Going from helping bring in the year amid the heady melee of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations to performing with a youngsters’ choir in a school gym hall may sound like an anticlimax for the Fife singer-songwriter King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson).
However, Monday’s gig at Broomhill Primary School, when he shares a modest stage with the young singers of the BIG Project, is the latest in a series of triumphs for this community-based initiative which aims to instil confidence and self-esteem in an environment where such qualities can be in short supply. Anderson is one of what the project organisers hope will be an ongoing series of BIG heroes to appear with the youngsters.
Not that these primary and teenage singers are strangers to celebrity. Their widest exposure was when the BIG Project Youth Choir was filmed from a helicopter, singing Flower of Scotland on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle, the footage beamed worldwide as part of the 2012 Olympics opening extravaganza. They also performed with Emeli Sandé during the Olympic Torch relay though Edinburgh. The effect, says their musical director, the Edinburgh singer-songwriter Kim Edgar, is to give them a chance to experience “the buzz of group singing, which connects you to other people and gives you a sense of wellbeing”.
Edgar explains that, while the choir is non-auditioning, welcoming everyone, the children develop self-discipline in working towards performance. “These performances give them affirmation, as well as a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences to travel and to work with other singers and outstanding professional musicians. So the most important effect of the choir is broadened horizons and raised aspirations.”
The youngsters, she adds, are excited about the King Creosote gig, having met him during the Dunfermline Folk Festival in 2012. They’ll be singing harmony lines in Bubble, from Anderson’s recent Mercury-nominated Diamond Mine album with John Hopkins. They’ll also join him in All of this in Writing, a product of that hotbed of songsmithing, the Burns Unit, in which both Anderson and Edgar have been active.
The concert is part of a two-year singing strand at The BIG Project funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative. The choir already have their sights set on performing with some other “name” Scottish musicians, and while nothing is confirmed, some already busy stars – the Proclaimers and KT Tunstall among them – have been moved to scan their diaries to see what they can fit in.
Meanwhile, outwith her BIG commitments, Edgar is working on material for her third album, her second, The Ornate Lie, having gained considerable critical acclaim. Her Broomhouse work evidently has rewards of its own, however. She cites the case of one boy who couldn’t sing in tune and had a very limited range: “After several months in the choir, in answer to my question – what do we call it when we jump up the scale eight notes? – he sang back ‘oct-ave’ perfectly, with an octave jump.”