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Horse: Review of Careful, The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, August 2016 and Winter Tour Preview

2016HORSE_AVZ

“Be yourself, and others will find you”
 This stage show, shown at this year’s Edinburgh Festival was the story of Horse’s life. Born Sheena McDonald (the Sh-he-na part she hated), in one of Scotland’s market towns.
And as a fellow Lanarkian, the feeling of the town felt very familiar, but while I might have experienced the usual teenage angst, Horse’s experiences growing up were very different.
First of all the name that she hated. She decided she was going to be called Horse, she identified with those lovely majestic animals, and she knew in her heart she was different from the other girls, as she struggled with her sexuality, feeling misplaced in the world.
The set was minimal but effective. Two chairs on stage – representing her home life – one for mum and one for dad – both empty. Her parents, Vicky and Dugald, both passed within six months of each other, leaving Horse bereft. The experience somehow cemented even more firmly her compassion and ability to connect and empathise with other people.
During her show we hear about the simple things, and the things you remember growing up. We hear tales of her mum and dad and how they would sit in their chairs, drink tea and eat Rich Tea biscuits.
We hear about the angst of growing up in a small town where Horse stood out, was subjected to bullying and the odd advice from a lady on a train who tells her of a doctor she could go to to “help” sort out her problems.
There’s lots of laughter too among the tears, as Horse talks of her two tone loons “as experimental as it gets in Lanark” and having to go to the school disco in her mum’s Paisley patterned shirt.
 But there’s an escape and a sanctuary which Horse finds in music. Oddly not realising at first the gift she was born with. But then success comes as she appears on The Tube, gets the record deal and is asked to perform at the Stonewall gig at the Albert Hall.
There are still dark periods though – the operation for vocal nodes and the agonising wait as she fears she won’t be able to sing again.
And then we somehow come full circle. Horse meets her soulmate Alanna. she returns to her birthplace to marry, and she attends the equal marriage vote at the Scottish Parliament on 4th February 2014. And we feel a lovely sense of love, acceptance and peace.
This was a heartfelt and soul-baring play, delivered bravely by Horse, beautifully written by Lynn Ferguson and expertly directed by Maggie Kinloch.
While I know Horse and the town she grew up in, what would the couple from California I got talking to in the queue make of her? They visit Edinburgh every year and stay for the duration of the Festival, packing in as much as they can. They knew nothing about Horse, stumbled upon the play and decided to give it a go.
I met them afterwards. They were enthusiastic and moved to tears. The lady was desperate to get her hands on a Horse CD and loved the song Careful – which Horse sang and referenced throughout the show. I caught Horse’s play on the first night, and if this was anything to go by, all those festival goers who stumble upon shows will have felt like they discovered a little Edinburgh Festival gem.
Horse is now back at the “day job” and getting ready for a tour in November and word is that she’s going to be touring Careful next year.
Meanwhile catch her at:
Dundee Rep 5th November

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Filed under Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Music, Previews, Scotland, Theatre reviews

Horse, Wintersong Gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh, December 10th, 2013

Horse, Wintersong gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh

Horse, Wintersong gig at Le Monde Hotel, Edinburgh, December 2013

It’s a mystery why Horse isn’t more widely recognized. When you think of Scottish female vocalists, it’s difficult to think of anyone who could surpass her vocal talents, and when she’s tackling a cover version, she picks the most difficult songs to test her vocal range – and she always nails it.

It seems to be a permanent fixture on the Horse gig calendar for a “Wintersong” slot, which tends to be something special. This time it was held inside the Dirty Martini bar of Le Monde Hotel in Edinburgh. It proved a perfect venue. The intimate setting had small tables and chairs facing the stage while fairy lights created a magical atmosphere.

A stripped back gig, Horse was accompanied with only a piano played deftly by Michael Abubakar who occasionally added in some backing and harmonizing vocals.

Horse, Edinburgh

The set list was a mix of Horse’s own impressive back catalogue, some old and some new. She also chose some excellent cover versions, including fans’ favourite, Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.

I have seen Horse perform on a variety of occasions in different settings. I’ve also seen her backed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which was truly spectacular, but standing at the other end of the spectrum, this pared back gig stood out. The smallness of the venue and sparseness meant her voice was truly forefront. Every little intonation and change in range was felt and heard. Some notes were held on to for so long that it seemed impossible had you not heard it with your own ears. Her cover version of the Dusty Springfield classic I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten was simply stunning and perfect for her.

Her cover of the Lady Antebellum song I Need You Now was also sublime and fitted the reflective mood of the set list.

Cover versions aside, she’s got plenty good songs of her own, some are over 20 years old and timeless. There was the seductiveness of Breathe Me and a pared back Careful.

A warm and engaging performer, Horse loves to chat, and in between songs there was plenty of easy banter. People relate to her honesty, sincerity and vulnerability. She’s experienced the sadness of losing her parents and she’s experienced the happiness of love and getting married. She wears her heart on her sleeve and people love her for it.

This was her final gig of 2013 and it was a fitting and reflective round up to a busy year.

Going into 2014, she’s already got a Spring tour lined up for February, she’s taking part in Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 20th and she’s part of a women’s poetry reading night in Kirkcaldy on January 25th in celebration of Robert Burns’ night.

For more information see: Horse Website

For more information on Celtic Connections see : Celtic Connections 2014 Website

Horse Spring Tour 2014

Horse
Spring Tour 2014

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Filed under Gig Reviews, Music

Live Gig Review: Horse, with Scottish Chamber Orchestra , Barrowland, Glasgow, March 2, 2013

A horse gig is full of drama but it’s also a very human affair. Most aspects of ordinary life come under inspection, because Horse usually has a song she’s written about them in her back catalogue.

Horse at Barrowland, Glasgow

Horse at Barrowland, Glasgow
Picture Credit: Kris Kesiak

And at this gig at the Barrowland there were songs which dealt with life, marriage, death and children.

The stage was as packed as a busy weekend at well … the Barras, and it was also a rare opportunity to see the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on stage in this venue. Horse has appeared with them before in the Barrowland, but way back in 1995. This reunion saw the orchestra expertly conducted by Sally Herbert.

Also on stage were Horse’s band of musicians together with backing singers, Chris Judge, Madaleine Pritchard and Stefanie Lawrence, all stars in their own right.

This wealth of talent which crowded the stage set the bar high. But as soon as Horse appeared and kicked off the gig by singing Careful, we knew the voice was there. Her vocal range was spellbinding and best seen in the sad and sultry Breathe Me from the Same Sky album.

It’s also the 20th anniversary of Horse album God’s Home Movie and we heard a wonderful rendition of the title track, as well as a dip through the impressive back catalogue with Automatic, Some Wonderful, Sweet Thing and Catch My Fall, which featured an amazing string-lead intro from the SCO which the band and backing singers followed up on.

The tracks from the latest album Home are perhaps reflective of Horse’s current situation. She tied the knot at the start of this year, and this batch of songs sounded happy and joyful. A particular highlight was the jaunty and romantic Alanna’s Waltz, named after her partner.

Moving on from marriage to children, we heard the lovely Starfish which was dedicated to little ones. And from birth and new life we went to the other end of the spectrum where we were gifted a rare outing of An End Of Days. A song Horse has never sung live before. It was written after the loss of her parents, and it proved to be a particularly tender and thoughtful moment as the Barrowland fell silent.

But there was also time for celebration as Horse got her aim to get the “Barrowland bouncing” during a lively Shake This Mountain.

 

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Filed under Barrowland Glasgow, Gig Reviews, Glasgow, Music