Horse - The Diamond Speaks - Live gig review. Jan 29th 20154
Looking for my passport recently I came across some old ticket stubs for concerts I'd been to in the 1980s and 1990s. Amongst them was a ticket for a very memorable concert in Level 8 at Strathclyde Student Union, where I was taken to see Horse by a friend who was right into her stuff. It is a concert that really stuck in my mind. Hearing her fantastically strong, rich voice live led me to follow her output in the intervening 24 years.
Horse McDonald, to give her her full moniker, is a singer-songwriter originally from Fife whose distinctive, deep, soulful voice appears to be undiminished by the passing of time. She was performing at Celtic Connections this year in a concert called "The Diamond Speaks". After coming across the works of neglected women poets she has decided to put music to their oft forgotten words. Before coming to that however, she gave us a blast through some Horse highlights, performing songs such as Breathe Me, Careful and Home alongside her classy five-piece band.
The second half started and ended with poems by Mary Queen of Scots. The first of which pictures the gift of a diamond Mary gives to Queen Elizabeth, speaking on her behalf. Her musical interpretations avoided using tropes of traditional music to interpret this 450 year old poem, and at times the music was quite modern and experimental as the night went on.
I'm sorry to say that beyond Mary Queen of Scots I hadn't heard of any of the women whose works were performed and I guess that is one point of the exercise. We also had works from Anne Hunter, an 18th century songwriter who wrote the words to some of Haydn's English Folk songs, Mary McKellar from Fort William who wrote in English and Gaelic, the Jacobite Lady Nairne Caroline Oliphant and Ellen Johnston, a working class Victorian poet from Hamilton. The twentieth century was represented by Marion Angus from Arbroath and Olive Fraser from Aberdeen. The programme notes and the introductions by the singer gave us a thumbnail sketch of these women and maybe a chance for other works of theirs to surface.
I like poetry, I like Horse, so I was always going to enjoy this show and I hope that it ends up resulting in an album sometime soon. She has a great voice and always something interesting to say.