📷 by Elly Lucas
“Dialogues” – Debut Solo Album release – December 2022
Having been a professional musician for 30 years, many people have asked me why it has taken me so long to make a solo album. Quite simply, playing solo has never been my thing…I like playing with other people and collaborating. I have recorded on over a hundred albums with orchestras, chamber groups, bands and singers, but have never once had the urge to do it myself.
When the pandemic first hit in early 2020 and all work stopped overnight, I was locked down in the Highlands with my partner Hamish and he suggested that I did exactly that.
At first I was horrified at the idea, but after a long walk in the woods, I made the first phone call that set the ball rolling on this project which lasted for the next two and half years!
The premise of the album brings the voice of the cello to the fore. It celebrates elements of my non-classical career and the connections with some of my favourite folk musicians from around the world who I have worked with over the years. It is a series of 15 duos whereby each duo collaborator has carefully chosen a tune or song that is close to their home and heart, and one that also celebrates their connection with me. Many are original compositions, written especially for the album, while others are fresh arrangements of traditional tunes.
The album also explores the role of the cello in folk music. In fact, the cello is the original Scottish folk rhythm section instrument – famous Scots fiddlers of the 18th century, like Neil Gow, Peter Milne and James Scott Skinner were regularly accompanied by a cellist. However, the cello went out of fashion for a century or so, in favour of guitar, piano and other instruments.
The cello is currently undergoing a revival in the folk world, particularly through influential mavericks such as Natalie Haas, who is featured on track 3 of my album in an original composition dedicated to me… Waltzska for Su-a. There is already a wealth of wonderful cello talent which has surfaced in Scotland over the past few years including Alice Allen, Ellen Gira and Juliette Lemoine… all definitely names to look out for. I am keen to build on the use of more cello in trad music and am hoping this album will help to create repertoire to inspire other cellists.
Among those featured on the album are: Pekka Kuusisto, an amazing Finnish violin soloist, chamber musician and conductor; Donald Shaw (Celtic Connections and Capercaillie) on piano and harmonium; Gaelic vocal star Julie Fowlis; and ace Scottish US-based harper Maeve Gilchrist.
Dialogues contains a diverse range of tunes and songs. Virtuoso tango bandoneón player from the Netherlands, Carel Kraayenhof has made his own special arrangement for me of a Piazzolla milonga.
Mill O’ Tifty’s Annie, is an old Scots ballad about a real-life tragedy from the 1670s, which has a personal connection to Hamish’s family. Karine Polwart and I really enjoyed making a new arrangement of this 20-verse ballad (distilled down from 52 verses!)
The Wedding, which features accordionist and composer Phil Cunningham, is his slow air from his 1987 album The Palomino Waltz. We gave it a new lease of life to celebrate the fact that I proposed to Hamish in September 2020.
The album ends with a solo track, a beautiful arrangement of Ae Fond Kiss by Kevin McCrae, a talented musician and composer and also my late friend and colleague in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra cello section. Although this is not strictly a duo collaboration like all the other tracks, it is a meaningful nod to my dear friend and a ‘thank you’ to him for giving me a lifelong appreciation of Scottish folk music.
The album has a 36-page booklet with actual dialogues between me and my duo partners discussing our relationship and the inspirations for each chosen piece. It is playfully laid out in the form of a theatre play with acts.
A full list of my duo collaborators can be found here on Bandcamp:
And here are some links to websites and social media pages etc…
Personal website: www.sualee.com