Missed Opportunity For More Of Marra Friday August 28 2009, 2:00 AM
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Missed Opportunity For More Of Marra


Rob Adam's review from today's Herald


Robert Burns's Worldly Friends, The Hub

Robert Burns was an intelligent, creative man who enjoyed the company of like minds, nay visionaries ,who in Edinburgh-based Italian tenor Pietro Urbani's case, anticipated the advent of the silent movie and, as James Gilchrist's interpretation of Allan Ramsay's The Tippling Philosophers implied, foretold of The Laughing Policeman.

Urbani's The Ever Memorable Battle of Bannockburn, slipped in here as waggish retaliation for EIF's opening celebration of Culloden, was the centrepiece of this final Caledonia Session.

A musical, almost blow-by-blow enactment, with much amusingly breathless playing and swashbuckling bow-wielding, it seemed tailor-made for Rudolph Valentino as Robert the Bruce and offered Michael Marra, as the marvellously sceptical narrator, the chance to mark his card for the Vivian Stanshall role should Mike Oldfield ever consider a Scottish remake of Tubular Bells.

Envirowise Scotland

Marra's craggy tones and superbly timed oratory have found him a growing number of speaking parts in recent times - who can forget his delivered from on high' psalm recitation in Martyn Bennett's Liberation? - but his restriction here to readings and only two songs seemed like another of this series' missed opportunities.

The songs chosen suited Gilchrist more, of course, and he sang well, just as the ensemble played the works of Burns's German cellist friend Christoph Schetky and Francesco Geminiani, whose inclusion was a little more obscure, with skill and attention to detail.

However, Marra's opening O a' the Airts and his closing Green Grow the Rashes, which almost induced a full-scale singalong, simply whetted the appetite to hear more of this most distinctive voice working with the musicians at hand on further music from the period in question.


Also visit David McGuinness's blog at -


for a blow by blow account and pictures of the gigs