KARINE POLWART: In performance with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for Celtic Connections, Thursday 19th January 2017. Arranged by Pippa Murphy. 

Karine’s powerful, poetic and dramatic cultural statement in respect of the Trump presidency.

Filmed live by the BBC at the opening concert of Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, it was performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as a prelude to Karine’s song “Cover Your Eyes” which was used in the award-winning documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ about the construction of a luxury golf course on a beach in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, and Trump’s shocking treatment of a Scottish family and his attempts to force them off their land.

On May 11th 1930, Mary Anne Macleod, from Tong on The Isle of Lewis, boarded the RMS Transylvania from Glasgow to New York City, in search of a better life. There, she fell in love with Frederick, whose father had come to America from Germany as a 16 year old barber.

The couple raised five children.

Mary Anne’s middle son would return years later to Scotland, home of his MacLeod ancestors, whose clan motto is: I burn but I am not consumed.  And here – in the name of progress and profit – and executive golf – he would pit himself against time and tide. In his wake, the shifting sands at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire would never be the same.

That son of Mary Anne MacLeod is powerful.

So too is The North Sea.

The marbled, metamorphic rock of Lewis is two-thirds the age of Earth – amongst the very oldest found on our planet. It knows about power. It’s seen a lot. And so I wondered: what might that rock of Lewis have to say about the Inauguration – tomorrow in Washington DC – of the 45th President of the United States of America – Mary Anne’s middle son? This is what the rock told me.

Oh son of Lewis, lonely boy,

hewn from granite, salt and sky

upon a foreign shore:

the ocean is a mirror gleam

in which you see yourself,

and nothing more.


Three billion years of gravity,

of strata forged in fire and earth,

the stone crib of your mother’s birth,

in which your forebears lie.

I am alive. I am a tomb.

I burn, but I am not consumed.

I burn, but I am not consumed.


Fish may swim at your command

across The Atlantic to the land

of dreams and self belief and boundless chance.

An exile tale. An immigrant dance.

You’re captain of a frigate now,

So set your compass, raise the mast,

Blow up the sails,

Erase the past, and future, if you must.

Together we can stand

and watch the peat-land turn to dust.


This is your apprenticeship:

The Gulf Stream doesn’t know your name,

nor does the splendid, blazing sun

that alters how the currents run.

The North wind never heard you roar:

You’re fired! You’re fired!

My back might burn, the blaze run wild,

but I am not consumed, my child.


The Minch whips up a spindrift storm.

The machair shifts. The machair moans.

At Uig Bay and Luskentyre,

the gale blows fast, the tide flows higher.

The shore erodes and disappears.

And, meantime, you are stoking fears

and stacking hope into a pyre.

You strike a match.


Oh ma bairn, mo leanaibh

Oh ma bairn, mo leanaibh


Your mother was a wee girl once,

who played upon my rocky shore.

And you, you are broken boy,

and you want more and more and more.

You build a tower. You build a wall,

You live in fear that they might fall.

You who see nothing but your face

in the sheen of The Hudson River.


Oh ma bairn, mo leanaibh

Oh ma bairn, mo leanaibh


A balancing is yet to come,

although by then you may be gone

and leave a desert to your sons and daughters.

Still, these waters, they will rise,

the North Sea haar will cover your eyes,

despite your appetite for lies.

your disregard  for truth.


Three billion years of gravity,

of strata forged in fire and earth,

the stone crib of your mother’s birth,

in which your forebears lie.

I am alive. I am a tomb.

I burn, but I am not consumed.

I burn, but I am not consumed.

Celtic Connections | Pilgrimer – A Re-Imagining of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

Pippa’s latest string arranging with Karine and Steven Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Kathryn Joseph, Annie Grace, Rose Cousins, Kevin McGuire, Calum McIntyre, Fraser Fifield and an ensemble led by Su-a Lee.


Lesley Riddoch: Joni Mitchell made in the Mither Tongue
And so the benchmark has been set early, as one of the most ambitious and potentially risky projects of this year’s Celtic Connections delivered in spades. 

Celtic Connections | Pilgrimer – A Re-Imagining of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

Joni Mitchell’s Hejira is writer James Robertson’s favourite album, so that he would even want to touch it, never mind reinterpret it in Scots shows some guts. Who knows what blood, sweat and tears went into the project – the results felt effortless and free-flowing, even when Robertson made audacious substitutions such as Dundee for Memphis or ?St Columba for Amelia Earhart, the subject of Amelia. 

He laid the scene with a spoken word intro over gently undulating guitar from Steven Polwart, who curated the music for the concert, along with sister Karine. She, in turn, demonstrated a natural feel for the rhythmic switches in Mitchell’s vocal melodies, engaging in a lovely lithe dance with Fraser Fifield’s fluttering low whistle. 

There was infectious excitement in her voice as she introduced guitarist Larry Carlton, who played on Hejira and seemed as delighted as the audience with proceedings. Polwart was not the only shrewd vocal match – Annie Grace’s rich alto resonated with a bruised soul, while Rod Paterson added an earthier texture again, and almost stole the show with a warmly witting Franco-Scottish repurposing of Blue Motel Room completely with topical Forth Road Bridge joke. 

The instrumentalists got their moment of glory with a warm jazz wigout en route to the thoughtful terminus of this “travelogue of love and life”. 

If the first half was daring and rewarding, the second was heartfelt and respectful as a succession of talented singers demonstrated just how much they owe to the Mitchell songbook. Julie Fowlis reneged on her offer to sing a Mitchell song in Gaelic when she realised there was no translation for Cactus Tree, but Canadian singer Rose Cousins failed to heed her own warning about Blue being “one of those Joni Mitchell songs that should never be covered”. 

Kathryn Joseph was a little more adventurous with her sparse, rhythmic accompaniment to Both Sides Now, while The Magdalene Laundries was divested of its “happy chords”. However, there was nothing but happiness flowing between stage and audience during the richly arranged massed versions of Free Man In Paris and The Circle Game which closed this concert in perfect harmony.