THE ILEACH :: THE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FOR ISLAY + JURA

Excerpts from issue 45/18 23 June 2018

HMS Queen Elizabeth

The navy's latest aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth anchored at the southern entrance to the Sound of Islay, dwarfing the CalMac ferry, MV Finlaggan.

Photo:Stephen McLaughlin

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Music with strings attached

brian palmer writes:
Coincidentally enough, a recent discussion concerning various genres of music, elicited the general consensus that classical music, though featuring several attractive properties, was mostly regarded as too long for its own good' and 'verging on the cerebral'.
There's every likelihood that this validates the long-held belief that today's generation has a much reduced attention span compared to that which existed when gents such as Elgar, Holst and Britten were in their heyday.
However, there's no doubt that to pigeon-hole both classical music and its prospective audience in this manner is to remain guilty of over-generalisation, a contention evidenced by the twelve musicians comprising the Edinburgh University String Orchestra who demonstrated their consummate ability and enthusiasm for the three compositions featured in their recent Islay concert.
Held on 7 June in Bowmore Hall, as part of their self-organised summer tour (preceded in this case, with a concert in Inveraray), the University Orchestra featured St Paul's Suite, Op. 29 No. 2 by Gustav Holst, Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20 by Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, Op. 4. And far from fulfilling the notion that classical music is a tad on the long side, the concert, including an apparently unexpected encore, lasted just over an hour.
With an average age of only 21 and eschewing a conductor, their collective playing was not only impressive, but highly entertaining. Who knew that 'pizzicato' wasn't an Italian pasta sauce?
Though predominantly attendees at Edinburgh University, not all the orchestra's members are studying music, relying on once weekly sessions to hone their performances. During term-time, they present one concert each semester.
Though the enthusiastic audience could have been larger, what they lacked in numbers was more than made up for by persistence, refusing to move from their chairs until a genuinely surprised orchestra performed the demanded reprise of a featured piece.
If, as promised, they return to Islay in the near future, be sure to reserve a seat.

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Arran whisky's Islay influence
Graham Omand

Islay may be in the throes of a distillery building frenzy, but as an island, it's not the only one. Arran distillery, built at Lochranza on the north of the island in 1995, is currently in the process of completing a second distillery at Lagg on Arran's south-west coast. A dramatic looking building, resembling a mountain profile, the owners expect it to open in spring 2019, with a second string to its bow in the shape of cider apple orchards grown within the grounds. These are expected to bear fruit within the next five or so years.
And following recent trends, several of the adjacent fields will supply a portion of the barley for the new distillery's heavily peated whisky. Though both Arran distilleries are at least a couple of CalMac ferry rides away from Islay's shores, the connections between us and them could scarcely be more tangible. The original distillery at Lochranza is managed by James MacTaggart, former stillman at Bowmore distillery and recent recipient of the industry's Lifetime Achievement Award.
The new distillery at Lagg will be managed by his nephew, Graham Omand, son of Bowmore's Rena and Murray Omand. He has served his Islay-influenced apprenticeship at Lochranza under the watchful eye of his uncle James for the past eight years and is now looking forward to taking the helm of this new, southern venture, in the spring of next year.

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Music Review
sweet sister suite - snjo

brian palmer writes:
The late Kenny Wheeler, who died four years ago at the age of 84, was a Canadian born jazz trumpeter and flugel horn player who moved permanently to the UK in 1950. He was a musician I first came across on drummer Bill Bruford's 1978 solo outing, 'Feels Good to Me.'
His recorded output as both leader and sideman is what can only be regarded as 'prodigious', underlining his substantial, yet almost subtle influence on European jazz.
Scottish jazz saxophonist, Tommy Smith, who, it could be argued, has been every bit as influential on the Scottish jazz scene, commissioned Wheeler in 1996 to write the 'Sweet Sister Suite' for trumpet, vocal and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, an eight part work that received its premiere in 1998.
This extensive, varied and thoroughly absorbing piece of music has now been superbly recorded by the SNJO, aided and abetted by Laura Jurd on trumpet and flugel horn and Irini Arabatzi on vocals.
The latter adds two distinct flavours to this extensive recording, offering a consummate, clear voice on 'Keeper of the Light' and 'Her Love is like an Endless Stream', strangely and delightfully reminiscent of Henry Cow's Dagmar Krause.
Across several of the suite's other strands, Arabatzi merges her wordless vocals with that of the brass arrangements, a feature about which I had misgivings, but ultimately, one that works incredibly well. Midst the luxuriant sound of a remarkably tight SNJO, several of the soloists are regulars at Islay's annual Jazz Festival. Naturally enough, band leader Tommy Smith features early in the recording, but the strength and depth of the band is highlighted by further solo outings from, amongst others, drummer Alyn Cosker, saxophonists Paul Towndrow and Martin Kershaw, bassist, Malcolm Gourlay and pianist Pete Johnstone.
Naturally enough, both Laura Jurd and Irini Arabatzi are given pride of place, yet both integrate seemlessly with the seventeen piece orchestra, creating an incredible sound that is surely fitting testament to the genius of Kenny Wheeler.
Sweet Sister Suite is almost an hour's worth of music (and I really do wish to underline the term 'music') that is all but timeless. Where many a jazz composition advertises the era in which it was conceived or recorded (and is no less worthy for that), this piece will travel well; it will sound every bit as beautiful and essential when Brexit is a distant memory.
Sweet Sister Suite, written and arranged by Kenny Wheeler and performed by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by Tommy Smith, is available on Spartacus Records. The SNJO is assisted by Creative Scotland.
snjo.co.uk

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 7 July 2018

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islay info

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Islay Diary 2018

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  • Saturday 23 June
  • Islay Local Mod, IHS
  • M L C Trampoline launch, Bowmore
  • Tuesday 26 June
  • Tmebank Stroll, Bridgend Woods
  • Wednesday 27 June
  • T in the Church, Portnahaven
  • Saturday 30 June
  • Painting and Planting, Community Garden
  • Tuesday 3 July,
  • Timebank Stroll, The Oa
  • Friday 20 July
  • Sports Junior Gala, Ramsay Hall
  • Port Ellen Sports Disco, Ramsay Hall
  • Saturday 21 July
  • Port Ellen Sports
  • Tuesday 24 July
  • Kilmeny Ceilidh, Ballygrant Hall
  • Saturday 28 July
  • Bowmore Sports
  • Ardbeg Islay Half Marathon
  • Fly Fishing Competition, Loch Gorm
  • Sunday 5 August
  • Ride of the Falling Rain
  • Tuesday 14 August
  • Kilmeny Ceilidh, Ballygrant Hall
  • Tuesday 11 September
  • Kilmeny Ceilidh, Ballygrant Hall

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