The Music of Burns

by The Birnam Quartet

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about

Robert Burns was born in a farm
cottage at Alloway, in Ayrshire.
It was a snowy January day in 1759.
The last pitched battle on British soil
had been fought at Culloden Moor
thirteen years previously. An exact
contemporary of Mozart, he would be a
teenager before the steam engine was
invented and electricity was discovered.
The French Revolution was thirty years
in the future.

credits

released January 2, 2010

The Birnam Quartet www.thebirnamquartet.com

Anna-Wendy Stevenson: fiddle
Angus Grant: fiddle
Luke Plumb: mandolin
Jamie Jauncey: piano

We first began playing together in 2004 at the
Birnam Tap sessions in the village of Birnam,
across the river from Dunkeld – fittingly, since
it was Dunkeld where Robert Burns first met his
famous musical contemporary, the composer
Niel Gow, a native of the neighbouring village
of Inver, in 1787.

The Quartet have very different musical backgrounds
and styles. Angus and Luke, acknowledged
masters of their instruments, together front
the internationally famous Celtic fusion band
Shooglenifty.

Anna-Wendy, grand-daughter
of the Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson,
and herself a composer and virtuoso fiddler,
teaches music on the island of Benbecula.
Jamie, a writer by day, has returned to the
traditional music of his childhood via a twentyyear
detour through jazz and blues.

It was the beauty of the old tunes Burns chose
for his songs that really brought us together
and provided the fertile common ground
for our creativity. It seemed that Burns’s
choice of music offered another layer to our
understanding of his character – a kind of
charting of his emotions, the moods ranging
from whimsicality through melancholy to
lyrical passion.

And in the same way that through his words
Burns so skilfully combined innovation and
antiquarianism to give the work a feel of living
tradition, we set out to bring contemporary
arrangements and instrumentation to the
music in a way that would highlight its
contemporary relevance while remaining true
to the simple beauty of the old melodies.

This is a tribute not only to an iconic national
figure and his fine ear for a tune, but also to
the men and women, mostly unknown, who
originally composed these enduring melodies
about the people and places where they lived.

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Shooglenifty Edinburgh, UK

Shooglenifty invented a new and spellbinding way of playing Highland music as a groove-based entity. The band continues to blaze a trail of ‘acid-croft’ that no others can touch.

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