I have taken to BBC Alba in a big way.

It is a BBC tv programme in Scottish Gaelic. Don’t panic, there ARE subtitles.

My big night is Tuesday:  Ceilidh@Blas!  I have heard here some outstanding music, and musicians.

The other week the previous programme had an article on the folk tales of the Western Isles. They had been collected in the 19th century by enthusiasts. We had been reading world folk literature for some time; the Scottish came out rather thin, to my horror.

The Tales of the Western Isles, though is all in the music of the language: grab what chance you can to hear them in the Gaelic. Wonderful concertos of sound. Just wonderful. How much do we miss in translation!!

And then there is Vamm.

They are three women: two fiddle players, and one on mandolin. They are instrumentalists of a very high order. The fiddles weave their melodies around each other: Vamm are all about textures. I have heard them produce some absolutely outstanding music, gentle, lyrical; hard and insistent, but always, always outstanding. They have been together as a working unit for just over twelve months.

Vamm are:

 Catriona MacDonald, a Shetlander, brought up in the great fiddle tradition. She cut her teeth with Blazin Fiddles, learning the touring and concert-trade. She runs a music course at Stirling University. Rich in repertoire and craft, she is a first-class player.

Patsy Reid, from Perthshire. A one-time student on Catriona’s course. A former Young Musician of the Year.  Her fiddle playing has a wide resource, bringing, as Catriona commented, a classical, string-quartet sound to the trio.  She has recently taken up teaching posts at a number of Scottish colleges and universities.

Marit Falt, a Swedish player, brought up in Norway. A recent graduate from Catriona’s course; her instrument is the Latmandola, an adapted mandolin-type instrument (‘an octave mandolin with a added bass string, and added extras’). She also plays the cittern. She brings a very strong and invigorating rhythmic dimension to the music.

All of them have great stage presence. All have worked music circuits before in former groupings and bands.

Their website is: http://vamm.co.uk/the-band/

There are clips of their music on the site. I would heartily recommend LURKAS. It is a slow but delicate piece that shows off all instruments wonderfully, opening with an intricate rhythm by Marit, that is picked up and woven between the fiddle players, and fiddle players and Marit. They played this on the tv programme and I was absolutely amazed. This takes traditional music to another level. Another fine one is THE DUCHESS.

We are used to predominantly male Scottish traditional fiddle players competing with each other on speed and verve. Vamm take it into greater territory: we move from ‘traditional fiddle playing’, to ‘classical fiddle music’.

Their current tour dates are:

Date Event Info
02   February 2013 – Celtic   Connections
02 May   2013 – Carnegie   Hall, Dunfermline
03 May   2013 – Eastgate   Arts Centre, Peebles
04 May   2013 –
05 May 2013
Fiddles   on Fire
08 May   2013 – The   Universal Hall, Findhorn
09 May   2013 – The   Catstrand, New Galloway
10 May   2013 – The   Met, Bury

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