BY NORMA JEAN MACPHEE
A sold out, boisterous crowd buzzed with anticipation as each the six performers were introduced. On stage were Lynn Miles, Bruce Guthro, Catherine MacLellan, James Keelaghan, and Cara Luft and JD Edwards of the band Small Glories. The songwriters received extended applause even before the first note rang through the Lady of Fatima church in Sydney River.
The conceit behind the Celtic Colours concert Songs From Scratch was that the performers holed themselves up in cabins in Dundee for six days—with the task of writing fresh songs for the concert, using the Festival’s 2017 theme of “Roots” as a source of reflection for the writing.
The rousing reaction to each and every one of their 18 performances served as proof of their success. Instruments included many guitars, banjo, snare drum, and harmonicas.
Nine years ago Celtic Colours arranged a similar songwriters’ project, and one of the 2017 Artists in Residence, James Keelaghan, participated at that time. So this time, he guided the flow of the week.
“He was a great leader,” Cara Luft said of Keelaghan. “Kind, thoughtful, open and patient.”
The musicians made a point to cook and eat their meals together—as a way to cultivate the dynamic within their group. And as evidenced by their rapport on-stage, true friendships emerged along with the songs.
The format of the writing sessions during their time in Dundee was in groups of two, and then of three. And inevitably, other ones they all collaborated on.
At the church, they tossed songs back and forth, along with their humorous banter. So much positivity rang throughout the evening. The themes of their songs included inspiring anthems, such as one by Catherine and Cara called “We Can Sing”. It’s an anthem of hope, proclaiming, “Sing for the sinners, sing for the saints. Gotta do what you can, live what you believe.”
JD and Cara also wrote a riveting rock song about the sun, another anthem-type song.
Along with political and humorous songs, the perennial theme of love arrived in several creations, including a haunting duet between Bruce Guthro and Lynn Miles. Their comical introduction sat in contrast to their chorus lyrics, “Sometimes things just don’t belong. Baby, it ain’t right and it ain’t wrong.”
Cara praised Catherine’s baking, as she told the crowd, “She can make pies that can save the world.”
In thanking the folks from Celtic Colours for inviting them to take part in the initiative, Keelaghan said, “You’ve welcomed us into your hearts and your home. You live in one of the most culturally significant places on earth.”
Their encore a fitting song where each performer sang a verse, then came together on the chorus of “Home, home, home at Dundee…”
The six award-winning artists merged their styles, approaches, personalities harmonies and creativity into a performance that left you lighter and inspired. It was a night where exquisite talent, blended with warm, positive hearts. Thick was the love.