Published: January 31, 2010

Mulhearn brings the Big Music to Celtic Connections

The annual Celtic Connections music festival this month will get an injection of Piobaireachd, but not in its staid, traditional sense, when Glasgow-based piper John Mulhearn presents the Big Music Society “exploring the untapped potential of our classical repertoire” at the Classic Grand on January 23rd at 7:30.
 
Described as an “experimental collective,” The Big Music Society is Mulhearn’s orchestration of piobaireachd in an avant-garde light, including renditions “The Kings Taxes,” “The Desperate Battle,” “I Am Proud to Play a Pipe,” “A Flame of Wrath,” “Lament for the Children” and “The Old Woman’s Lullaby.”
 
Mulhearn has formed a band comprising cello; French horn; flute; fiddle; Highland pipes; smallpipes; whistles; guitar; bouzouki; electronic beats, samples and synths; live percussion; and vocals. He says that three members of the group are pipers not playing pipes. Gillian Chalmers, the piper in the Celtic folk group, Bodega, on fiddle; Megan Canning playing flute; and Calum MacCrimmon of the Celtic group Breabach handling guitar and bouzouki.
 
When asked what people should expect from the 50-minute show, Mulhearn said, “Hopefully something they’ve not been expecting! The idea is to open up the music to an audience that has no experience of it, but doing it in a way that keeps the integrity and the passion intact. It’ll be a big sound, at times wild and seemingly out of control, and at other times delicate and carefully considered.”
 
John Mulhearn released The Extraordinary Little Cough in 2009, a self-produced CD that featured mostly electronic tracks with Highland pipes and practice chanter, with him playing all instruments.
 
Celtic Connections has been criticized for being light on Highland piping content, but this year’s 18-day festival, running from January 14th to January 31st features at least 11 performances with pipes, including a January 16th combined concert by Robert Wiseman Dairies-Vale of Atholl and Inveraray & District at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

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