Rob Adams meets a new Scottish group with impressive musical


GAELIC music folk generally go about their business quietly. Thus,

Mac-Talla play their first concert at Cumbernauld Theatre on Saturday

and ''just see how things go'' thereafter.

Things should go well. The Mac-Talla line-up draws from the very cream

of Gaelic music and features singers Christine Primrose, Eilidh

Mackenzie, and Arthur Cormack -- all one-time Mod Gold Medallists --

plus former Runrig accord-

ianist/keyboards player Blair Douglas, and harper Alison Kinnaird.

They have all worked together in various combinations before and share

the same record label, Temple, whose proprietor Robin Morton's idea it

was to form the group.

Lest Gaelic's current image as ''sexy'' brings accusations of jumping

on a bandwagon, Morton points out that the five members of Mac-Talla

were among those who were initially responsible for creating new

interest in Gaelic music outside Gaeldom. As, of course, was Morton.

Back in 1982 when Morton released Christine Primrose's first album,

Gaelic recordings were as plentiful as hens' teeth. ''There were plenty

by the bri-nylon shirt brigade but none by the really good singers with

the exception of Flora MacNeil,'' he recalls. No one wanted to listen to

this sort of stuff anyway, he was told.

It was a response Morton had heard before when, a few years

previously, he had wanted to issue an album of harp music by Alison

Kinnaird (who is also his wife). None of the established companies was

interested so, never one to baulk at putting his overdraft where his

mouth is, Morton borrowed #10,000, built a studio in his house, recorded

the album,and issued it himself. Temple Records was born. Those

''unwanted'' albums sold satisfactorily and continue to do so.

Morton wouldn't be the first record company executive to form a new

group from his own artists' roster but in an economy where to use the

prefix ''mega'' remains a distant ambition, there is still room for

altruism. ''The idea is that we have the ingredients here for an evening

of Gaelic music and song which offers a good range and variety,'' says

Alison Kinnaird, taking up her husband's case.

The group, she says, came together in November. ''We discussed what we

were going to do and because everybody likes the same style of music,

there wasn't a problem about deciding what songs we wanted to do. It's a

case of putting the various bits of the different repertoires together

in an interesting way.''

The plan is not for each of the singers simply to sing their

''greatest hits,'' though. ''You don't sing the repertoire that you

think will please the audience. I mean, you hope what you do will please

them, and I'm sure it will, but it's nice to introduce songs that they

won't have heard before.''

This is, of course, Mac-Talla's great strength. The three singers all

care very much about the songs they sing and try to keep songs alive

that otherwise might slip away. So is the aim to preserve rather than

renovate? ''We're not consciously trying to make things modern, we never

have. It's not necessary because good traditional music is modern

anyway, and often you can damage songs by trying to add things to them

that don't belong there naturally.''

The real aim is to take the music to more people and leave them

excited and moved, a statement which Kinnaird is quick to qualify. ''OK,

this is not the sort of music to stand on your chairs and jump around

to. There's some fast tunes if that's what people really want but those

are not necessarily the tunes people remember. I know from working with

Christine, for example, that audiences can go away with a sense of

satisfaction and enjoyment without all that leaping around.''