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 News Classical 13/02/2015

Francis MacDonald Releases "Music For String Quartet, Piano & Celeste"

Francis MacDonald Releases "Music For String Quartet, Piano & Celeste"

LONDON, UK (Top40 Charts) Scottish BAFTA-nominated composer and songwriter FRANCIS MACDONALD drums with Teenage Fanclub and has worked with a range of artists (Alex Chilton, Dan Penn, The Pastels, Kevin Ayers, Kate Rusby, Edwyn Collins, Ian McCulloch, BMX Bandits, Belle & Sebastian, Cairn String Quartet and Max Richter, etc.)

Made with the help of a grant from Creative Scotland, "Music For String Quartet, Piano & Celeste" is an album of minimalist contemporary music informed by Francis's work in TV and film soundtracks and influenced by key musical figures such as Philip Glass, Ennio Morricone and Arvo Pärt. Macdonald also cites the inspiration of fellow Glasgow-based composer Malcolm Lindsay who, like Francis, did not formally study classical music.

The album was recorded at Mogwai's Castle Of Doom studio, Glasgow (because Francis liked their piano) and features a quartet drawn from the esteemed Scottish Ensemble, formed in Glasgow in 1969. It was recorded and mixed by Iain Hutchison (Julie Fowlis, Transatlantic Sessions) and mastered in Milan by Stefano Barzan (Ludovico Einaudi). Francis played piano and a celeste hired from RSNO. The album cover photo was taken at Hardanger Fjord, Norway during a Teenage Fanclub tour.

"This album was a bit of a challenge to myself", says Francis; "As a listener I came quite late to classical music and I have no formal training, but I didn't want to use an arranger or orchestrator. I wanted to be responsible for every note."

1. Playful - the rich sound of the cello and viola playing sustained two note chords gave me goose bumps when we started recording this.
2. 20 Sep - I think my drummer's coordination helped me come up with the main piano arpeggio.
3. January Waltz - Many moons ago I played in a school folk group writing tunes with the great John McCusker. Maybe this melody has a hint of Scots trad music.
4. At A Remove - originally written for a film project that never came to pass, I reworked this piece for strings and celeste.
5. Ghent - begins with Alison Lawrance's beautiful solo cello. This was written after an inspiring visit to the film festival in Belgium.
6. 3 4 5 - I came up with a straightforward piano line that fell across three bars of different time signatures - "123, 1234, 12345 - and developed the strings around it.
7. Antoine Duhamel - I discovered Duhamel's music via his soundtrack to 'Death Watch' a curio shot in Glasgow around 1980 with Harry Dean Stanton and Harvey Keitel. I wrote to him and sent him a small bottle of Jura whisky.
8. Triet For David Hockney - this was originally written for six hands on one piano then rearranged for string quartet. I was led to believe I was going to meet the great man himself - but it wasn't to be. I was imagining he might be prickly but with a mischievous glint in his eye.
9. September Weekend - written during a September weekend. I wasn't trying to evoke anything specific; just something that made musical sense to me.
10. Sunday 1 - I borrowed the strings voicing from Morricone. Don't tell him.
11. 17 Days - I stumbled upon some broken piano chords and decided to repeat the sequence while the strings move around it. I think Bartók might have been an influence here - although that may not be apparent.

THE STRING QUARTET - in addition to all playing with Scottish Ensemble;

TRISTAN GURNEY (violin) leads the esteemed Edinburgh Quartet and regularly guests as principal player with orchestras such as Royal Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra;

CHERYL CROCKETT (violin) works with SCO, BBCSSO and Northern Sinfonia. She has worked with English Sinfonia, BBC Philharmonic, Scottish Opera, Ulster Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and has also recorded with Camera Obscura and Belle & Sebastian;

CATHERINE MARWOOD (viola) is a member of the Hebrides Ensemble and is principal viola in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra;

ALISON LAWRANCE (cello) is sub-principal cellist of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and has been guest lead cellist of the English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Northern Sinfonia. She has also worked with Glasgow composer Craig Armstrong.

FRANCIS MACDONALD - Francis was nominated for a BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award 2013 for his soundtrack to The Lost Purse". His songs and music have appeared in the comedy features "Wedding Daze", "Zemanovaload", "Wide Open Spaces" and the TV show "Starlings" (Sky Arts), two series of "Finding Scotland's Real Heroes" (STV), the three-part documentary series "Commonwealth City" (BBC One) and the eight-part "On Weir's Way With David Hayman" (STV).

Francis also:
· drummed on debut albums by Teenage Fanclub and Eugenius and was a member of BMX Bandits for many years;
· produced Aaron Wright, Attic Lights and Aaron Fyfe;
· had vocals sampled for Looper's 'Mondo '77' (Vanilla Sky): "Sounds like James Brown competing in 1 Man And His Dog" (Melody Maker);
· set up Glasgow indie label Shoeshine Records in summer 1996 then country/folk label Spit & Polish in 2000;
· released Laura Cantrell's debut 'Not The Tremblin' Kind' ("My favourite album of the last 10 years and possibly my life" -John Peel);
· released music by Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis (sang in Disney-Pixar's Brave)
· manages Camera Obscura and The Vaselines.

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