Neil Adam -
National Folk Fellowship 2022 Application Portfolio
Personal statement about this portfolio
My music career has always involved me taking traditional forms, re-working them, and presenting them in front of audiences who would never have heard them before. Judy and I ran the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club for more than 20 years. In that time, we took traditional Scottish music, often from its Australian context as found in old archives, composed arrangements of that material, and shared it through CD sales, radio play, and folk festival appearances all over Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland.
For example, The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club album, ‘A Long Way from Home’, contains songs sourced from the Australian Georgiana McRae archive, a collection of Scottish songs and traditional tunes
rearranged by us, and using guest singers to interpret the material. The portfolio song, ‘From The Friends and Land I love’, was found by me in the Georgiana McRae collection, and I invited leading Australian singer Jenny Thomas to sing the song with the Fiddle Club. I played guitar, and Jenny and I shared our inspirations. I think it is a stunning reinterpretation.
The second portfolio song, the title track of that album, A Long Way from Home, is an old Ulster song sourced by me from the Joyce Collection ‘Old Irish Music and Songs’ (published in 1909). The song appears as lyric only, without a tune, in the collection, I wrote a tune, arranged it for guitar, fiddle and Chinese erhu, and we performed it as a trio. The old made new, and brought back to life.
talks about the putting together and repair of a dozen fiddles made in Melbourne between 1920 and 1950 by ex-Shetland man John Anderson, and using them to record and play at a sell-out concert in from of 700 people in Hawthorn Town Hall, Melbourne. Judy and I first met with members of the Sides/Anderson family when we were invited to play at a family event for them, and this plan, of renovation and bringing these fiddles back to life, was hatched. Listen to uploaded file called The Shetland Set.
The final uploaded song is a collaboration with leading Shetland fiddler and composer Chris Stout. He composed the traditional-style Shetland air, I wrote the words and came up with the arrangement. Half was recorded in Glasgow and Belfast, half in Melbourne. The string arrangement for the Fiddle Club was composed and led by Chris Stone, a former Folk Fellowship holder.
More recently, our music touring and recording has been in support of our show based on the life and poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. Whilst his books ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, ‘Treasure Island’, and ‘Kidnapped’ remain famous, his poetry is long forgotten. He used traditional forms, and wrote about his own life in those traditional Scottish forms. I have set many of his poems to music, and we tour, COVID permitting, across Australia, NZ, and UK each year playing at music events and literary festivals. The most recent pre-COVID featured a sell-out season at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, which was due to be repeated in August,2020, but of course had to be cancelled. This work with Stevenson’s poetry continues. In lockdown, I produced a CD of prayers written by Stevenson in Samoa for local people, set to music by me, and recorded with a string of well known acoustic musicians from across Australia. You can find out more about that the launch of that project in November, 2020, here
and a number of radio interviews about the project here
These videos below give an indication of the breadth of musical activity I have been involved in in the last 20 years:
These two videos were made to promote the 2020 album The Windmill Needs The Wind - The Vailima Prayers
A Melbourne performance of a Robert Burns song, The Lea Rig, live with Jessica Foot and The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club
An ABC recording of my song 'Al Grasby's Grandfather' with Asturian band Felpeyu, from 2002 filmed live at the ABC Melbourne
Singing my own song 'Homecoming', with the MSFC in the Budawang, 2018
On a different community activist trajectory, this following recording and video is a parody of Joni Mitchell's 'Big Yellow Taxi', conceived, written, arranged and recorded by me. It was made in opposition to the plan by Ausnet to plant a 190 km powerline with 80m high towers across our home countryside. The song was recorded by me in our home, in June, 2021 with about 40 local people playing the instruments and singing. See more here: