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Review: Bothy Ballads BBC2: 'Beyond the Bothy'

Matthew Edwards 27 Jul 10 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,Effsee sans cookie 27 Jul 10 - 10:41 PM
Ross Campbell 28 Jul 10 - 09:41 PM
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Subject: Review: Bothy Ballads BBC2: 'Beyond the Bothy'
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 27 Jul 10 - 05:55 PM

UK viewers have only three more days to catch this programme on BBC iPlayer. It was broadcast on 23 June 2010 on BBC Two in Scotland:- Beyond the Bothy. The programme features Joyce Falconer, an actor in the popular Scottish soap opera River City, as she attempts to learn a bothy ballad to sing in the 28th Annual Bothy Ballad Competition held in Elgin earlier this year.
For the benefit of those who can't access the programme here is a very brief review.

She has to learn her songs while performing 87 shows in 60 days as a pantomime cat in Glasgow, but she heads to her ancestral home in the north-east of Scotland to learn bothy ballads from the master Joe Aitken. He doesn't approve at all of her attempts to accompany her own singing, and there is a near repeat of the Spoons Murder as she tries to use her cutlery inappropriately!
She visits the site of the croft where her grandad once farmed in St Cyrus, and learns to respect the life of a plooman by guiding a plough herself behind a pair of Clydesdales. She visits a modern farm where she decides to compose a "contemporary" bothy ballad to sing in the competition with references to mobile phones and Lady Gaga.
As she says herself she has something of a 'brass neck' to try a new song in such a setting, but she wins over her audience (except for Joe Aitken!) with her modern ballad. However she makes up to him with a powerful, and spoonless, performance of 'The Plooman Laddie' in the second half of the competition. The programme shows her learning the song from a printout from the Digital Tradition!
I enjoyed the programme, although like Joe Aitken I feel the old songs are good enough to stand without having to be 'modernised'. I wish the programme had allowed the singers more time to sing a song all the way through, and it was supremely frustrating to hear the late Bothy Ballad King, Tam Reid, only for a couple of lines. I met Scott Gardiner recently at Bradfield who has learned a lot from Tam, and I was very impressed to hear that the tradition is thriving in such capable young hands. Congratulations to Joyce for trying to get to the core of the bothy tradition; as Joe Aitken says in the programme these songs have to come from your heart, and Joyce herself comments "the most powerful performances you'll see are when in their mind's eye they know what they're singing about".


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Subject: RE: Review: Bothy Ballads BBC2: 'Beyond the Bothy'
From: GUEST,Effsee sans cookie
Date: 27 Jul 10 - 10:41 PM

Her "singing" was atrocious, shouting more accurately describes it.
As a programme it was a travesty of the tradition, the sort of crap we have become accustomed to from mainline TV to trivialise long held tradions to promote some nonentity because she is a "soap actor" connected with an area.
Joe Aitken was a master of diplomacy throughout, despite the provocation.
Tam Reid's performance on the programme was, I believe, a part of a DVD which is commercially available.

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Subject: RE: Review: Bothy Ballads BBC2: 'Beyond the Bothy'
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 28 Jul 10 - 09:41 PM


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