Glasgow-based singer-songwriter and musician, Siobhan Wilson (who hails from Elgin), was one of three talented young artists to receive a prestigious 'New Voices' commission from Glasgow's Celtic Connections this year. These commissions give young musicians and composers the freedom to experiment and showcase new thematic pieces of work within an established series at Celtic Connections.
Siobhan (who recently performed for a short time under the creative guise of Ella the Bird) explained to the sell-out audience in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall's Strathclyde Suite on 1st February that her commissioned work, "The Great Eye", explores the inspiration she draws from the sky. The commission had also enabled her to assemble a talented five-piece band, including Aidan O'Rourke (from Scottish band Lau) on violin, as part of a string trio; Nico Bruce (nephew of the late, great Jack) on double bass; and Joe Nisbet Jr (Mr Niz) on guitar.
The opening piece, "Jupiter", began with a haunting piano melody from Siobhan Wilson, which was then layered with strings to produce a dreamy soundscape, over which Siobhan's delicate and breathless vocals positively shimmered. This beautiful song has a cinematic quality which would grace many a movie soundtrack. The second song saw Paul Verlaine's classic poem, "Le ciel est par-dessus le toit" ("The sky is above the roof") set to music, to stunning effect. With a beautiful and restrained strings accompaniment, Siobhan stood in the spotlight and delivered a captivating vocal, sung in impeccable French and in classic, quietly impassioned chanson fashion.
Based around a visit to Shetland, an extended two-part piece began with "Winter Sunrise", an elegant instrumental inspired by the view from Siobhan's hotel room. This segued nicely into a beguiling, piano-based song about "Jonny", an attractive fictional character. Siobhan mused on how it might be a nice idea to bring him to life….
The next song, "How Could I Tell Him", used piano and strings to soothing effect, while "When You Dream A Ribbon Unravels" was a dramatic slow-burning song featuring the full band. "There Is Another Sky" (inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem of the same name) was an exquisite full-band instrumental which appeared to echo the haunting refrain of "Jupiter".
Siobhan Wilson switched from piano to guitar to close the set with "I Think Of Sunshine", an upbeat, country-flavoured song. As an added treat, Siobhan Miller (another talented young singer-songwriter and a member of Scottish band Salt House) appeared on stage as a surprise guest to provide some gorgeous harmonies on this song. To the audience's delight, Siobhan turned to her signature song, "All Dressed Up", for the encore. This spirited tale mixes vulnerability and defiance in equal measures and featured a playful and, in places, soaring vocal from Siobhan and some impressive country-style guitar chords and licks from Joe Nisbet Jr.
This was a mesmerising, charismatic and highly assured performance from Siobhan Wilson, who rose to the occasion and completely delivered on her 'New Voices' commission. The show underlined Siobhan's considerable talents as a singer, musician and composer and her potential to become a leading figure in the Scottish music scene. Her EP, "Glorified Demons", comes highly recommended and I sincerely hope that the impressive body of work which makes up "The Great Eye" will become the central focus of an album before long.
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