Southside of The Tracks 40 years of traditional music at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight marked a very important milestone in the history of The Queen’s Hall as a live music venue, 40 years of providing a home for a vast variety of music over the years in the Southside of Edinburgh. Since 1979, The Queen’s Hall has been a music venue like no other in Edinburgh and with many thousands of performers from every genre of music taking to its stage over the years, and many, many thousands of performances, the venue has taken a special place in the hearts of performers and audiences alike. Although 1979 is the opening date for the venue as “The Queens’s Hall”, this building was originally built as a church in 1823 and this space shares a long history with the Southside of Edinburgh.
Southside of The Tracks, the first of the Queen’s Hall 40th anniversary events to take place in 2019, is an event curated by Scotland’s foremost fiddle player, John McCusker, and presented by The Queen’s Hall, bringing together some of the finest writers and performers of traditional musicians.
The list of talent on-stage tonight is impressive and includes House band: John McCusker, James Mackintosh, Ian Carr, Ewen Vernal, Michael McGoldrick, Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) plus guests that included Roddy Woomble (Idlewild), Kathleen MacInnes, Phil Cunningham, Adam Holmes, Daoiri Farrell, Heidi Talbot, and Rachel Sermanni.
Selecting the line-up for this special performance must have been a difficult task for John McCusker, as finding gaps in the performance schedules of any of these musicians could not have been an easy one, but somehow he has done it and not only managed to put together a talent showcase of international class musicians, but one that reflects the depth and diversity of traditional music. Firmly established talent like Phil Cunningham, Roddy Woomble, and of course John himself shared the stage with performers who have achieved more recent recognition for their talents, Daoiri Farrell (many Radio 2 Folk Awards) being one of them.
Watching musicians at the talent and skill level of John McCusker and Phil Cunningham is always a pleasure no matter what they are playing, and here that ability to make the difficult look almost effortless due to many years’ dedication to their musical crafts was no exception. In any evening of music of this “collaborative” format it is unfair to select individual performances as everyone on stage was on their best form for this special event. Having said that, however, a few songs do always stay with you after the show and for me these include “Oh My God” (Adam Holmes) and “The Book of Love” (Louis Abbott covering The Magnetic Fields song).
Always nice to hear too Heidi Talbot, Rachel Sermanni (who deserves far wider recognition for her songwriting talents), and anything performed by Roddy Woomble. Traditional music of course has very strong traditions and Kathleen MacInnes brought to life some of that wide tapestry of history in her songs, with Daoiri Farrell also clearly showing how contemporary Irish music has not forgotten its traditional heritage either.
Despite the impressive array of talent on stage this evening though, the two real stars of the show were The Queen’s Hall and the music itself. Many of the musicians on stage at this show not only have long associations with playing this venue as performers, but a special place in their hearts for playing at this venue. For many performers, this venue is also one where they came as members of the audience to watch, long before their own careers in music, many of their favourite artists perform. Music is very important not only to any community, but to each of us as individuals; we seem to need it for our very souls, and a venue like The Queen’s Hall that programmes a wide variety of music all year round which includes classical, folk, country, jazz, blues, rock, pop and everything else out there is a very special place indeed. Here’s to celebrating The Queen’s Hall 50th anniversary celebrations in another ten years.
This event was supported by Ettrick Trust
Review by Tom King