the rain didn’t. At one point, Gallagher interrupted Lyle’s introductory comments to ‘Fifteen Summers’ to point out a particularly fine rainbow. ‘Just like a hippy festival, intit?’ said Lyle. Anyway it was still a great concert.

Less impressive was our £25 picnic basket – the veggie option – too much bread and cheese and not much imagination otherwise. Also, for the scone, a small jar of Tiptree jam was provided. Tiptree jam is very nice but hey- St Andrews is right in the heart of Scottish berry country! No attempt in our fancy wicker basket to reflect the great culinary offerings in our own neighbourhood. So that was a bit of a shame. I could have taken them some of my own jammy offerings of the last week: blackcurrant jelly and Tayberry-Strawberry conserve. Impressed? Me too!

And still I rise …

The title of today’s post comes from Maya Angelou, and is a wonderful rallying-call for all the times I’ve felt oppressed. However I’m using it as a shameless pun in this instance. You get double joy – my deathless prose and Maya Angelou’s inspirational verse!

Two of the cookery books I’ve read recently share a word in their titles – but apart from that they have very little in common.

The first is ‘One Souffle at a Time’ by Anne Willans. I picked the book up in a charity shop as the subtitle – ‘a memoir of food and France’ intrigued me. I’d never come across her before, despite her enormous body of writing – I think she might be better known in AProduct Detailsmerica. Her book tells her personal story – in a nutshell, rich English child grows up with all the trappings of privilege; discovers her love of cooking; uses her contacts and her undoubted talents and builds an impressive foodie empire based on teaching people how to cook like the French; receives lots of awards; writes her memoir. There are manyexcellent, detailed recipes along the way and I will return and try some of them. This book wasn’t a riveting read but it was fascinating to see how an energetic entrepreneur goes about the job of realising her dream.

The second book is ‘Killing Me Soufflé’ by Lachlan Hayman. This is basically a book of good recipes renamed using rock and roll puns, with numbers by the likes of the Ketchup Boys, Deli Parton, Harry Connick Tuna and Napkin Cole. You would think the theme would get a bit tired but instead I found myself browsing through the book and humming all the little tunes as I went along. This book would be a great gift for anyone who is keen on both food and music. The recipes are well written, and would offer an enticing repertoire to someone who hasn’t already got loads of experience and/or cookery books.

Soufflé is of course a delight to make and eat, and easier than it sounds. If you can make a béchamel sauce you can make a soufflé. Just add cheese to your sauce; then 3 egg yolks; then fold in the beaten egg whites; then, as Mel and Sue would say – bake! Here are some instructions from the BBC if you would like to have a go. Willans says to run your finger and thumb round the top of the dish before you put it in the oven, to make it rise evenly – I’ve never tried that before but it sounds logical.

So today is Friday … very nearly the weekend … another day, another dollar. And still we rise! Have a great weekend everybody.



P1020464After a wet week we had a glorious Saturday – just what you need for an open-air music festival. Now I’ve never been to T in the Park or any other music festival for that matter and I imagine this one – at Newport-on-Tay – was a wee toty bairn in the festival family. It took place in the car park of the Newport Hotel, which faces right onto the river (or maybe it’s really the sea at this point). Who would have thought there would be room for such a thing in this space? Although it’s such a gorgeous wee site that it’s wasted on car parking. As you stood and watched the bands playing, you could see the RNLI lifeboat racing up and down the river behind.

I was watching the Black Cat Jook Band strutting their stuff and eyeing the Pulled Pork P1020454stall when a familiar body parted the crowd, bearing trays of – well, pulled pork probably – and strode down to the sea wall. I had a tremor of celebrity recognition … I knew I’d seen him before … it was the 2014 Masterchef winner who, as you may remember, came from St Andrews. I remember being xenophobically proud to have a local lad – and a rather bumbling and shy one at that – winning out over all those smooth Southerners. So now I’ve checked on Google and sure enough – Jamie Scott now has his own restaurant – The Newport.

Saturday’s festival wouldn’t have been any kind of culinary challenge for Jamie and in fact the only food obviously on offer (music and beer being the main point) was the rolls stuffed with pulled pork, as previously spotted. The Troubadour eschews eating ‘anything with a face’ so I asked about vegetarian options and of course there was one (so why didn’t they advertise it?) – aubergines and tomato on flatbreads. We had one of each and there was a certain grumbling about the lack of implement for eating the veggie option (none was needed for the pork as it was all snugly wrapped up in the roll). In itself it was tasty but maybe pitta would have made it easier to balance with your beer while you applauded the bands. On the stall there was a tasting menu which looked intriguing and would be well worth returning for. I liked the way all the provender was identified by its place of origin – including ‘Newburgh Chicken’ – I didn’tP1020462 know there was such a thing, and will cause enquiries to be made.

Anyway the festival was great fun and really family-friendly, with the glass walls of the restaurant thrown open to let in the sun. And the music was fantastic. Big congrats to the organisers and I hope there’s another one next year.


Treasured Memories

Dancing 1940sLast night a drama event was held at Rosyth library as part of Scottish Book Week. Five teenage girls performed a short show in two parts, which they had devised from work with old people in two Fife care homes. The first was ‘At the School’ and the second, ‘At the Dancing’. The show was choreographed with a lively look back at music of the forties and fifties; the audience got to join in the dancing, and were served fairy cakes at half time. As a standalone piece, the show was very  successful and you could see that with further rehearsal it would be a winner round the reminiscence circuit.

However it was much more than just a show. I spoke to the girls afterwards and they told me they had visited the old people, many of whom had dementia, in their care homes, and carefully noted the words they used for the memories that remained with them. One lady gave them a poem she’d written when she was at school, and this was incorporated into the routine, along with various other poems the residents remembered learning from their school days.  Another lady , who had been admitted to the home for end-of-life care, had sat silent and withdrawn throughout; but when she heard a poem she recognised she started to focus, and eventually joined in reciting it.

This is wonderful, skilled, meaningful work and I applaud the girls for their sensitivity, patience and grace in achieving it.

Viva Voce!

It’s been a great week for choirs.  First St Mags Choir at Margaret's Licensinglocally, we had St Margaret’s (Rosyth) church choir singing at Margaret’s licensing ceremony in Lochgelly.  So good that even the bishop approved!

Then yesterday we joined lots of other ladies of a certain age in Hill Place for All the King’s Men – a wonderful a capella ten-man line-up that we’ve now seen three years running.  Great moves, sassy sophisticated sound.  Especially the one who did that tssh tssh tssh boo-boom thing.  Who needs a drum kit?  And the tap-dancing was fabulous.

Finally, we had the great joy of the National Youth Choir in St Cuthberts.  Now I have to confess I’d never heard of the NYC, and thought they sounded a bit worthy.  I was crisply corrected by my retired-Head-of-Music friend as we walked up Castle Terrace, and quite right she was too.  They are fabulous and if they do a concert near you, you must go.  They are directed by Ben Parry who has a massive international career but I’ll let you look him up yourself.  One thing I’ll mention – he founded the Dunedin Consort, whom I heard at St Giles at the 2011 Fringe.  They are small and perfectly formed.

The National Youth Choir on the other hand is huge – about eighty singers?  Aged 16-22, they absolutely ooze charisma.  For as long as I live I will never forget their opening number last night.  We were seated about three-quarters of the way back, to the right of the central aisle – wishing we could have got further forward and nearer the action.  The choir started filing in, and moved in two columns down the side aisles.  I assumed they were heading for the stage – but they stopped when  they had circled us.  Ben Parry took to a podium facing backwards, raised his baton – and we were immersed in the crystal tones of Palestrina – then Tallis – then Byrd.  It was like lying on a masseur’s couch on a beach somewhere in the Indian Ocean, being anointed with pure nard.  They then processed onto the stage and delivered a virtuoso performance of Bach, Brahms, Shostakovich (bright and strong and very Russian), and Britten.  It was wonderful.  Their finale was a piece by Ben Parry, a setting of a Buddhist poem which celebrated the candle that lights the world – when a flame is shared it doubles its brilliance.  As the choir started singing they moved out and circled us again.  It was intensely spiritual.  If I never hear another choir I’ll die happy.IMG_1271