Mr McFall’s Chamber with Michael Marra
If there is one thing predictable about Mr McFall’s Chamber, it is that they are never predictable. Every performance brings something completely out of the ordinary. For their latest musical adventure, the core string quartet is joined by keyboard player David McGuinness for a programme featuring singer/songwriter Michael Marra. Often referred to as ‘Scotland’s answer to Tom Waits’, Dundee-born Marra writes songs which are, according to Robert McFall, ‘very intelligent, with beautiful melodies. Some are more jazzy, some more soft rock, some folky or humorous, poignant or political.’
It is a partnership which dipped a first toe in the water in 2006 when both parties happened to be performing at the very last event of None of the Above at Edinburgh’s Bongo Club. ‘The people who had been running that for almost a decade decided it was time to wind up,’ explains McFall, ‘and asked Michael to sing. We were the resident group so did a couple of songs with him as part of his set. Since then, we’ve always had a desire to do a full set, so that is what is happening now.’
The ten songs with Michael Marra, specially arranged for the occasion, form roughly half of the evening, the other half being taken up by a mixed bag of instrumental numbers ranging from Cuban and Argentine music to Zappa and music for harmonium and musical saw.
The harmonium features heavily in the programme,’ says McFall, ‘as Michael Marra really likes it. The combination of strings and harmonium makes an extremely satisfying sound that is part of a whole spectrum of sounds. The mix also sometimes includes mandolin instead of violin and Su-a Lee playing musical saw instead of cello.’
Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Mar