Fringe Music

Alastair Savage,

Alone with History,

Arthur Conan Doyle Centre,

four stars

Do It Now: Manual Overide,

theSpace @ Niddry Street,

four stars

Rob Adams

ONE man, one fiddle and a head full of tunes and background stories make Alastair Savage’s afternoon celebration of Scottish fiddle music’s riches entertaining and informative.

The eighteenth century is considered the music’s golden age and Savage began with one of the era’s jewels, the great Niel [correct spelling] Gow’s lament for his second wife, a melody still much played today and here articulated with the sort of feeling and delicacy of expression that a singer might bring to a personal lyric.

Gow and the other masters selected here, including his sons Nathaniel and Andrew, Aberdeenshire’s William Marshall and the later hero, James Scott Skinner, wrote passionately, whether in heartfelt tribute or for dancing, and Savage incorporated all the nuances.

His rugged bowing on Skinner’s Glenlivet strathspey, deft slides on Nathaniel Gow’s Fairy Dance reel and hint of pipe music on Andrew Gow’s Major Molle were all confirmation of a musician at one with his instrument. If his own pieces for Gow senior and Robert Burns were a little sketchy by comparison, there was no discredit and little distraction from a fine recital.

John Sheldon, Tony Vacca and Paul Richmond are products of the 1960s who have had enough of U.S. government policy and gun laws and gather their dissatisfaction into poetic declamation, layered and looped guitar shaping and percussive drive and precision. Part political rant, part history lesson and wholly musical – Sheldon’s guitar and Vacca’s percussion are brilliantly in sync – Do It Now is a serious call to (dis)arms leavened by moments of dark humour and highly charged musicianship.