Friday night saw us away to see Bobby Wellins at the Queens Hall, with the SNJO, playing his Culloden Moor Suite and his Caledonian Suite. Neither works, apparently, have been recorded – yet (or at least never released). And what a crying shame.
The Culloden suite was superb. It’s in 5 parts. The Gathering, The March, The Battle, Aftermath and Epitaph. The opening to the Gathering was vintage Wellins and bore, to my mind, more than a little resemblance to the haunting solo opening of “Starless and Bible Black”. But the real wonder of this suite was “The March” that included the entire band stamping their feet in time to the march. It also included a solo by Alyn Cosker that saw him solo on one snare drum using sticks (both ends) and hands to hit the skin, rim and side of the drum. One man, two sticks, two hands… and it sounded like a whole troop of drummers with a roomful of drums! Amazing. Alyn Cosker is really challenging my long held prejudice against drum solos.
“The March” wasn’t a nervous, weary and frightened approach to battle, but was a confident one, that exuded all the arrogant cocksure swagger you’d expect in an SNP election broadcast.
The section based on the battle rather unsurprisingly transformed into a bit of a confusing, multi horned, free jazz cacophony before the “Aftermath” and “Epitaph” sections brought everything back to ground with long plaintive saxophone solos.
The Culloden Suite is a wonderful piece of music and despite it’s title is probably an evocative musical representation of any doomed militaristic campaign.
The second suite was more of a “bits and pieces” affair, loosely revolving around writings about Robert Burns (rather than by Burns). Favourite here was actually the last song “Dreams Are Free” that saw Wellins and Tommy Smith share the work on tenor sax and hammer out some great improvisations between them.
All in all a great gig.
I noticed that this gig was being recorded by the chap on the mixing desk (as I assume most gigs are these days). The Culloden suite was written in the early 60s. God forbid we should have to wait another forty off years to hear it again.