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Distil Showcase

Published by: New Music Scotland
About: Ailie Robertson, McFall

Judith Walsh, General Manager of Mr McFall's Chamber, writes:

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This annual musical get-together at Stirling Tolbooth – the Distil Showcase – has a bit of magic about it. As far as new music events go, this one combines an addictive mix of contemporary artistic thought with a relaxed gig night. It draws a regular, committed, audience that includes a lot of industry people – artists and promoters, agencies and sponsors.

Run by Hands Up For Trad, the Distil project is now in its tenth year and, during that time, has helped create over 100 new pieces for mixed chamber ensemble. Ostensibly, it opens its doors to folk-rooted artists looking to develop their writing however, as has been so well-expressed over recent years, artists are now rarely defined by one genre. The concert on Friday night showcased nine new pieces, performed by Mr McFall’s Chamber and guests from the folk circuit. The eclectic ensemble has been the house band for a number of years, and its players (Robert McFall & Jackie Norrie on violins, Mairi Campbell on viola, Su-a Lee on cello, and Rick Standley on double bass) work closely with the composers in the run-up.

mcfalls distil

The composers are all gigging performers, most writing for their own concerts and bands, with some pursuing dedicated composition careers and training. From speaking with the artists, it seems the process of Distil – the atmosphere and resources it provides – is the most valuable part of the experience. Before their workshopping-rehearsal week with Mr McFall’s Chamber and the public showcase concert, they spend time at a residential in the beautiful surrounds of New Lanark. This time out is focused on thinking outside the usual creative parametres, by spending time with visiting high profile composers and creators in the fields of contemporary composition, world music, and improvisation.

From an audience perspective, the energy and experimentation of the featured artists is what dominates the Showcase. The pieces themselves may or may not have a longer life but the process shines through. That, coupled with the obvious enjoyment of the house band in presenting the new works, creates a great night of live music premieres.

Lauchlan’s Waltz - Stuart Macpherson

Haven - Ailie Robertson

The Road to Dalginross - Karen Marshalsay

Seeking the Ice, Questing for the Sun - Catriona Price

Hebridean Collective - Mhairi Mackinnon

Still Joy / The Night of the Bright Mystery - Fiona Rutherford

Distilled - Alana MacInnes

Pingvellir:Thingvellir - Tom Oakes

The Merry Lads of Ayr - Simon Thoumire

Judith Walsh is on the board of New Music Scotland, General Manager of Mr McFall’s Chamber and Ludus Baroque, Project Manager of Live Music Now Scotland, and supporter of independent artists and arts projects.

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