Scotland the Rave! – Belfast

Ulster Hall, Belfast 1992

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, which charmed 1200 people in the Ulster Hall last night, isn’t what it seems – it’s more!

It is, in truth, one of the most versatile music machines around today, giving space to both young and old musicians in a whole lot of directions. Consider for instance what young Alistair McCulloch can get from a piece of violin music, which ordinarily is played in the same mundane manner. He really is a very talented artist, and the maddening thing is that it all seems so easy. Virtually at his elbow, and equally talented, is pianist Douglas White, and together they can simply make those instruments talk.

There was a stageful of talent around last night and that included another violinist. Yla Steven, who played tribute to Irish artistry with the haunting O’Carolan slow air “Blind Mary”. Magnificent, and nothing short of that!

Overall is was a most absorbing night, and a repeat of last year’s big event, when conductor John Mason wielded the baton in a superb programme which included some artists from Co. Tipperary and a whole lot of Irish music. “There is so much in common between Scottish and Irish music” he commented, and so said all of us.

On stage from time to time were tenor Jim Nicol and mezzo soprano Mary Sandeman who intoxicated the audience once again with her versatility which included a fair attack on an Abba number “The Way Old Friends Do”. Nice work here.

The again the second half was brought to life by the piping of local man John Shepherd and the music ranged through the “Orange Blossom Special” to sing-along waltzes when the aisles were filled with swirling dancers, the tartan flying knee-high and more. If was all good crack and there were sporrans full of money for charities. The Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children (Northern Ireland Branch), the Royal National Institute for the Blind here and also the local Foyle hospice.

In charge of the humour was a quiet but cunningly humorous Jim McColl.

The orchestra and others no doubt will be invited back next year and the Ulster hall will be packed to the rafters, and rightly so.

A nice way to spend a Friday night.
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