Gig review: Sound to Sea, Glasgow

The Glasgow Science Centre on the banks of the Clyde. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Glasgow Science Centre on the banks of the Clyde. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE director of Glasgow Science Centre admitted, just before the show, that while he’d been involved with producers Cryptic for almost a year, he still wasn’t quite sure what they were actually going to do in this mysterious maritime musical extravaganza.

Sound To Sea

Glasgow Science Centre

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After seeing it, I’m not sure what it was either – part flotilla, part concert, part Royal Navy promotional exercise, part theatrical display.

Perhaps that’s inevitable for a show involving 140 performers, eight ships and several different arts companies, as well as the Navy. But overall it was an interesting, occasionally beautiful, spectacle which made great use of an overlooked part of the Clyde, the Canting Basin, looked down upon by the oft-closed (but apparently now-fixed) Glasgow Tower.

Performers from Oceanallover, in elaborate layered costumes, moved around the riverfront as spectators – 8,000 applied for tickets – gathered, until Tigerstyle kicked off the music. The nine acts appearing live all arrived on various craft, sailing into and around the basin.

Carrbridge folk singer Rachel Sermanni was a striking figure, in a red dress with a guitar, delivering the haunting Song To A Fox from the prow of a former fishing boat, the White Wing. And the sight (and sound) of Glasgow beatboxer Bigg Taj freestyling on the replica puffer The Wee Spark was delightfully incongruous.

But for some of the other acts, like Dundee band Model Aeroplanes and Glasgow electro outfit Miaoux Miaoux, the boats simply acted as a floating stage, dressed up with lights, but not really adding anything to the performances. And there were some – perhaps inevitable – jarring shifts between musical styles.

However there were many other imaginative touches: kayakers circling the basin, pyro effects shooting out; the graceful, eerie tumbling of Walk The Plank’s aerial dancers, suspended from the Science Centre roof; another acrobatic performer from a hoop hung high on a stunning ship draped in golden lights.

The oddest moment came when Saltcoats soprano Marie Claire Breen was rowed in on a replica medieval birlinn, the Orcuan, singing an intense version of Mozart’s Laudate Dominum with the Glasgow Phoenix Choir. Suddenly, a shot rang out and the Royal Navy raced to the rescue, shouting orders until they “rescued” the singer. She was later seen triumphantly singing on board the minehunter HMS Bangor, before a rousing folk finale from the Treacherous Orchestra, with “percussion” from spectacular fireworks spurting from the Tower.

Bonkers and memorable, this was a fitting show to mark Cryptic’s 20th anniversary.