Lauren MacColl The Seer’ at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight was a chance to hear on stage not only acclaimed fiddler Lauren MacColl, but her specially selected musical guests for the evening.
The Seer is a project that Lauren was commissioned to write by Highland arts organisation Fèis Rois and premiered at Celtic Connections in 2017, and an album of the project’s music released also in 2017. With additional support, the project is on tour, and this is allowing Lauren and her fellow musicians to take ‘The Seer’ a 45-minute suite of new music based on the life and prophecies of 17th Century prophet, The Brahan Seer (Coinneach Odhar in Gaelic) aka Kenneth Mackenzie to a wide variety of venues across Scotland.
Growing up on the Black Isle, the prophecies of The Brahan Seer are part of Lauren’s upbringing and are as interwoven into her being as her music and the landscape around her, and the 10 works that make up this song cycle not only reflect the life and grim murder of The Seer, but some of his more famous prophecies . Are the prophecies true? Who knows really as prophecies tend to only be fulfilled when time allows enough events to pass for someone to put what they see as the truth into them. Did The Brahan Seer even exist? Even that is questioned by some people. In the end, does truth or fiction even matter here as these prophecies are now as much a part of Highland folklore as the tales of “The Faerie Folk” and other magical beings and creatures that is so much a part of Highland folklore and the very music and landscape itself.
Performing “The Seer” live on stage with Lauren in the second half of this show, and a more informal collection of music in the first half, were other well known folk-musicians Mairearad Green (accordian and pipes), Rachel Newton (harp, viola and vocals), Anna Massie (guitar), Megan Henderson (fiddle and keyboards) and Signy Jakobsdottir (drums and percussion).
This has obviously been a project from the heart for Lauren MacColl and that shows through everywhere, not only in her own playing, but the arrangements for other musicians, and as well as a fine musical project, the core principle of the funder’s remit to make the prophecies of The Seer not only known to as many people as possible, but also kept alive through words and music for another generation has more than been met here.
Review by Tom King