Posted: 27th September 2013
[UPDATE: 8th November 2013] - Ian McCalman and his large cast have been rehearsing hard for this concert in the main auditorium of the GRCH. Tickets are now on sale online and selling like hotcakes apparently.
Far, Far From Ypres - the stage show which arose out of the double album of the same title, Songs Poems And Music Of World War I - will be presented in the main auditorium of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the the first weekend of the Celtic Connections 2014 festival on Friday 17th January.
Negotiations are ongoing between Ian McCalman (the musical director of the stage show) and other theatres throughout Scotland who have already expressed an interest in hosting the show. 2014 marks the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of World War I.
Far, Far From Ypres was originally conceived as a celebration of World War One songs and poems, mainly Scottish, for the Greentrax album. It evolved into a stage production at the 2012 Celtic Connections Festival where it was described by the Festival Director, Donald Shaw, as “brilliant”. Another review (STV) said: “powerful solos, robust melody and beautiful harmony, told stories of excitement and hope, suffering and endurance, humour and escapism, fear and disillusionment, in the words of those involved in the horrors of the Western Front”. An Edinburgh Fringe concert review said: “an inspiringly convivial experience, where the audience joined the performers in choruses that echoed into the deep spaces of the hall… a standing ovation raised the roof of the Queen’s Hall for several minutes after the show had finished. It was a stirring end to a night honouring a terrible tragedy, one that left the entire audience moved and sombre, but strangely elated”.
The show features the large screen projection of relevant images throughout the evening, enhancing greatly the audience’s understanding of the story unfolding before them. The format of the evening takes the form of two fifty-minute halves with an interval. It has a cast of ‘folk singing stars’, who remain on stage throughout the performance, singing the ‘trench’, ‘marching’ and Music Hall songs of the time. From that chorus, groups and soloists come to the middle of the stage and perform songs, both contemporary and traditional, about the Great War.
The narrator, Iain Anderson, brilliantly links the songs with stories about the hero of the show, Jimmy MacDonald, who was born in “any village in Scotland”. It tells of Jimmy’s recruitment and training then follows his journey to the Somme and back to Scotland. It would not be a Scottish tragedy without laughter, so there are also stories of humour and joy that take this production well away from the path of unremitting gloom.
Written and directed by Ian McCalman, this production features 26 folk stars. Previous performances have included Dick Gaughan, Iain Anderson, Barbara Dickson, Sangsters, Ian Bruce, Siobhan Miller, Ian McCalman, Stevie Palmer, Stephen Quigg, Ragged Glory, Sineag MacIntyre, Soopna, Donald Hay, Drew Talbot, Dennis Wilson, Brian Miller, Tom Ward and a host of others.
Ian McCalman wishes to encourage the use of the script by schools and colleges for educational purposes.
The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh - August 2012
Far, Far From Ypres - From A Scottish Perspective was presented in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on Thursday 16th August 2012.
The cast for this concert included Barbara Dickson, Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Ian Bruce, Nick Keir, Stevie Palmer, Stephen Quigg, Donald Hay, Brian Miller and Tom Ward, with groups Sangsters, Soopna and Ragged Glory, plus Iain Anderson of BBC Radio Scotland. Peter Heywood provided overhead projection.
The unique project Far, Far From Ypres (Songs, Poems & Music Of World War One) was undertaken by Greentrax in 2009, and a double CD album was then released. The album was critically acclaimed and is played widely on radio, especially around Armistice Sunday each year. The album sells extremely well (for the price of a single album), including Army Museums and WW1 Visitor Centres and Museums in Belgium and France.
Far, Far From Ypres was one of four popular themed sections within the Greentrax 25th Anniversary Concert in October 2011 at The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards, it was confirmed as a featured stage presentation at Celtic Connections, directed by Ian McCalman. Ian once again committed himself totally and rehearsed a cast of many - a remarkable and unique stage presentation.
The album resulted from an idea by Des Brogan and Jim Paris of Mercat Tours, Edinburgh, who regularly tour the WW1 battlefield sites and cemeteries of Belgium and France. After such a tour, Ian Green of Greentrax invited Ian McCalman to record the marching and trench songs of the soldiers, plus the popular music hall songs of the time for CD1, while Ian Green compiled mainly retrospective songs, poems and music for CD2. Both Ian McCalman and Ian Green committed themselves to the project and a classic double album resulted, which both are extremely proud of.
The album has been described in reviews as “A masterpiece… A very special compilation… A stunner… Beautiful songs from terrible times… Contains powerful, poignant and entertaining performances…”.
In a remarkable development, a copy of the CD ended up in the hands of a family in Australia where a 92 year old lady, recognised her father, John Hastings, as one of the soldiers on the front cover. John Hastings, who was born in Glasgow, was in the 51st Highlanders during WW1. He fought in France and experienced the Christmas truce – when the soldiers came out of their trenches all along the line and shared drinks, food and photos of family with the enemy – as depicted in a recent film Joyeux Noel. John shared many of his memories with his family, telling them of life in the trenches. Not all soldiers were able to speak about their experiences and this connection with John’s family gives us a rare living link through folk memory back to the trenches of WW1.
John Hastings’ daughter also has another interesting Scottish link, this time to WW2. She emigrated to Australia as a WW2 war bride, after meeting an Australian bomber pilot who was billeted to her home in Glasgow in the latter part of the war. John’s other daughter, now a sprightly 97 year old, also lives in Australia. His grand-daughter, Anne Wilson, is a secondary school teacher in Australia and she took a group of students to the Western Front a few years ago. The memories clearly live on and as a result of the CD and the concert, we expect more stories to unfold.
Celtic Connections, Glasgow - January 2012
Far, Far From Ypres - From A Scottish Perspective was presented in The Strathclyde Suite of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall at the Celtic Connections festival on Saturday 21st January 2012.
The show was a massive success. It was sold out in advance and many people remarked that it was one of the most moving stage presentations they had ever witnessed. Members of the audience were visibly moved and at the end of the second half there was a genuine standing ovation.
Ian McCalman is highly complimented for his superb work as researcher and producer, while Peter Heywood’s overhead projection was well chosen and added greatly to the excellent stage performances of a cast of many, including Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan and narrator Iain Anderson. Everyone rose to the occasion and made this a very memorable event.