The release of Starless back in June brought to the light of day an ambitious, fascinating project that featured no less than five of our foremost Gaelic singers and The Prague Symphony Orchestra (read the review here). Ambition seems to work well with former Love & Money keyboard player Paul McGeechan, though. Following the wide critical acclaim for his project, he’s taken that ambition a step further, by bringing Starless to the live stage for Celtic Connections.
Following a gloriously mellow opening set from The Kaela Rowan Band (read about their Celtic Connections gig here), the same Overture that opened the Starless album filled the auditorium at The Mitchell Library as Greg Lawson led a 12-strong string section through the sampled bells and Gaelic Psalms, into Starless; featuring vocal from Paul’s long-time musical collaborator Chris Thomson, and the first of several vocal performances from Karen Matheson. Whispered Reason No.2 is all about the voice and the beat. The voice comes from the rising star of the Starless album, Marie Claire White, who’s vocal for Solitude was beautifully soulful and solicited the warmest of responses from the audience.
Kaela Rowan made a return visit to the stage for Apocalypse, as strings built line by line towards a tense crescendo and a closing softness. Later on, those same strings provided a transcendental backing for a slow and gentle Puirt à beul from Kaela.
Karen Matheson‘s appearances were many, and memorable. After a duet with the equally gifted Julie Fowlis amid the epic strings of Surge Of the Sea, Karen and Paul introduced Calbharaigh (Calvary). Opening with the voice of Sorley MacLean reading from his poem, on which the song is based, it’s a beautiful, contemporary piece of Gaelic song that Karen and Paul first worked on together for Karen’s album, The Dreaming Sea. Paul could simply have performed Starless live, and the partisan crowd would have been more than happy, but clearly he already has an eye on the next album. Two duets between Karen and former Hipsway frontman Grahame Skinner introduced two new songs that fit perfectly in the Starless mould.
Chris Thomson‘s majestic and passionate vocal for Misty Nights proved just how much he loves to sing this wonderful song, and contrasts sharply with the short, oppressive string interlude of Yellow Midnight. That, however, is indicative of the extensive creative range at work in Starless.
Julie Fowlis returned for Dùthaich MhicAoidh before an encore that saw Chris Thomson and Paul McGeechan join in a string-accompanied celebration of their musical beginnings, with Work of Art. To close, the whole company returned to the stage, and there’s no-one better placed to lead that company in the Cocteau Twins‘ Fotzepolitic than Marie Claire White and her expressive, adventurous vocal.
Bringing Starless to the live stage was no mean feat, but much can be achieved by drawing on the services of three distinguished Gaelic singers, Greg Lawson‘s skills as an orchestral arranger, a wide circle of musical friends that also included Josh McGeechan, Martin Bond McLennan and Ross Macfarlane. Not least, though, fuelled by his own passion for the project, Paul McGeechan presented Celtic Connections with a unique and captivating performance, successfully bringing the splendour of Starless to a live, and thoroughly appreciative, audience.
More here: www.starless.co.uk