Whilst much of the Acoustic Music Centre’s programme for the Fringe involves folk and blues artists, Alba Brass provide a shot of variety into the arm of this venue. The critically acclaimed brass quintet play through a varied set of contemporary and modern compositions, as well as classic and older pieces.
Two brand-new pieces were unveiled at this concert; the world premieres of both Souch, a composition in three movements each inspired by Scotland and the Scots language, and Shorthand of Emotion, a composition from the renowned musician Ryan Quigley inspired by the ‘power of music’.
Souch is a fantastic piece, allowing each performer to innovate and take their instruments to new places. In parts it is a very left-field piece and listeners new to this avenue of classical music may be a little startled by the sounds thrown at them. Regardless, it’s a compelling and moving piece of music.
After Souch, the group played the Three Scottish Love Songs by Alan Fernie and the final movement of Samuel Scheidt’s battle suite, Canzon Bergamasque. A particular highlight during this middle section was the piece written specifically for trombone, played here by Paul Stone, part of an ongoing project from Eddie McGuire, who has been attempting to write a prelude for each instrument in the orchestra. This one, named Prelude 23 (Coronach for Peace in Syria), was an especially interesting experience. Finally, after playing through Quigley’s momentous and filmic piece Shorthand of Emotion (the name comes from a quote by Leo Tolstoy, who said ‘music is the shorthand of emotion’), Alba Brass performed three tangos, each one different. This was a compelling and eye-opening performance, if a little specialist for the casual listener.
After playing in support of her latest album for much of the last year, Kelly Kellner brought her show to the Fringe down at the Acoustic Music Centre at St Bride’s.
Kellner’s album ‘Little Birds’ was produced and toured with the intention of supporting several children’s charities in Scotland. It’s an admirable pursuit, so it’s a pity that her live performance fails to match her benevolent work.
Her original songs are the definite highlight of the show: tracks like ‘Death to Romance’ and the title track from ‘Little Bird’, as well as her closing song ‘The Tides’, are all well-written songs with catchy tunes.
However, her reliance on covers to punctuate her own work pulls the entire performance down, especially since for most of these she uses a backing track played from the PA system rather than playing an acoustic guitar version. Whilst her voice is good, it’s hard to see these sections of the performance as much more than karaoke.
Kellner has a lovely singing voice and a friendly stage persona. It’s easy to see how she might take parts of her show and run a lot further with them. Her acoustic guitar cover of Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ was an example of how she might have performed the other cover tracks she chose. Kellner’s show, whilst musically competent, would have greatly benefited from a larger selection of her own songs and it’s this lack of original content that lets her down.