The Scotsman Sessions #111: Mairi Campbell

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, traditional singer, songwriter and violist Mairi Campbell performs her 2007 song, A Different Sky

Although Mairi Campbell wrote A Different Sky in 2007 with her husband, guitarist and songwriter David Francis, she’s found that its sentiments have chimed with other situations she’s experienced, including lockdown. The traditional singer, songwriter and violist says that Francis’s lyrics about escaping day to day routine came to him after looking out of the window of their flat when their two children were young.

“This need for a different scene, which inspired Dave, is something that resonates with me in these times. I also used the song in my 2015 music theatre show Pulse to describe a journey across Mexico when I was young."

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When lockdown came into force, Campbell was under Canadian skies, two weeks into a two-month tour which was due to end in New Zealand. Many of her retreats and workshops were also cancelled. And while Campbell admits the intensity of lockdown often made her anxious, overall it was a productive time for her.

Mairi Campbell

“It was good to have time to progress my 2022 solo show, Living Stone. It’s based on personal family stories from the Isle of Lismore where my great grandmother Jane Livingstone was from. I’ve also been learning Gaelic and working on the score for Storm, Scotland’s largest puppet, with my long-term collaborator, composer David Gray. The music is very exciting and I’m the voice of the 10m tall puppet who will kick off Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters in Edinburgh next year."

During lockdown, Campbell also started hosting Sunday night ceilidhs online. ‘It’s been a fantastic gathering of musicians, storytellers and dancers and everyone I asked to perform said yes. I’ve had fiddlers from my fiddle class, accordionist Phil Cunningham and ballerinas from London. There’s usually 12 turns every week and a lovely community of around 40 people turn up to watch on zoom.”

Mairi Campbell launches her new single online with Davy Clincart, Come to your Senses, on 18 September. Campbell’s Ceilidh resumes on 20 September. See www.mairicampbell.scot

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