Scotland in Music: Saint Andrew’s Day

by Kerry Dexter

As nights get longer and days get shorter, as the chill of winter begins to lace the wind, Scotland celebrates its national day, Saint Andrew’s Day, on November thirtieth. Sea bordered nation that Scotland is, you’ll often find fish on a Saint Andrew’s day menu, perhaps as baked haddock and maybe in the guise of the hearty fish soup known as cullen skink. There could be a roast of lamb, and maybe root vegetables to go along. For dessert, vanilla pudding with winter fruits such as apples, pears, and brambleberries will be in order. Of course, there’ll be good conversation, and of course, there’ll be music.

To share in the spirit of Saint Andrew’s day, take a listen to the lively and engaging music of the Paul McKenna Band. Paul McKenna and his musical cohorts have been rising stars of the folk scene in Scotland for several years, and their tours to other parts of the world are brining them increasing recognition outside their native country, including high praise from the New York Times and a recent signing with Compass Records to release their music in the United States.Elements makes a fine snapshot of what’s so good about these musicians. There are original songs and tunes from members of the group, fresh takes on music from the tradition, and well chosen covers of contemporary writers’ work, The singing and guitar of band leader McKenna drive their take on the fast paced traditional song Mickey Dam, while the Flying Through Flanders set showcases the instrumental and composition skills of flute player Sean Gray and fiddler Mike Vass with David McNee joining in on bouzouki and Ewan Baird on bodhran. The band’s reflective side comes into good use for Indiana, a thoughtful song of an Emigrant’s return to Scotland. The other songs and tunes are equally worth your attention.

Original and traditional music that carries hints of Scotland’s connections to other northern lands is part of what you’ll on Mala Fama. Fiddle player Sara-Jane Summers, guitarist Juhani Silvola, and bassist Morten Kvam team up for tunes which suggest Summers’ native Highland landscapes, perhaps in ways you’ve never seen them, as well as ideas of travel, laughter, and reflection. It’s good stuff, and a good companion for Saint Andrew’s day and all the days after. Standout tracks include Train Jig, Merrily Sailing, The Lumberjack, and Walk on Water,

Infinite Scotland: Exploring Natural and Cultural Conections is a project created to honor Scotland’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage. Seven pieces of music from this project have been gathered into a recording, and a thought provoking one it is. The music is composed by David Alison and Maeve Mackinnon . There’s the title track, setting an idea of place in place, so to speak. There’s Winter, which marks the coldest season on Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains, and What Are We? a question from the far north in Orkney. and Come All Ye Jolly Seamen, which celebrates’ Scotland’s southwest. Through instrument and voice, word and melody, this proves a fascinating and atmospheric celebration of Scotland.

Ever wondered about all those instruments that turn up in the traditions of Scotland, and the languages too? Saint Andrew’s day is a great time to investigate that and Boy & the Bunnet is a fine way to do that. Remember how Peter and the Wolf introduced the instruments of the orchestra? Same idea here, through characters in a story about a boy who lives by the sea, and has adventures.

Read suggestions from Sarah-Jane Summers for travel in her native Highlands of Scotland, and learn a bit of background on The Boy and the Bunnet.

photograph, made in Kelvingrove in Glasgow on a misty winter morning, by Kerry Dexter

Kerry Dexter is one of five writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including such things as the mystery of the standing sones at Calanais in the Western Isles and music at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow

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