Media Release: 20th birthday season

Mr McFall’s Chamber
20 years of musical adventures

From October, Mr McFall’s Chamber are performing five adventurous programmes of music, presenting 20 gigs across the UK and further afield. Four new works have been commissioned to feature in the programmes, alongside a host of unique arrangements and rare gems from across the world. We are delighted to reveal here the concert dates, plus the special birthday events, treats and surprises peppered throughout the year.

Birthday Events

Our newest CD release, Solitudes – Baltic Reflections, with Delphian Records will be launched at the season opening concert at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, Mon 12 October 2015.

We close our Edinburgh season on Tue 14 June 2016 with a celebratory performance of Piazzolla’s ‘operita', the sensory overload Maria de Buenos Aires, with a large ensemble, stellar guests, beautiful filmscape, and South American drinks and empanadas.

Birthday Treats

To thank our wonderful audiences and friends, we are launching our online library. A growing selection of Robert McFall’s arrangements will be available for free download, by way of a thank you for support over the last 20 years and in the McFall’s spirit of sharing and collaboration.

There will be three performances at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh over the coming year, with 20% off tickets if you buy for all three dates. Contact the box office on 0131 668 2019 to book.

Birthday Surprises

Explore the incredible RSS Discovery on the banks of the Tay before hearing music of sea-faring adventures; browse the world-famous Burns Collection at Glasgow's Mitchell Library (usually closed to the public) then hear his songs in beautiful arrangements for strings; challenge your creative music-making in composer competitions, workshops and showcases of new music; join the speaking-chorus of brothel keepers and spaghetti makers, and perform side-by-side with the band… and much more!

A word from Robert McFall, Artistic Director and Founder:

It was in the late evening of Wednesday 20th July 1996 that four of us found ourselves playing a (slightly) off-beat selection of string quartet music to a smoke-filled student audience in an upper room in Edinburgh’s Cowgate. Our subsequent career has twisted and turned, sometimes looping back and sometimes moving on. Certain strands tend to recur, like tango, like Frank Zappa, Henry Purcell and Weather Report, whose music all features in this birthday season. Certain guests keep coming back, certain numbers keep getting repeated, albeit in new instrumentations or arrangements. At the same time composers keep indulging us with new pieces; new projects emerge; new collaborators step out from the shadows.

All will have been for nothing, however, if we have no one with whom to share these musical exploits, which is why I am extending a warm welcome to you all and inviting you to be there to celebrate our twentieth birthday season with us. We, in return, promise to make it as celebratory as we possibly can. Only one more year and we’ll be coming of age - at that point we’ll have to start being sensible, so this is your chance to share with us our last year of irresponsibility.

Concert Listings

Thu 1 October 2015 Peebles Eastgate Further Distillations

Sun 4 October 2015 Discovery Point, Dundee Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections

Mon 5 October 2015 Bolivar Hall, London Viva Tango! performance with the Chilean Consul

Tue 6 October 2015 King’s Place, London Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections

Thu 8 October 2015 Mitchell Library, Glasgow Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections

Sun 11 October 2015 Stirling Tolbooth Solitudes – Baltic Reflections

*Mon 12 October 2015 The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh Solitudes – Baltic Reflections

Sat 9 Jan 2016 Linlithgow Arts Guild Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections

Thu 11 Feb 2016 Cork Orchestral Society Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections

Wed 17 February 2016 Stirling Tolbooth All of the Above

Thu 18 February 2016 The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh All of the Above

Sat 20 February 2016 Brunton Theatre Musselburgh All of the Above

Fri 8 April 2016 Stirling Tolbooth Hands Up For Trad Distil Showcase

Tue 14 June 2016 The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh Maria de Buenos Aires

And in residence at Cottier Chamber Project 2016

*CD and season launch concert

Artistic Programming and Repertoire

Solitudes – Baltic Reflections
Music from Finland, Estonia Latvia and Lithuania

No one knows quite when tango was established in Finland, but the style has a long history there – still little known to outsiders – and combines rhythmic interest and yearning melody with a distinctively Nordic melancholy. In this ingeniously curated programme, two Finnish tangos from the 1950s and a tango-based work by Finnish classical composer Aulis Sallinen are woven into a bold tapestry of music from the Eastern Baltic seaboard.

Longing, sadness, and a heightened sense of nature infuse all of these works, which also reveal intriguing stylistic connections: the rocking accompaniment of Sibelius’s Einsames Lied seems to prefigure the ‘Baltic minimalism’ of Vasks, Pärt and Zita Bružaitė, while Olli Mustonen’s Toccata alternates rhythmic verve with a rich vein of reflective memory. These original compositions are complemented by Robert McFall’s own sensitive arrangements for a core McFall’s lineup of five strings and piano, and the programme culminates in a truly unique version of Sibelius’s famous Finlandia Hymn.

International CD release date of the same programme on Delphian Records: 18 September 2015

Mr McFall’s Strings with Cyril Garac (violin) and Maria Martinova (piano)

Toccata by Olli Mustonen
Bangos by Zita Bružaitė
Introduction and Tango Overture by Aulis Sallinen
Dedication by Erkki-Sven Tüür
Lamento by Alevi Aho
A Little Summer Music by Peteris Vasks
Fur Alina by Arvo Pärt
Taysikuu by Toivo Kärki
Satumaa by Unto Mononen
Einsames Lied by Sibelius

Island Life – celebrating Caribbean connections
With a new commission from Errollyn Wallen

We tour the UK with tales of the hazards of sea-faring, migration and of life as an islander, with beautiful performances by soprano Susan Hamilton and the strings of Mr McFall’s Chamber – afro-tinged music from the Caribbean alongside the epic encounters of Kurt Weill, Henry Purcell and Robert Burns.

Vivacious Belize-born composer Errollyn Wallen, who was commissioned to write the music for the London 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony, presents the premiere of her new song cycle, Black Apostrophe, which sets to music vivid poetry about island life in Scotland and the Caribbean.

Special Access for ticket holders:
• explore RSS Discovery and accompanying exhibition (04.10.15 Dundee)
• explore the world-famous Burns Collection (08.10.15 Glasgow)
• hear Errollyn Wallen in conversation (at every concert)

Mr McFall’s Chamber strings with Rosenna East, violin, and Susan Hamilton, soprano


Errollyn Wallen (b. 1958 Belize) ‘Black Apostrophe’ NEW COMMISSION Song Cycle
On the Shore of the Mind Derek Walcott (b. Saint Lucia 1930)
Fishing off the Back of Rousay Ian Hamilton Finlay (b. Nassau 1925, d. Scotland 2006)
Epitaph Dennis Scott (Jamaica 1939 – 1991)
Penelope Lorna Goodison (b. Jamaica 1947)
Evening Will Come Ian Hamilton Finlay

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (b. 1745 Guadaloupe, died 1799 France)
Ballet sequence and song from L’Amant Anonyme

José White (b. 1836 Cuba, died 1918 France)
La Bella Cubana

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796 Scotland) arr. Robert McFall
Ae Fond Kiss
The Slave’s Lament
My Luve is Like a Red, Red Rose

Henry Purcell (England 1659 – 1695)
Come Unto These Yellow Sands from The Tempest
Full Fathom Five from The Tempest
Overture, Sailors’ Dance, Witches’ Dance and chorus from Dido and Aeneas
Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas
Fairest Isle from King Arthur

Martyn Bennett (b. Canada 1971 d. Scotland 2005) arr. Robert McFall

Bertold Brecht/ Kurt Weill (b. Germany 1900 d. USA 1950)arr. Robert McFall
Was Die Herren Matrosen Sagen (What the sailors say)

Calixto Alvarez (b. 1938 Cuba)
Los Pregoneros

Fabio Landa (Cuba 1924 – 2003)
Pequeña Suite Cubana Habanera – Afro - Ritmo

Further Distillations – creative explorations of Scottish artists
Joined on stage by Kate Young and Corrina Hewat

Further Distillations is a programme of new and recent music by a group of composers with a background in traditional music. All highly successful creative artists in their own right, this concert showcases their compositions involving string quartet and bass, and premiered at this year’s Celtic Connections (* * * * The Herald and The Skinny).

For some years Mr McFall's Chamber has been resident ensemble for Distil, a pioneering course run by Hands Up For Trad which offers top level tutoring from eminent composers across jazz, classical and other musical styles, alongside opportunities to have new works performed.

Having been privileged to give first performances of many wonderful new works at Distil Showcase events, Mr McFall's Chamber are here selecting a 'further distillation' from those programmes, as well as fermenting a new batch of compositions from three selected composers - Corrina Hewat, Gillian Fleetwood and Kate Young.

‘McFall’s dissolve all pomp from your classic chamber concert: easy stage chat, a giggling audience and a decisive lack of anything vaguely black tie.’ The Skinny, reviewing Celtic Connections in 2015

Mr McFall’s Chamber strings with Rosenna East (violin), Simon Smith (piano), Corrina Hewat (harp) and Kate Young (vocals and fiddle)

Set to be taken from:
Making the Connection 1 Corrina Hewat
Breathing In Quoyloo Corrina Hewat (new work)
Wing’d Entropy Kate Young
Vata Kate Young
Lament for John McGann Hamish Napier
Craft part 2 Gillian Fleetwood
The Black Isle Corrina Hewat arr. Robert McFall
Como Sera? Amble Skuse
Hospital Gillian Fleetwood (new work)
Peewits Martyn Bennett
Borthwick Kate Young
Rado Muri Rado trad Bulgarian arr Kate Young
Green and Gold Kate Young arr Robert McFall

All of the Above – a vintage McFall’s gig
an extraordinary conjunction of stars

Zappa and Zawinul have been in our group’s repertoire since the very early days of the “None of the Above” evenings at the old Bongo Club. As part of Mr McFall’s Chamber’s twentieth birthday celebrations this year, the ensemble dusts off a few old favourites at the same time as presenting new work.

The line-up includes a number of stellar guests - clarinettist Maximiliano Martín, bassoonist Peter Whelan, violinist Cyril Garac, pianist Paul Harrison, percussionist Iain Sandilands and drummer Stuart Brown. The programme includes numbers from Raymond Scott, whose music has been widely used in cartoon films, jazz composers Tim Garland and Martin Kershaw, as well as tango master, Astor Piazzolla. The programme also features a new work for bassoon quintet by Jeremy Thurlow which celebrates the poet John Keats (who was associated with that instrument – long story – it was, reputedly, also Frank Zappa’s favourite instrument, which is why the concert also includes a new arrangement of his Peaches in Regalia featuring both bassoon and clarinet).

Mr McFall’s Chamber strings with Maximiliano Martín (clarinet), Peter Whelan (bassoon), Cyril Garac (violin), Paul Harrison (piano), Iain Sandilands (percussion) and Stuart Brown (drums).

Frank Zappa G Spot Tornado, Echidna’s Arf, Peaches in Regalia
Joe Zawinul A Remark You Made
Tim Garland ExtrApollination
Jeremy Thurlow Keats’ Bassoon (new work)
Raymond Scott Curlycue, The Penguin, Tobacco Auctioneer
Martin Kershaw Closing in
Astor Piazzolla Milonga del angel

María de Buenos Aires
Music by Astor Piazzolla, lyrics by Horacio Ferrer
A ‘little work’, or 'little opera', from the king of tango

To mark Mr McFall’s Chamber’s twentieth anniversary the group revisits Astor Piazzolla’s operita, María de Buenos Aires. This work represents the very summit of Piazzolla’s nuevo tango and, as such, also represents a coming together of twenty years of the group’s programming of his music, from our very earliest days at the old Bongo Club.

Directed from the bandoneón by Victor Villena, the performance also features tango singer Juanjo Lopez Vidal as el duende, the narrator of the colourful spoken text by Horacio Ferrer, and Valentina Montoya Martínez as María herself. Instrumentalists include violinist Cyril Garac, pianist Phil Alexander, guitarist Malcolm MacFarlane, flautist Alison Mitchell and percussionist Iain Sandilands, along with the group’s core members, Robert McFall, Su-a Lee, Brian Schiele and Rick Standley.

The performance also features original film of Buenos Aires street-life by the young Argentine film director Geraldine Comte. This moving backdrop is entirely in accordance with Piazzolla’s original intentions as to the staging of the piece. There is also a speaking chorus of “brothel keepers, spaghetti makers, brick-layers and psychoanalysts”. Shot through with religious imagery mixed with Buenos Aires slang, the work presents María as both virgin mother and essence of the street culture in which the tango tradition developed.


1. The 20th birthday season launches with a two-week tour in October 2015 and will run until the summer of 2016. Some dates are currently embargoed. All concerts will be listed on this website

2. Box office and ticket details can be found here or on the venue websites

3. The Mr McFall’s Chamber strings are: Robert McFall (violin), Brian Schiele (viola), Su-a Lee (cello) and Rick Standley (double bass).

4. Photos that illustrate this season of activity can be requested by emailing

5. Information about all participation opportunities, including pre-concert ‘special access’ events, composer competitions and workshops, taking part in the community speaking chorus and more, can be found at

6. Mr McFall’s Chamber records with Delphian Records, Scotland’s most innovative independent record company and Gramophone’s ‘Label of the Year 2014’.

7. Mr McFall’s Chamber gratefully acknowledges support from Creative Scotland Lottery Funds, PRS for Music Foundation, the Hope Scott Trust, the RVW Trust, The Robertson Trust and all its supporters.

8. Mr McFall’s Chamber is a registered charity, number SC0283438

9. Mr McFall’s Chamber is governed by a board of trustees, and managed by Artistic Director Robert McFall and General Manager Judith Walsh. Contact details in the header.

10. Here is a copy of the article written by writer Jo Buckley, based on interviews she conducted with key artistic personnel in April 2015. It discusses the origins of the group, their memories of the last 20 years and questions for the future.

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MEDIA RELEASE: 24.08.2015

For all press enquiries, including pictures and press tickets, please contact Judith Walsh, General Manager at

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Mr McFall’s Chamber is a registered charity: SC028348

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