Distil Showcase Blog by Judith Walsh

April 11, 2016 in All Opportunities, featured, guest blog, Judith Walsh, Opportunity by mwhiteside

This annual musical get-together at Stirling Tolbooth – the Distil ShWP_20160408_013owcase – has a bit of magic about it. As far as new music events go, this one combines an addictive mix of contemporary artistic thought with a relaxed gig night. It draws a regular, committed, audience that includes a lot of industry people – artists and promoters, agencies and sponsors.

Run by Hands Up For Trad, the Distil project is now in its tenth year and, during that time, has helped create over 100 new pieces for mixed chamber ensemble. Ostensibly, it opens its doors to folk-rooted artists looking to develop their writing however, as has been so well-expressed over recent years, artists are now rarely defined by one genre. The concert on Friday night showcased nine new pieces, performed by Mr McFall’s Chamber and guests from the folk circuit. The eclectic ensemble has been the house band for a number of years, and its players (Robert McFall & Jackie Norrie on violins, Mairi Campbell on viola, Su-a Lee on cello, and Rick Standley on double bass) work closely with the composers in the run-up.

mcfalls distilThe composers are all gigging performers, most writing for their own concerts and bands, with some pursuing dedicated composition careers and training. From speaking with the artists, it seems the process of Distil – the atmosphere and resources it provides – is the most valuable part of the experience. Before their workshopping-rehearsal week with Mr McFall’s Chamber and the public showcase concert, they spend time at a residential in the beautiful surrounds of New Lanark. This time out is focused on thinking outside the usual creative parametres, by spending time with visiting high profile composers and creators in the fields of contemporary composition, world music, and improvisation.

From an audience perspective, the energy and experimentation of the featured artists is what dominates the Showcase. The pieces themselves may or may not have a longer life but the process shines through. That, coupled with the obvious enjoyment of the house band in presenting the new works, creates a great night of live music premieres.

Lauchlan’s Waltz Stuart Macpherson
Haven Ailie Robertson
The Road to Dalginross Karen Marshalsay
Seeking the Ice, Questing for the Sun Catriona Price
Hebridean Collective Mhairi Mackinnon
Still Joy / The Night of the Bright Mystery Fiona Rutherford
Distilled Alana MacInnes
Pingvellir:Thingvellir Tom Oakes
The Merry Lads of Ayr Simon Thoumire

Judith Walsh is on the board of New Music Scotland, General Manager of Mr McFall’s Chamber and Ludus Baroque, Project Manager of Live Music Now Scotland, and supporter of independent artists and arts projects.