Music and poetry review: Sense Of Place

Kirsty Law. Picture: Contributed

Kirsty Law. Picture: Contributed

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HUMANKIND’S relationship with locality and landscape is one of art’s most ancient and enduring wellsprings, fruitfully revisited in this simple collaborative performance by veteran versifier Tessa Ransford, founder and longtime director of the Scottish Poetry Library and Borders-born Kirsty Law, a young, folk-rooted singer and songwriter

Sense Of Place - Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

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Drawing on a recent commission from Penicuik Community Arts Association, their mix of poems and songs was presented in three sections, themed according to Patrick Geddes’s triad of “Folk”, “Work” and “Place” – elements which must be in harmony to bring about human well-being. They certainly were here, beginning with Ransford’s wonderfully vivid, vernal Praise Poem For the Borders, which captures that cusp of spring where “the last snow and the first lambs” coexist, a piece memorably juxtaposed with Law’s stark yet intense rendering of The Dowie Dens of Yarrow, a tragic ballad set amid the same rolling hills.

The turn-about format continued throughout, with Ransford’s subtle skill at deploying place descriptions to telescope the history inscribed within them, and at conflating landmarks’ literal and symbolic significance, counterpointing the timelessly distilled sentiments of Law’s more traditional choices, including The Queen Among the Heather and Burns’s Now Westlin’ Winds. Law’s contributions also included a freshly-arranged Hamish Henderson composition, a song inspired by Edinburgh street-hawkers’ cries, and a setting of Ransford’s understated but powerful The Blue Gate, sung as a diptych with its author’s spoken recitation.

Seen on 11.06.14

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