18 September 2005

The Queensferry Arts Festival finished with a ceilidh last night, after a successful week. We could have had larger audiences and marketed it better but we felt we had the right range of events in the right venue and the right people, and each event had a big enough audience to work. Saturday was a busy day, playing WaveForms in the gallery in the morning, attending a writing workshop in the early afternoon, then a performance by the Pelvis and Mantra Orchestra and finally the ceilidh.

The PMO were something else (they don’t have a website but here’s a link to an old event).  Electric guitar, mandolin, clarinet, bodhran and two vocalists, a strange enough lineup for a start, but they performed for 40 minutes, completely improvised with no words, beat, key or tune. The guitarist slapped and abused his instrument, the mandolin tinkled, the percussionist tapped, rapped and did everything but play a rhythm, and the clarinettist and two vocalists paced around the church howling, baying and throwing musical phrases to each other. It could have been awful, and I’m sure a recording would be, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s fascinating. First of all the sheer un-selfconsciousness of it – these are grown adults playing – then the fact that there was communication going on – these people were listening intently to each other and responding, and would coalesce for moments then splinter off into something else. And they have a sense of humour about it. The guitarist said ‘We used to have someone else who played regularly with us but he left saying it’s all a bit too psychiatric day-centre.’  I was told later there’s actually a pool of around 40 musicians who take part and they only perform a few times a year. Sign me up.

The PMO were chosen by Gary, the chairman of the Festival, as were the Justin Oddgig Ceilidh Band, an equally eccentric but fun ceilidh band, with a lineup of hurdy-gurdy, English bagpipes, accordian and fiddle.

One of my efforts from the writing workshop:

Broken towers by the water’s edge
From the building of a mighty bridge
The sea spits
And turns away.

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