📷 by Camille Lemoine
‘Soaring’ –– Debut Album Release: 20th January 2023
When I see birds soaring effortlessly across the sky I am filled with awe and envy – to me, they embody absolute freedom.
This is why I decided to title my debut album ‘Soaring’. I wanted to capture and explore the overwhelming sense of freedom and new beginnings I was experiencing in early 2022, at the time of writing this music. The pandemic was finally loosening its grip on our lives, I was in great health after a period of illness, and I was on the brink of graduating from my degree and entering a new chapter of my life. I wrote this music primarily to preserve and remember those sensations, creating a window into that world, and hopefully allowing others to listen to the album and connect with it in their own way.
‘Soaring’ consists entirely of original music which draws influence primarily from Scottish traditional music, as well as western classical music and jazz. I don’t know which genre category I would class it in – probably contemporary traditional music. When writing I didn’t focus on trying to keep within a certain style but rather on trying to write something genuine and find some sort of emotional connection to the tune. Each tune is linked to a certain place or feeling which was significant to me in some way over the past few years, and I tried to reflect this in the artwork for the album cover and singles.
The album features some of my favourite musicians: Matt Carmichael (tenor saxophone), Charlie Stewart (fiddle) and Fergus McCreadie (piano). Their sensitivity and natural ease when improvising allowed me to leave space within the arrangements for us to interact with one-another and improvise. This was important to me because I feel like the spontaneous moments in music are often the most special ones because everyone — both listener and performer — is completely drawn into the present moment.
‘Soaring’ releases in just over a week on the 20th January 2023. The album launches with a sold-out headline launch gig at Celtic Connections on the 21st of January, followed by a launch tour which includes dates in Glasgow, Nairn, Stirling, Dundee, Newton Stewart, Plockton, Edinburgh, and Crieff. I’m really excited about this because it will be my first run of concerts performing entirely my own music – and also because it is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the cello as a tune-player in a contemporary traditional music context.
Historically in Scottish traditional music, the cello’s role was largely to accompany fiddle tunes. Today, pioneering cellists such as Rushad Eggleston and Natalie Haas among others play the melodies too, whilst also having developed accompaniment techniques to include rhythm, chords, and percussion. However, I think it’s still generally much more common to see cellists accompanying when in a traditional music context – or to be playing a supporting role e.g. playing string parts.
I’m really keen to explore the cello’s potential as a tune-player because I love its mellow warm sound, timbre, wide register…and I love traditional tunes. Combining the two has the potential to be incredibly powerful. My current focus is exploring the way the cello can take on a lead melodic role in the way a fiddle typically would, retaining the same fluidity, bowing, ornaments and authenticity. A huge inspiration to me has been listening to people like Caoimín Ó Raghallaigh and Jenna Moynihan’s playing because they are fiddlers yet share some of the low register and sonority of the cello. ‘Soaring’ is my first step delving into this kind of approach.
I’m so happy to be able to contribute to the developing scene of trad cello. It’s an exciting and inspiring time to be a cellist involved in traditional music, particularly in Glasgow where outstanding players are pushing boundaries in every direction. Some of my favourite new releases by cellists in the Scottish trad cello scene are Su-a Lee’s ‘Dialogues’, ‘Strathspey Queens’ by Alice Allen and Patsy Reid, and ‘All It Brings’ by Ellen Gira & Jocelyn Petit. It’s important to keep promoting the cello in traditional music because it has so much undiscovered potential, and lots of people still aren’t aware that the cello can be played in this way.
I really hope to see you at one of the album launch tour gigs if you’re around — I have more UK gig dates TBC so be sure to keep up to date on social media to stay in the loop!