Scottish Towns and Grand Houses Tour featuring Capercaillie (Scotland)

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Scottish Towns and Grand Houses Tour featuring Capercaillie (Scotland)

“The most vibrant and exciting band in the field of Celtic music” (Billboard)

“One of the first acts to reposition Scotland’s musical heritage in the context of the world music boom” (Sunday Herald)

 “Securely ranked among the Celtic world’s top live bands. . . Capercaillie walk the trad/contemporary line with admirable poise and scrupulous care” (Songlines)

Scots folk band Capercaillie will perform as their original acoustic nucleus quartet of Karen Matheson (vocals), Charlie McKerrron (fiddle), Manus Lunny (Bouzouki) and Donald Shaw (Accordion) in a special stripped back quartet format for the inaugural Scottish Towns and Grand Houses Tour, a new national tour to celebrate the Year of Scotland in Australia, 2020.

The band have performed across Australia a number of times on headline theatre tours and festival appearances in the last 20 years are delighted to return with their unique take on traditional music and Gaelic songs. Presented in Australia’s splendid National Trust properties and town halls where the Scottish diaspora have made their homes, the 20 date Scottish Towns and Grand Houses Tour is a magnificent opportunity to celebrate the very best in Scottish Gaelic music in historic settings that are beautiful, quirky or opulent by turn.

From their homeland roots of Argyll in the highlands of Scotland, Capercaillie have been credited with being the major force in bringing traditional Celtic music to the world stage and inspiring the great resurgence so evident today. And even three ground-breaking decades after Capercaillie first performed as teenagers in their native Scottish Highlands; even as they continue the worldwide musical journey that’s taken them from the Brazilian rainforest to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, not to mention into the pop charts – it is the ancient Gaelic culture that still inspires them most.

Since the band’s first innovative recordings of 1984, they have toured in 30 countries across the world (including South America, the Middle East and North Africa), released 10 award-winning albums (notching up over a million sales world-wide), performed and appeared in the United Artists movie ‘Rob Roy’ starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, and had the first Gaelic top 40 single, ‘Coisich a Ruin’.

Capercaillie’s line-up comprises some of the world’s busiest and most sought-after Celtic musicians. Lead vocalist Karen Matheson – once famously hailed by Sean Connery as possessing “a throat touched by God” – is unanimously rated among Scotland’s finest singers in any language, having stretched her stylistic wings in a series of highly-praised solo albums and world music collaborations since 1996.

In addition to juggling gigs like the Transatlantic Sessions with his artistic directorship of Glasgow’s mammoth Celtic Connections festival, Donald Shaw (Accordion, Keyboards) is continually in demand as a producer and composer, most recently winning acclaim for his soundtrack to BBC1’s hit documentary series Hebrides – Islands on the Edge.

Charlie McKerron , the band’s longstanding east coast fiddler is also revered for his compositional skills and side projects, including the fiddle-led supergroup Session A9.

With his Gaeltachd Irish back-round guitarist Manus Lunny has been a rhythmic lynchpin of the band since their seminal recording Sidewaulk, and along with writing and touring with the band devotes much of his time to collaborative projects in his studio in Donegal.

At The Heart Of It All, the band’s most recent release from 2014, revisits and reinvigorates a treasure-trove again, featuring songs sourced from the rich vein of centuries old Hebridean folksongs enriched by compelling contemporary arrangements, together with an array of special guests representing the cream of today’s flourishing Scottish music scene. This country-wide fruition represents a remarkable transformation of the cultural landscape where Capercaillie first emerged, a transformation in which they’re widely credited with a seminal role – not least by the myriad younger Celtic musicians, including many of the new album’s guests, who cite them as trailblazing role-models.

The Gaelic songs themselves, spanning the spectrum from spine-tingling laments and love lyrics to vibrantly rhythmic work songs and puirt-a-beul (vocal dance music), were variously sourced from Matheson’s family repertoire, old cassette field recordings, and the vast, recently-digitised School of Scottish Studies archive.

The 35 year story of Capercaillie is an incredible journey that mirrors Scotland’s renaissance and elevation of cultural identity through traditional music.

Having first been spotted amid a session at the 1983 Mull Music Festival, by legendary radio presenter Iain MacDonald, who immediately booked them for his next show, the fledgling band had a week to come up with a name, deciding on Capercaillie – a large, rare, and very beautiful Scottish bird – in part to symbolise a winning battle against extinction, with implicit reference to their proudly distinctive Gaelic repertoire. Having initially cut their teeth around the Highland village-hall and festival circuit (a baptism of fire for any aspiring outfit), they began winning wider attention with their debut album Cascade (1984). Its successor Crosswinds (1986), and The Blood Is Strong (1988) – originally the soundtrack to a major Channel 4 series on the history of Scottish Gaels – expanded their reputation as an exciting new force, combining deep-rooted fidelity to tradition with rhythms and instrumental textures adapted from pop and dance music. Following their maiden US tour, when Lunny first joined them, 1989’s Sidewaulk marked further strides forward in developing this hallmark interplay between Matheson’s transcendently potent singing, Shaw’s atmospheric keyboard arrangements and Lunny’s assertive grooves, as well as Shaw and McKerron’s close-knit melodic partnership, leading to a five-album deal with Survival Records.

Capercaillie’s major-label debut, 1991’s Delirium, was a watershed release on many levels – being on a major label, for a start, plus featuring the band’s first original songs in English, and introducing percussion to their sound – but above all for the track ‘Coisich a Ruin’, a brilliantly funked-up, 400-year-old waulking song which went on to become the UK’s first ever Gaelic Top 40 hit. The ensuing media frenzy ranged from headlines in the Sun to profiles in the Times, while live audiences swelled into their thousands, eliciting some rather outlandish proposals from BMG’s A&R department, including a duet with Rod Stewart and a relocation to Ireland à la Waterboys.

Thankfully, even throughout this busiest period of their career – which also saw them feature in the 1995 Hollywood movie Rob Roy – Capercaillie have steadfastly insisted on ploughing their own furrow, with subsequent albums including Secret People (1993), Beautiful Wasteland (1997), Live In Concert (2002) and the double-disc retrospective Grace and Pride (2004), reflecting their ever-thoughtful engagement with popular and world music styles, hand-in-hand with continual replenishment at the Gaelic wellspring. And while the membership’s profusion of other projects, as well as family responsibilities, has latterly meant less time on the road, Capercaillie’s reputation as one of the Celtic world’s greatest live acts has only increased in recent years.

Scottish Towns and Grand Houses is produced and presented by Woodfordia Inc in cooperation with the National Trust of Australia, communities and private homes.