The Hall of Einar – Sunday Review #1

Hello and welcome to my Sunday Review. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, see engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music – this is my chance to bring you all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.

Sunday Review

Out of My Own Light by Louise Bichan

This week it’s one of my favourite CDs of the past few years, Out of My Own Light by Louise Bichan (pronounced the Scottish way, like Bikkan). If you’ve experienced the success of Public Service Broadcasting you’ll be aware there’s a trend for mixing archive vocal recordings with modern musical settings. Out of My Own Light is the beautifully produced Scottish folk equivalent. It has a complex, emotional score which tells the story of Louise’s grandmother and her fateful choice of men. It’s from a personal journey of discovery, with Louise exploring a treasure trove of letters and personal diaries of her grandmother Margaret’s eventful life, from Orkney to Canada:

Here’s Louise Bichan talking about her inspiration:

I have taken inspiration from Margaret’s diaries, the memories of my elderly Canadian cousins who I tracked down and interviewed, the precious photographs which remain from her trip, and photographs I took on my own trip in her footsteps. And above all I have been inspired by the traditional music of Orkney, music I grew up surrounded by, music that Margaret had a surprising relationship with. Music that I still play every day.

Here’s a brief behind the scenes video featuring the players:

One of the men in Margaret’s life was Ian. Here’s the tune Louise wrote for him. It’s one of the highlights of the album, and here she performs it with the Berklee World Strings. The sound recording quality is excellent:

The playing is exceptional, the arrangements are enticing and the overall effect is modern and compelling. I love the way that the pace and mood change as we’re led on the journey into the 1950s. Who will Margaret choose as her husband? Ian or Sydney? The music has strong themes and yet there’s a subtlety in the arrangements which means they’re never repetitive.

I was lucky enough to see Louise Bichan perform the album live in the Graand Owld Byre on Westray in Orkney to a packed house with traybakes and fancies and a cup of tea to round off the evening. Perfect. I bought the CD direct and was delighted to see how well designed the whole package is. If only all artists had such comprehensive booklets with their music.

Here’s the title track from the album, Out of My Own Light, live at Celtic Connections, January 2017, in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall:

Louise Bichan’s full album tour of the North East USA has just been cancelled due to coronavirus. She was due to perform with the talented Katie McNally and Ethan Setiawan.

That’s tragic. She’s now in the USA with no income, a visa which only allows her to work as a musician and rent to pay. Why not support her?

If you love what you’ve heard, please do buy a CD, it’s a great way to support the artists you love. Her music is here at Bandcamp: https://louisebichan.bandcamp.com/
Why not buy direct from her?

You can also sign up to support Louise on Patreon, by subscribing for exclusive content: https://www.patreon.com/fiddlecam
She will be posting fiddle tutorial videos, using her Fiddlecam, a camera attached to her violin, to hilarious effect, especially when she is playing to a cow in a field.

You can always buy from Amazon.

Louise graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with an honours degree in Visual Communications, specialising in photography. Her website also includes many of her beautiful photographs of Scottish landscapes: https://www.louisebichan.co.uk/scotland. They are wonderfully atmospheric analogue images. Some are also available for sale.

Louise Bichan

I highly recommend Out of My Own Light. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

Naturally Orkney by Raymond Besant

Raymond Besant is a wildlife cameraman and photographer from Orkney. His journey has been from studying biosciences, to working as a press photographer to now where he’s an award-winning long-lens wildlife camera operator. He films programmes for the BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Scotland. If you’ve seen Winterwatch from the Cairngorms on the BBC, then you will have enjoyed Raymond’s work.

As well as films Raymond is a talented wildlife stills photographer. I recently bought his book, Naturally Orkney from The Orcadian Bookshop in Kirkwall and loved how they wrapped it carefully in paper and handed it to me as a special parcel. It’s like someone wrapping a birthday present for you in front of you. I waited weeks before opening it, just waiting for that special moment to enjoy it.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Naturally Orkney Raymond Besant - The Hall of Einar

From start to finish, it’s a strong collection of work, with atmospheric shots, great light and interesting behaviours from the featured animals. I can tell how much effort went into many of these photographs. They reek of early mornings, long treks, wet trousers and occasional disappointment as well as the thrill of getting that perfect image.

The design is very well done, with close-ups, like this Shag and Fulmar and enticing pairings of more distant landscape and wildflowers.

Naturally Orkney Raymond Besant - The Hall of Einar

The text is nicely understated and the page numbers thankfully unobtrusive. Printing is notorious for giving results you wouldn’t expect. Raymond has obviously spent a lot of time gauging the print and making sure it jumps off the page, beautifully.

The only thing I dislike is where it says ‘stunning photography’ on the cover. It really doesn’t need to.

Naturally Orkney Raymond Besant - The Hall of Einar

Raymond Besant is the real deal.

If you’d like to buy a copy, it’s not currently available from the Orcadian Bookshop online and not on Amazon either. The good news is that Volume 2 is available and you can buy it here. I’d better order a copy soon or Volume 2 will be sold out as well.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more reviews of things you might adore next Sunday.

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