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Bringing the best of a Scottish tradition to New York
in a fast paced celebration of music and dance!

The New York Tattoo will showcase some of the finest bands, Highland dancers and Scottish performers in an inspiring 90 minute stage show.

The New York Tattoo will feature Scottish performers

The New York Tattoo will feature Scottish performers

Featuring a cast of over a 100 performers, the event is scheduled to take place between April 4-6th, 2014. The show will provide an exciting new platform for Scotland and for everyone who shares a passion for Scottish music in New York!

The event does not aim to replace the Tartan Day Parade – however, it does aim to give many bands, which pay thousands of pounds to travel to New York, an additional opportunity to perform in a formal indoor setting, with proper lighting and sound.

The New York Tattoo aims to be the first event of its type to secure crowd funding – the collective effort of hundreds of supporters online who pledge a small amount online to make the event happen!

The video for the Kickstarter campaign

The show is being developed by Magnus Orr, a piper from Edinburgh, Scotland, who helped produce the first and biggest New York Tartan Parade in 2002, when thousands of pipers and drummers led by Sir Sean Connery marched along 6th Avenue.

Magnus Orr Every year - a call for a tattoo

Magnus Orr
Every year – a call for a tattoo

Magnus Orr, said that crowdsourcing, using sites such as Kickstarter, “provides a great way to help establish an event, helping raise seed funding and developing demand. Having helped promote a number of events in New York, we have a large database. Every year the biggest call has been to help establish a Tattoo in New York. Kickstarter provides a wonderful way to connect with this interest and having established demand it then makes a much more interesting proposition to sponsors.

“I would imagine that in the future a lot more events will be funded this way. It is also a great way to test your marketing. At this stage we are really pleased with the support, but must really push over the next ten days to reach our target for the event to be funded.

“We are delighted that four times and current World Champion Drum Major – Jason Paguio has agreed to perform. We also have a very well known narrator lined-up to give an authentic voice to the show and other members of the production team bring years of experience working on the best Tattoo’s around the World. We may not have the biggest cast in the World, but we do aim to have quality and look forward to presenting an indoor show next April. We hope that this turns into a great yearly event providing a platform for Scotland’s music and artists”.

The term ‘tattoo’ dates from 17th century Europe, when garrisons sent out drummers in the evening to inform the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The process was known in Dutch as ‘doe den tap toe’ (Dutch for “turn off the tap”), an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer. Over time the performance of a ‘tattoo’ became more elaborate to include music and dance elements.

With kilts swinging and bagpipes playing, the tattoo format is ideally suited to showcase Scottish music – pulling together a wide range of acts with individual and massed performances to encapsulate the spirit of Scotland!

Support the New York Tattoo on Kickstarter. The campaign ends on the 25th of January.

In the ‘Roman de Fergus’, the hero must travel to Dunnottar to retrieve a magic shield

Scotland has a new hero. He’s called Fergus and he comes from Galloway. He sung his way onto the stage at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night (Tuesday 10th December ) in the world premiere of a new operetta by Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham.

Fergus of GallowayScotland’s master storyteller has retold a 13th century tale of a knight from Galloway who wins the approval of King Arthur and the hand of the beautiful princess of Lothian, Galiene. A series of 12 poems sees Fergus hunting stags in the forest, defeating evil knights, rescuing the lovely Galiene from a siege at Roxburgh and, of course, marrying her. “I believe in happy endings,” McCall Smith told the audience afterwards. “ But of course the Le Roman de Fergus, written in courtly French, was a send-up, a parody of the King Arthur legend.”

And the 8-member cast of the Edinburgh Studio Opera brought all the humour to life. This is an operetta mainly for the chorus and their chorus work was superb. Every face told the story, every word could be heard and their movements around the stage were assured and precise.

Alexander McCall Smith  believes in 'happy endings'

Alexander McCall Smith
believes in ‘happy endings’

Tom Cunningham’s music too was delightful, flowing natural tunes with a pacey accompaniment provided by Stuart Hope on the piano and Emma Donald on the violin.

The whole show reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan with its immediately appealing music and its comic observations on our social manners.

As McCall Smith said afterwards; “Almost everything we do has a deeply symbolic meaning, if we care to look for it.” And while this, like the opera, was meant as a joke, there is a slight element of truth in it and this is what gives the comedy backbone.

The Enchanted Forest is Scotland’s premier sound and light show. The award-winning event has been running since 2002 and this’s year’s programme opens to the public tomorrow night. Located in Faskally Forest, it’s expected to attract around 35,000 visitors, a new record for the month-long production which turns the woodland into a magical place. In a new feature this year, members of the public will be able to enter a photographic competition, with the winner’s image being shown at an exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Last night, the media and invited guests were able to see a preview of the show – the Caledonian Mercury was there.

The event runs from Friday 4th October – Sunday 27th October.

The waterfront at Seattle
Creative Commons

Andrew McDiarmid

Andrew McDiarmid

by Andrew McDiarmid
Owner of Simply Scottish in Seattle

Greetings! I’m Andrew McDiarmid. I was born and raised in Edinburgh in Scotland and emigrated to the States with my family in 1990. I now live and work in Seattle and produce a podcast of music and features called Simply Scottish.

Previously a weekly radio show on radio stations in the U.S. and Canada, it’s now a podcast on iTunes, the Celtic Radio Network, and at www.simplyscottish.com. I’m going to be writing for the Caledonian Mercury, and I thought a good way to introduce myself and get to know you would be to explore with you what the phrase “simply Scottish” means!

SS Podcast Hi-Res Logo 2208x2208Could there be anything more simply Scottish than a dry stane dyke? Found all over Scotland and elsewhere in the British Isles, these walls are made of large stones held together without the use of mortar by the compressional force of each interlocking stone. You’ll find them lining driveways, forming boundary walls between fields, and standing as retaining walls in towns and villages.

Actually, a number of things could visually symbolize the words “simply Scottish.” For me, it’s my mother, Samantha. Her personality and character embodied a number of qualities I deem to be simply Scottish: an unshakable belief in God, loyalty to family, an adventurous spirit, unselfish kindness, a no-nonsense attitude, thriftiness, and a healthy dose of humor. She traveled the world and had a 40-year career as a teacher. Her students and friends loved her for these virtues. And I am largely who I am because of her influence.

Some years ago, when Simply Scottish was a radio show airing on various public radio stations in the U.S. and Canada, we commissioned Vincent Rooney, an artist in Scotland, to create a painting called “Simply Scottish.” He painted a small cottage by a burn, nestled at the foot of rolling Scottish hills. The artwork still hangs in the bedroom of my father, my co-host on Simply Scottish during the initial years of its production.

Simply Scottish  Painting by Vincent Rooney

Simply Scottish
Painting by Vincent Rooney

When my father and I chose the name for our show, we did so not only because it employs the memory-enhancing technique of alliteration, but because we wanted to get to the heart of Scotland and being Scottish, past all the hype, stereotype, assumption, and misunderstanding. We want to present Scotland simply and earnestly. We want to let the country’s beauty speak for itself and allow the friendliness and authenticity of Scotland’s people send its own invitation. In true Scottish fashion, we don’t want to boast. We want to welcome people to our land, because we know they will grow to love it and appreciate it in their own fashion and in their own time. And those who are Scottish by birth or who live there will gain new appreciation and insight about this small but mighty nation.

So what do you think embodies the phrase “simply Scottish?” It could be an object, a place, a person, an event, a sound, a taste, or a smell. It won’t be the only thing, but to you, and perhaps to many others, it communicates “simply Scottish.” Beyond hype or stereotype, it is pure and powerful. It is Scotland, distilled.

I will highlight your responses in upcoming posts in the Caledonian Mercury and perhaps build an episode of the podcast around them. If there’s enough response, I’d like to attract the attention of a publisher with the idea of a beautiful coffee table book with pictures and descriptions of the various things that embody the essence of Scotland. Whatever happens, we’ll all have a better idea what Simply Scottish means to Scots and Scotland lovers around the world.

Send me your ideas today!

Join the “simply Scottish” conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #simplyscottish.

The Pipers march down Rose Street

The Edinburgh Festival is a good time to raise money for a good cause. The city is thronging with visitors with money to spend. Those in Rose Street were given a little extra entertainment when Edinburgh’s Caledonian Brewery Pipe Band joined forces with The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, Canada’s oldest Civilian Band, to raise funds for Royal Blind.

The money raised will buy GPS units PIC © Sandy Young

The money raised will buy GPS units
PIC © Sandy Young

According to Craig Shepherd, a drummer with the Caledonian Brewery Pipe Band and IT manager at the Brewery, “it was a fantastic atmosphere marching along Rose Street to St Andrew Square with The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band and even better knowing that we have raised cash for a good cause! The pubs in Edinburgh, particularly along Rose Street, are always very busy during Festival time, so it was brilliant to be able to provide some entertainment, whilst tourists and locals enjoyed their pint of Deuchars, soaking up the atmosphere. We hope they enjoyed listening as much as we did playing!”

The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band were visiting Edinburgh for the World Pipe Band Championships, which took place last weekend. The band includes traditional Highland dancers, who were also part of the Rose Street march. One of its members, Bethany Bisaillion, said they were “honoured to have been on parade with their friends in the Caledonian Brewery Band. Hot off the heels of a triumphant run at the World Pipe Band Championships and a performance at Balmoral Castle for Her Majesty The Queen, we are so happy to end our run in Scotland with this parade.”

Fundraisers from Royal Blind were on hand to help encourage donations throughout the march. In total, some £225 was raised which will buy 2 GPS systems for visually impaired people supported by Royal Blind. Davina Shiell, the charity’s marketing and fundraising manager, pointed out that the Caledonian Brewery was one of its biggest corporate supporters. “The Brewery’s ongoing support,” she explained, “enables us to provide vital services for visually impaired and disabled people of all ages. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved for helping Royal Blind to make a real difference to the lives of people we support.”

Catherine Maxwell Stuart prepares for this year’s Traquair Fair

For those looking for an alternative way of spending this coming weekend, the South of Scotland could be the place to look. There are two contrasting events taking place (though both do have a musical theme).

In the tranquil setting of Traquair House near Innerleithen, this year’s Traquair Fair looks back to the 1960s for its theme.

Traquair - the oldest inhabited house in Scotland

Traquair – the oldest inhabited house in Scotland

On show will be an exhibition of 60s designer fashion – and an appearance by two of the era’s most iconic bands, The Troggs and The Animals, will help to reinforce the era of nostalgia. Around 30 garments, including some produced by Borders-based designers such as Pringle and Bernat Klein, will be on display – indeed, some will be worn by models to show off the classic lines.

The fair has a reputation for being a family-friendly event, with a mixture of street theatre, country crafts and music in the grounds. This year’s programme includes a lot for children with an appearance by the 60s comic book hero, Spiderman. In a special children’s area, storytellers will read from classic children’s books from the 1960s. And for the adults, the event will also feature a special screening of the 1969 movie “Tamlin” which were shot on location at Traquair.

The fair organiser, Catherine Maxwell Stuart, explained that the decision to use designer fashion, top bands, film and street entertainment has been designed to “create a fun-filled event that will appeal to the whole family. Traquair Fair is renowned for being one of Scotland’s most exciting family days out and this year, we will be bringing alive one of the most vibrant periods in our recent history. We look forward to welcoming visitors from the Borders and beyond to this fantastic event.”

By contrast, those who prefer camping in a field when attending a music festival will be able to enjoy the delights of this year’s Wickerman Festival, held at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright.

The Wickerman Festival - Music in Kirkcudbright

The Wickerman Festival – Music in Kirkcudbright

The organisers insist that it’s more than just a music festival – “it’s an adventure to the south of Scotland where you’re likely to meet new friends and find your new favourite act in the same weekend. Set in the glorious Kirkcudbrightshire countryside with views across the county and out of the sea to the Isle of Man, it’s breathtaking. Back to the music, there are 10 stages on the site with music playing from midday until 5 AM should you have the stamina.”

Amongst the acts performing include Primal Scream, Amy Macdonald, Public Service Broadcasting and KT Tunstall. Because the festival takes its name from the iconic film – The Wickerman – the organisers say that it would not be a true Wickerman Festival “if we didn’t set something on fire – if you want to see what, either at midnight on Saturday and you won’t be disappointed.”

This year, the festival has done a promotional deal with the Scottish website, Kiltr, in which members have the chance to win tickets to the event. All you need to do is give the best reason for why you want to go – but you need to hurry as the draw will take place tonight.

Teuchters, tin whistles and some top-notch talent will be gathering in the Trossachs come November for a few days of in-house partying and dram drinking.

It’s like a family gathering, a bit of a hoolie in the front room, with music makers giving it laldy. As The House Folk Music Festival takes up residence in the tiny village of Ledard, from the 8th-10th November 2012, an eclectic selection of folk artists and musicians will be raising the roof.

In its fifth year, top Scottish artists are making ready for the gathering where a fusion of Scotland’s best music –traditional and contemporary – gets jiggy with pipes, strings and squeeze boxes. They then cram all that talent, music and high jinks into a local house, a barn and the village hall to perform. And you are most cordially invited to attend this intimate party.

Highland bagpipes, border bagpipes, whistles, strings, fiddle, flute and vocal performances from Scotland’s best make this one heck of an undiscovered gig.

Blairhullichan House, once part of the Duke of Montrose’s estate, sits proudly above Loch Ard and is the cosy venue for an evening with Dennis Alexander’s music and banter Songs, Stories and Downright Lies. He shares this venue with the lively Jonathan Graham and Trisha Mullen, both incredible musicians performing hardcore Scots and Irish tunes on fiddle, bagpipes and whistle. Beyond toe-tapping.

Video of Jonathon Graham performing with his band Bags of Rock

Hidden up a farm track, on a working sheep farm, is MacGregors Barn. On the Friday night find Fiona Hunter – lead singer with folk band Malinky – alongside Highland lads Angus Binnie and Ali Turner belting out some high tempo tunes on pipes, guitar and whistles.

At Kinlochard Village Hall on the Saturday find Muran playing Scottish and Irish music at a racing tempo and The Deadly Winters putting on a powerful and melodic performance. This is a BYOB night, so don’t forget the kerry oot.

This is a folk festival, and a party, well worth attending. Tickets from £10-£20 each, with a cash bar at each venue (except Kinlochard Hall – see above)

In a world of pre-release hooplah, feverish messageboard pronouncements, militaristic press & TV campaigns, pop-up ads and old-fashioned billboards, sometimes it’s nice to have an album sneak up on you.

Like Holland in major tournaments, The Blue Nile tend to go for missing for long periods on end. Like their own country Scotland, that missing period can go on for too many years for comfort.

The Blue Nile’s singer Paul Buchanan has just released his debut solo album. He has guested with other artists, including Texas and Rickie Lee Jones but this is his first major statement as a solo artist.

It is a delight from start to the finish. Ever since Tinseltown In The Rain announced their arrival in 1984 with
the A Walk Across the Rooftops album, and then a mere five years later, Hats cemented their reputation five years later, the trio from Glasgow have taken their sweet time with records. Peace At Last in 1996, High in 2004 and that’s been your lot. Now Buchanan has crept back into the spotlight with his best work since Hats.

What makes the album so good?
Mid Air’s strength lies in its simplicity.To review the album in terms of stand-out songs, as Malcolm’s piano and Buchanan’s vocals give Mid Air a feel of a piece in itself. All those who claimed the band’s electronic soundscapes were sparse will luxuriate in a sound which is even more stripped back.

Cameron Malcolm’s production is an unfussy arrangement of mainly piano and vocals, the lyrics – which seem to be about the singer’s domestic
life – are unpretentious and the voice sounds as beautiful as ever.

No track is over four minutes, and only one out of the 14 tracks, the gorgeous closer After Dark, is more than three.

If you are familiar with Hats, you should love this.There is a certain canon of artists, like Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Portishead, Tom Waits, who excel at creating perfect late-night listening. Buchanan and his old band are certainly in that bracket.

While the songs on this album is unlikely to be on breakfast show playlists, many discerning listeners will slip Mid Air on their stereo in preference over the shipping forecast for years to come.

Ian Brown of the Stone Roses at the Razzmatazz Picture: Colin Paterson

In terms of waiting, the Prince of Wales is a rank amateur in comparison to Stone Roses fans.

The pre-eminent guitar band of the era they called “Madchester” kept devotees waiting five years after their eponymous first album before delivering their modestly titled follow-up, The Second Coming.

But five years was a mere pit-stop in relation to those who have been waiting two decades to see Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary “Mani” Mountfield and Alan “Reni” Wren play in concert together again.

Spike Island and Glasgow Green in 1990 were followed by… well, not too much. Four more years in the studio and drummer Reni quitting the following year.

Seventeen long years after that, the Roses are a live proposition once again.

As someone who saw the Stone Roses twice in 1995 – at a festival in Cork and an arena in Brighton – the chemistry with new drummer Robbie Maddix was not the same. The second gig, in particular, tested patience to the limit during a set, never mind patience for another tour.

Leaving aside the hour-long warm-up at Warrington Parr Hall (the music equivalent of a friendly gig at football), the quartet finally took to competitive action at Barcelona’s 2,000-capacity Razzmatazz club on Friday night.

The excitement as they launched into I Wanna Be Adored was palpable. Fans’ favourites Sally Cinnamon, Mersey Paradise and Where Angels Play were spliced with Ten Storey Love Song from the second album and Shoot You Down.

It looked like a tentative beginning to the gig, men getting used to each other’s company. Hardly a surprise after enough water under the bridge to fill a reservoir.

During, appropriately enough, Waterfall, something amazing flowed out. Bass and drums played in tandem with Squire on a wigged-out outro, and all four were in perfect harmony.

From then on, it was pure joy from a band who redefined music as they romped through the best British debut rock album of all time (unmatched since by Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys) – She Bangs The Drums, Made of Stone, This Is The One and the encore of I Am The Resurrection. The fans, many of whom had Glaswegian, Manc, Cockney and Scouse accents (Catalan was a rarity) chanted Mani and Reni’s names. The fact the singer joined in suggests that band relations are good.

Ian Brown’s vocals were not pitch-perfect – but, in the context of a small venue like this, they didn’t need to be. There was no doubt that, as he postured around the stage, flexing his muscles, shaking his tambourine sticks, his stagecraft had been a major influence on Liam Gallagher – who had flown to Barcelona for the evening. Gallagher does not look like a man who takes notes, but if he did, chapter no.1 in his book of how to be a rock frontman would be preceded by a foreword from Brown.

Squire’s muscular guitar-playing stands as tall as other Mancunian legends like Johnny Marr and the other Gallagher. Friday’s performance of Love Spreads, the opening single from the second album, suggests that the song, which received a shrug from many music writers at the time, might be in need of some critical re-evaluation.

Mani and Reni are contenders for the greatest-ever rhythm section of a British music band. Queen and Led Zep fans may of course disagree. Overall, the Stone Roses matter because, like many great British bands with four distinct personalities – the Beatles, the Who, Blur, Queen and others – they come together to create a sound no band of their generation has got anywhere near.

The excitement of all present at the Razzmatazz club proved that, for them, the earth begins to move long before the needle hits the groove for their third album. From the current chemistry, that could well be a great record – although no new material was played at the weekend.

The live test will be to come at their three dates at Manchester’s Heaton Park, their headlining set on Saturday at T in the Park and at the V Festival.

On the basis of their 90-minute set at the Razzmatazz club, they’re in good shape to pass with the kind of flying colours Jackson Pollock used.

Picture: Colin Paterson

Set list:
I Wanna Be Adored
Sally Cinnamon
Mersey Paradise
Ten Storey Love Song
Where Angels Play
Shoot You Down
Fools Gold
Standing Here
She Bangs The Drums
Made of Stone
This Is The One
Love Spreads

I Am The Resurrection

Picture: exquisitur

Country and western, rock’n’roll, punk, bhangra, indie, soul, acid house, R’n’B, d’n’b, grunge, hip hop, metal, jazz, baroque classical, folk… even those with the most catholic taste in music have a genre which they ultimately alight to first on their iPod when only their personal comfort listening will do.

Mine’s disco.

The kind of music which can be telling us Love’s Unkind one minute, and stoking up a Celebration the next, disco works in the final hour of Saturday shopping time, last thing at night, in the early hours of the morning and to get you up and about before the impending doom of office hours.

It has also, as this excellent Guardian piece by Dorian Lynskey illustrates, informed the best part of the charts for the past 30 years. Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 80s, Kylie in the 90s and noughties, and David Guetta have as much of the dancefloor to their music as Van McCoy did. Whit Stillman may have made a movie called The Last Days of Disco, but these days remain far off even if it’s called pop, house or R’n'B: much of it is disco.

In the past few days, although Wagnerians may be more upset at the passing of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, it is two musical titans closely associated with disco who have hogged the headlines.

Both were so much more than that, of course. Robin Gibb was one third of the songwriting crack unit which led Elvis, Al Green, Kathryn Williams, Destiny’s Child and many others to cover songs he co-wrote.

Donna Summer’s voice transcended all sorts of genres. To categorise a masterpiece like State of Independence into one genre is to diminish it.

Disco, for reasons mainly due to modern music criticism and festival programmers being packed with white middle-aged males, elicited fewer magazine covers and five-star plaudits than rock’n’roll.

What the deaths of Summer and Gibb threw into sharp relief was that disco seems to have lost more of its living legends than the major players in rock’n’roll.

McCartney, Jagger, Berry, Richards, Watts, Wood, Townshend, Dylan are all, at time of writing, happily still with us. So many who have contributed prime slices of disco are not.

Dan Hartman, the main member of the Jackson 5, Bobby Farrell of Boney M, Loleatta Holloway, Edwin Starr, Sylvester, Teddy Pendergrass of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Nickolas Ashford of Ashford & Simpson, Barry White, Chic’s Bernard Edwards and now of course Summer and Gibb… all gone. Their music will of course outlive them as well as you and me.

So while the passings so close together of Summer and Gibb naturally suggest another welcome outing for their greatest hits, it’s also good to hold the glitterball up to others who have contributed fantastic nuggets of disco and who are still with us.

Nile Rodgers
One half of Chic has documented his cancer diagnosis in a series of moving blogs, and the deaths of his two friends has clearly had an effect on him. A recent entry was entitled “I Know That I’m Dying”. Through all his pain and suffering, he continues to play live, and the infectious joy of so much of his music is inarguable.

Kool and the Gang
Some of the band have gone but the Celebration hitmakers stay on the road. They even started the year supporting Van Halen on tour, which only the fighting fit would undertake. Robert Bell and co’s Ooh La La (Let’s Go Dancing) received the ultimate accolade in 2007, played just before Scotland took to the pitch at the Parc des Princes.

KC and the Sunshine Band
They filled the dancefloor with many hits and Give It Up reverberates around sports stadia to this day. It also fills concert halls as Harry Wayne “KC” Casey reformed the band and plays around 200 dates a year.

Earth Wind & Fire
For a band as musically tight and talented as E, W & F, disco doesn’t cover it. Their music could legitimately be bracketed in the jazz, soul, funk and pop categories, but their hits were as worthy of Studio 54 as anyone else’s.

Gloria Gaynor
At first she was afraid, she was petrified. But instead of worrying about the company pension, she was as good as her word and survived, gigging to this day.

Pointer Sisters
The sisters changed personnel in the family business but were performing in New Zealand and Australia in 2011 and in 2012 with June Pointer’s grand-daughter, Sadako Johnson. Her selection? Nepotistic, sure. But probably Automatic.

Quincy Jones
“Sir” Quincy is associated with jazz, swing, soul bossa nova, film soundtracks, even hip hop – but his biggest hits from Ai No Corrida to the pomp of Michael Jackson took his fans to the dancefloor. He is now touted as a potential Minister for Culture in Barack Obama’s government as well as updating We Are The World for Haiti. With his 80th birthday, he manages to live up to his middle name – Delight.