‘IN A SMA ROOM’ takes the poems of one of Scotland’s most important 20th century poets William Soutar and turns them into a CD of eighteen poignant and pertinent songs, written by Perth-based singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger, Debra Salem with Paul Harrison and Kevin MacKenzie.
The CD celebrates the poetry of Soutar bringing his early 20th century works into the 21st century with renewed meaning and strength.
The production of this CD and the ‘IN A SMA ROOM Songbook’ is the culmination of a project which began back in 2012 with a commission by the Friends of William Soutar. ‘IN A SMA ROOM’ was initially a music and theatre performance integrating songs with a script written by another Perth-based creative Ajay Close. The project introduced characters from Soutar’s life through the concept of a medium. The performance was part of the prestigious Made in Scotland Showcase at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The CD has five new songs that were not part of the original theatre performance. The desire has always been to make the songs into a CD showcasing the beauty of Soutar’s work. Finally, the fruits of Salem’s hard work are finally paying off.
Debra Salem said: “Each time we performed the show at the Made in Scotland showcase, someone would always ask if the music was available to buy. Kevin, Paul, and I had always hoped we would get the opportunity to record the songs at some point along with other five songs that we couldn’t fit within the live performance. About two years ago, we finally started to make it happen, which is when we also started to think that it would be great to produce an accompanying songbook incorporating the sheet music so others can take these songs, which are in English and Scots, and make them their own. This is our way of championing the beautiful poetry of William Soutar and sharing his words through music, with audiences old and new.”
The music is influenced by the folk, jazz, and classical backgrounds of the three composers. The recording ensemble includes the composers themselves along with percussionist Signy Jakobdottir, bass player Andrew Robb and Perth’s own string guru Patsy Reid who was part of the original 4-piece band from the performance.
The ‘IN A SMA ROOM’ recording and songbook project was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign along with support from the Andrew Tannahill Trust for the Furtherance of Scottish Literature. Both the CD and book can be purchased from www.debrasalem.co.uk, Amazon, and Tippermuir Books with the music downloadable from most music streaming sites including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and Bandcamp,
CDs are available for review from Wendy Niblock PR, email@example.com / 07961 814834.
Notes for Editors:
IN A SMA ROOM: https://debrasalem.bandcamp.com/album/in-a-sma-room
Debra Salem is a vocalist, composer and arranger based in Perth. Having studied composition with composer Gavin Bryars, Debra developed her vocal style playing with him in a jazz bass/vocal duo. The continued influence of jazz and then folk music on her singing and songwriting has led to diverse vocal opportunities including: winning a Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Open Stage Finalist award; singing with Dougie MacLean; developing talent through vocal tutoring at Richard Michael’s Jazz Summer Course; and performing as ‘jazz singer’ with the Ulster Orchestra in Terry Riley’s ‘In C’. She also leads and arranges for choirs. This included working with RUNRIG on an arrangement and recording of ‘In Search of Angels’.
Her composition work includes original songs and over 70 commissions for professional theatre, dance and film including: two seasons as resident sound designer/composer at Perth Theatre under director Rachel O’Riordan; The Incredible Brightness of Being – a dance piece commissioned by Horsecross Arts as part of a celebration of Margaret Morris; and Songs of Change – a community project in collaboration with The Civic in Dublin and Irish director Veronica Coburn. Debra has made Scotland her home since moving from Belfast in 2003.
Guitarist and composer Kevin MacKenzie has been working within the world of music for a number of years now. He has toured extensively and recorded many albums in a variety of styles with a particular focus on Jazz and traditional music. His groups have been featured alongside guitarist Robben Fords power trio, Bob Berg and Mike Stern and seminal Jazz figure Ornette Coleman and he has performed with numerous established national and international artist including Tommy Smith, Bobby Wellins, Kurt Elling.
In 2001 Kevin received the ‘Creative Scotland Award’, which he used to write and record music for his nine-piece band Kevin MacKenzie’s Vital Signs. The CD gathered great reviews including album of the month in The Observer and CD of the week in The Guardian and in 2019 he released The Ballad of Future Joe. He is a respected educator and teaches in the Jazz and Traditional Music Undergraduate and Masters courses at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Jazz pianist, organist, composer and arranger Paul Harrison has performed in concert halls, clubs and jazz festivals around the world including Montreux, Rochester, Vancouver, Cork, Shanghai, Hong Kong and London Jazz Festivals, the International Association of Jazz Educators in New Orleans, and arts festivals and workshops from New York to New Zealand. As well as a solo performer he has also performed with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Paul has been commissioned as a composer to create scores for the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, Mr. McFall’s Chamber and others. He also composes, performs and records his own diverse projects – Act Shy, the free electronica of Herschel 36, electro-jazz of Sugarwork and the Brazilian music of Trio Mágico.