NEW ALBUM – “SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS”

14393948 - purple heather in the scottish highlands

 

I’m delighted to announce that on the 20th of January, 2017, I will be releasing a brand new album, “Songs of Robert Burns”.

Growing up in the South West of Scotland, I was introduced to singing through the songs of Robert Burns. From a very young age, his songs and poems gave me an appreciation of the Scots language and our cultural and musical heritage, which I’ve always been so proud to share. For many years now I have wanted to create an album that shows the incredible range of his works, covering the themes of humanity, history, politics, love and nature. I also wanted to create music that fully expresses the passion, humour and emotional truth within the songs, which deeply connects with people all over the world.

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many gifted musicians here in Scotland and to have recorded the album with many of Scotland’s finest instrumentalists: Patsy Reid, Alistair Paterson, Signy Jakobsdottir, Innes White, Aaron Jones, Ryan MacKenzie, Claire Mann and Jenna Reid. Amongst them, musicians I’ve admired for a long time and musicians I’ve had the pleasure of performing with for several years.

I have always loved the power and beauty of sound of a string ensemble and I felt that strings would create a depth and power that would carry the emotion of some of Burn’s most iconic songs. Perfroming as part of the string quartet are four very talented women who are achieving great success in the fields of classical, traditional and jazz music. Seonaid Aitken on violin, Patsy Reid on violin, Christine Anderson on viola and Alice Allen on cello. The string arrangements were written by Ryan MacKenzie, a young pianist and composer from the North East of Scotland, who has written four very beautiful string arrangements for the album.

I’ve had the most wonderful experience recording the album at Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland with Stuart Hamilton. It’s a remarkably calm and inspiring place to record and I was so pleased that Stuart Hamilton was able to record, mix and mastered the album.

The CD cover and album artwork took much consideration and, by an incredible stroke of luck, I discovered a designer named Ian Ross. Ian has designed CD artwork for leading artists like Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Emma Bunton, and I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to create the artwork for “Songs of Burns”. 

The portrait on my album cover was taken by the wonderful David Moses, based in the South West – he’s got a really special skill for taking portraits and I’m always amazed by his results!

I’m really excited to be taking the music on tour in January 2017, and I will be perfroming four live concerts across Scotland to coincide with the launch of the album – in Glasgow, Inverness, Dumfries and my home town of Stranraer. I’m especially excited to be perfroming on Burns’ Night, 25th January, in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections. This concert will be held at St Andrews in the Square and will include Alistair Paterson, Patsy Reid, Signy Jakobsdottir, Aaron Jones and Innes White and our wonderful string quartet!

DUMFRIES (The Usual Place) – 15TH January

STRANRAER (St Ninian’s Church) – 22ND January

GLASGOW (St Andrews in the Square) – 25TH January

INVERNESS (Eden Court) – 29TH January

(For more concert details visit – www.robynstapleton.com/concerts)

Can’t wait to share the album with you all very soon, and hope to see you at one of the concerts!

Robyn x

 

Macmath: The Silent Page

Macmath pic

In Kirkcudbright’s Main Street there sits Broughton House, a beautifully preserved town house with a picturesque, Japanese inspired garden. It’s the former home of Scottish painter, A E Hornel, and it is filled with many of his paintings. Within this very interesting house, there is a library, filled with all kinds of antique books and collections, including the unpublished songs and manuscripts of song collector, William Macmath.

William Macmath was a song collector from Kircudbrightshire (1848-1922). A remarkable chap from a very musical family; he collected songs from all around Galloway and was an informant to Francis James Child. He was a meticulous researcher, and spent over 30 years collecting songs in and around Galloway.

Ali Burns, a community music leader based in Dumfries & Galloway, was inspired by these relatively unknown manuscripts, and wanted to find out more. With help from Geordie MacIntyre and Alison McMorland, she researched the song manuscripts and unpublished collections, uncovering an incredible range of traditional songs. They discovered traditional songs they had never seen before, unique versions of ballads, and ones had not been included in Child’s monumental collection, ‘The English and Scottish Popular Ballads’.

Ali wanted to see Macmath’s songs brought back to life, to be made accessible to the public and performed once. I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the project Macmath: The Silent Page, alongside many of Scotland’s leading folk musicians: Aaron Jones, Emily Smith, Jamie McClelland, Wendy Stewart and Claire Mann. All of the musicians involved are from, or currently live in, Dumfries & Galloway.

Geordie and Alison helped us to narrow down the manuscripts by highlighting songs they felt were particularly unique or complete. We divided up the songs between us and began transcribing the words of Macmath – some songs easier than others, due in part to his ornate calligraphy, which became almost illegible by the end of his life.

We then started to make decisions about who would sing which songs. Already, Emily, Aaron and me we were drawn to certain songs, stories and tunes within the collection, and were eager to begin singing them and arranging them with the other musicians. The songs I took lead vocals on are:

  • Lord Ronald, a traditional ballad I have sung many times before, however this unique version from Galloway was totally new to me
  • Queen Jeannie – the tragic and true tale of the Queen who lost her life giving birth to her son. Many believe that the songs is about Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII
  • The humorous story of John Blunt, and a domestic dispute with his wife Janet, which takes an interesting turn. This ballad is often called ‘The Barrin’ of the Door’
  • A lively, chirpy song called Linkum, which known in some American versions as ‘Mr Frog Would Go And Ride’. I head a version of this song from the singing of Cathal McConnell, and the traditional tune he uses was the basis of this song’s melody
  • The very local ballad of the ‘Lochmaben Harper’, of which there are many versions, notable Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Emily Smith and Kate Rusby. It is the story of a harper who, with his wife’s help, steals the horse of King Henry.

Macmath notated many of the melodies and included them in the collection, for example ‘Lord Ronald’ and ‘The Lochmaden Harper’. Many of the songs were without a melody, but often, Macmath would write about the quality or characteristics of the song’s melody, and we tried as much as possible to keep that in mind when settling on a new tune.

I really enjoyed hearing how all the other songs were coming together too, and to see how Emily and Aaron’s songs would be interpreted and developed. I don’t think any of us could have predicted just what a range of different moods and styles would emerge from the collection. From laugh-out-loud stories to heart-breaking true stories, lively rhythmic sing-a-long choruses, sea songs, tragic dark ballads and supernatural tales, there was such a variety of songs. To hear the songs arranged with harp, bouzouki, guitar, concertina, flute, whistle, fiddle was fantastic; it really brought out the story and feeling of the songs, and added so much energy.

We had a great run of concerts across the region, as part of Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, in May of this year. We travelled to Stranraer, then to Langholm and finally to Dumfries’ Easterbrook Hall for the final concert of the tour. During the concerts, Macmath’s life and the stories of each song were told with narration from David Summer and from Tom Pow. It was great to see his work as a collector appreciated in this way. A life’s work, that until recently, had gone largely unnoticed. Now, 100 years on, inspiring audiences across the region.

A picture taken at our first concert in Stranraer – with Aaron Jones and the Feral Choir, led by Alison Burns

 

The Album!

We have just finished recording an album of the songs; it was recorded by Steve Butler and Jamie McClennan at Ferndale and White Fall Studios, mixed by Jamie McClennan and mastered by Paul McGeechan at Waterside Productions.

I can’t wait for the album to be fully finished so everyone can hear it, and for the album launch in 2016.

You can hear us all performing Macmath: The Silent Page at:

  • Wigtown Book Festival, Friday the 2nd of October at 7pm
  • Kirkcudbright’s Broughton House, Sunday the 4th of October at 2pm

 

See here for more details:

Wigtown: http://www.wigtownbookfestival.com/programme/2888/4027

Kirkcudbright: http://www.dgunlimited.com/macmath-the-silent-page/

 

Find out more about the project on the Macmath website which features latest information and blogs from all the musicians

https://macmathsilentpage.wordpress.com/

Dumfries and Galloway People of the Year Awards

I was delighted to hear earlier this week, that I have been shortlisted for the Dumfries and Galloway Performing Artist of the Year Award. The awards ceremony is held annually in Dumfries’ Easterbrook Hall and recognises people in the region who have done inspirational work and have made an outstanding contribution to the community. Delighted to be part of this year’s D&G People of the Year Awards, and looking forward to meeting some very special people at the ceremony at the end of the month. Thank-you to everyone who nominated me!

http://www.dglifepeopleawards.co.uk/index.php/enter

Proms in the Park

An absolute dream. I’ve been asked to sing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as part of this years Proms in the Park. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to perform traditional Scots song on such a stage and with an incredible orchestra behind me. Thrilled too that the concert is at Glasgow Green – it doesn’t seem long ago that I was there for Proms in the Park watching the Nation Youth Choir from the grass and the thought of being up there as a soloist would have been no more than a distant dream. Absolutely delighted!!

Headlining this year will be Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins.

Have a look at this link for tickets and more information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/features/proms-in-the-park

Proms Web

 

Folk For Folk

I had a lovely time in Gourock teaching at brand new festival, Folk for Folk. The festival, organised by my talented friend, Alison McNeill, included a programme of Summer Folk Music Workshops for young people and adults, a concert and finally a ceilidh. All events were held in Gourock’s scenic Yaught Club. It was a great experience to teach alongside Alison & Fiona and David Douglas to a group of such enthusiastic and talented people!

Really enjoyed performing with Hajime Takahashi at the festival’s main concert, which also featured singer-songwriter David Douglas and Reely Jiggered.

Well done to Alison and the McNeill family for all their hard work putting everything together. Looking forward to seeing the festival grow in the years to come!

http://www.reelyjiggered.co.uk/folk-for-folk-workshops/

Folk for Pic

 

 

Commonwealth Live Zone – Glasgow Green!

Live Zone Green

I had a fantastic time performing at Glasgow Green with the Robyn Stapleton Trio as part of Festival 2014. I sang a set of traditional songs, joined by Kristan Harvey (fiddle) and Hajime Takahashi (guitar) . It was an amazing experience to perform on such a huge stage and to a great crowd, singing along to the songs! The sunshine was beating down on the whole Green and everyone was having such a good time relaxing and enjoying all the events and activities dotted around the Green. As I sang I looked out on Glasgow’s landscape, with the new red ferris wheel prominent. There was a magnificent buzz and energy about the city, and the Green seemed to be at the centre of it all, as everyone enjoyed the  Commonwealth festivities in the sunshine. Also performing were the superb Paddy Callaghan Trio, joined by Jack Badcock, Danny Boyle and Eamonn Nugent – brilliant performance!

 

 

BBC at the Quay

Band Quay

What an honour to be singing as part of Commonwealth Concert series, BBC at the Quay and to be performing alongside Capercaillie and Shooglenifty.

On arriving at the Quay, I had a lovely interview with Frank Hennessy from BBC Radio Wales, and thoroughly enjoyed speaking to him and having the opportunity to reach a Welsh audience. The whole concert was live on BBC Scotland, Wales and Ulster. Coming from Stranraer, which is so close to Northern Ireland, I was really glad of the chance to connect with listeners across the water. Kristan Harvey (fiddle), Stephen Heffernan (box), Hajime Takahashi (guitar) and Alistair Paterson (piano) joined me in performing a set of six songs, mostly traditional, from Scotland and Ireland.

Shooglenifty gave a fantastic opening to the night! I particularly enjoyed their collaboration with Indian drummers, which had our whole band dancing!

Following Shooglenifty, we took to the stage and started off the night with Scottish traditional song, ‘Johnnie Lad’ which I learned from the singing of Gordeanna McCulloch. It was a real pleasure to perform to such warm and responsive audience, and was brilliant to see and hear everyone following the stories of the songs 🙂 The sound was super, the audience were brilliant and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive band playing with me.

After a lovely interview with Bruce McGregor it was time for the final band of the night – Capercaillie. Was brilliant to see them live and to hear one of my favourite singers, Karen Matheson.

A real highlight of my year so far! Thanks to the BBC team and to everyone involved for a wonderful night.

 

Newton Stewart Traditional & Acoustic Festival

This year was the first year of Newton Stewart’s Traditional & Acoustic Festival, organised by Nathon Jones. Having gone to school in Newton Stewart, I was really looking forward to returning to the town and meeting some old friends. Myself and Hajime Takahashi performed at the first concert of the weekend, in the Cree Inn, which was totally sold out. So nice seeing lots of familiar faces in the audience and the support for the festival was fantastic. There were some brilliant musicians performing across the weekend including Ross Couper & Tom Oakes, Bruce MacKenzie, Zoe Bestel and Siobhan Miller.

My highlight of the weekend was leading a song session in the local Bruce Hotel. I met so many interesting people, heard some beautiful songs and even  traditional songs from the local area I had never heard before. I also got to sing with my wee sister for the first time ever, which was extra special.

I really hope the festival will continue in the years to come! Well done to everyone involved for making the weekend such a success!

http://www.tradmusic.com/

Me sesh newton