Music review: Francis Macdonald and the Scottish Festival Orchestra Soloists

Francis MacDonald
Francis MacDonald
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WATCHING your breath rising in the cold air, listening to the sound of soft strings and harp reverberating around the walls of a wholly peculiar building with freakishly atmospheric acoustics – this show was a true collector’s item by the time the first few notes had been struck.

Francis Macdonald and the Scottish Festival Orchestra Soloists, Hamilton Mausoleum *****

In a one-off performance for just 50 people, classical composer and Teenage Fanclub drummer Francis Macdonald together with five fine players from the Scottish Festival Orchestra returned their recent warmly-received album Hamilton Mausoleum Suite to the 37-metre tall Roman-style domed structure where it was recorded in just one day – a grand, odd and slightly eerie Victorian age vanity project of the Dukes of Hamilton.

Cleverly drafted with lots of neat stops and starts and spaces and breaths, Macdonald’s dynamic and pretty chamber suite was designed to make the most of the mausoleum’s uniquely long echo, one of the longest of any man-made building in the world – 15 seconds to be exact, as evidenced at the interval with a demonstrative thundering slam of the heavy door.

The likes of Sarcophagus, Whispering Walls, Half Past Midnight and Stone Lions Lullaby were performed deftly and briskly, interspersed with contextual chat from the composer. Chat was sagely kept to a minimum, considering the near impossibility of making one’s voice properly heard in a massive echo chamber, not to mention the risk of the musicians fingers’ freezing (violist Emma Peebles wisely sported fingerless gloves).

Stepping out into winter night air afterwards, there was no doubting we’d all just shared something a bit special.