Please vote for Pulse in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2016


Hi folks, voting is now open for the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2016.
I’m absolutely delighted that Mairi Campbell: Pulse has been nominated for 7. Event of the Year, sponsored by Visit Scotland.
There’s been such an amazing reception to the show. We had a great run at the Fringe in August and at Celtic Connections in January. We’re also touring in venues in Scotland and internationally.
If you’ve seen Pulse, and enjoyed it, do please consider voting for it (number 7). There’s also an excerpt of the show above in case you haven’t seen it. 

imageYour vote for the Trad Awards is much appreciated, both by me and the wider Scottish trad arts scene. Thank you. Voting closes on Friday, 18th November.
Hope to see some folk in Dundee on 3rd December.
Just click here to vote. Pulse is at number 7. Event of the Year.

Thank you.
Love, Mairi

Chuffed with the reviews for Pulse at the Fringe

Pulse at the Fringe was by far the highlight of my career, never mind my summer! It was the most wonderful thing to do. As the run of shows went on, I found my energy levels just kept going up and up, which wasn’t what I expected, but I was glad of it. Promoters from across the world came to see the show so we’re following up with them and setting up tours, with possible upcoming trips to New York City and India! Summerhall was a great venue and good to hear that it’s become the new home to the Edinburgh Folk Club. Thank you to audiences, reviewers, supporters and all who welcomed the show with such open arms.
Here are some excerpts from the reviews that came in for the show, which I’m really chuffed with.

Jenny Davidson – FringeReview 2016-09-13

Mairi Campbell takes the audience on what initially seems like trip into her personal biography, but turns out to be something of a more universal examination of finding your own voice, your own pulse, your own music 

The stage is sparsely furnished with just a chair, a music stand and a rustic tripod with a stone pendulum hanging from it. Mairi Campbell appears wearing a loose dark dress and begins to tell the story of her life from her late teens to her early 20s – clearly a formative period for who she has become as a person and a musician – using spoken word, song, dance, live and recorded music and projected lights.

Initially Pulse seems like just a piece of personal biography. Campbell begins with her studying classical music at the Guildhall in London and struggling to fit in. Instructions are barked at her – ‘soften your jaw’, ‘stop tapping your feet’ – and something doesn’t resonate with her. Here the meaning of the word pulse becomes clear: it is both the pulse of your own life and the pulse of the music, finding your own rhythm or a type of music. This is echoed in the pendulum, which is could symbolise a metronome, the passing of time or a heartbeat, but in its rusticity suggests something primitive and ancient.

Read the full review here.


Natasha Tripney – The Stage

Mairi Campbell is a Scottish folk singer and musician. In Pulse, her debut autobiographical solo show, part of the Made in Scotland showcase, she explores her own story through music, dance and performance.

Scottish music, its rhythms and traditions, run through the piece. Campbell studied at Guildhall originally, where she felt restricted, prevented from tapping her feet in time with the music and expressing herself fully. So she roams, to Mexico and Canada, exploring different musical traditions along the way and having relationships with a series of men, trying to find herself and her music.

She discovers Canadian step-dancing, the beat rising up through her feet, and it changes her – this old-new form of movement – it reshapes her approach to song and story.

Read the full review here.


Musical Theatre Review – Fiona Orr

For those unfamiliar with traditional Scottish music of the people – not the bagpipes and drums on the battlefield or the Royal Mile – but the intimacy of a voice creating amazing sound; this show is an education waiting to be found. What Campbell does here is invite the outsider in: full of generosity, she tells her very own story of how her life not only includes music, but has been lived through music.

Opening with a soundscape that urges her to take up her violin and play, we are taken back to Campbell in the 1980s and her training at the Guildhall in London. Here, she is instructed on how to become ‘an instrument’; the goal was all about training the musician to play their instrument in such a way that they could perform the works of any composer and respond to the preferences of their given conductor.

Read the full review here.


Three Weeks – Aida Rocci

“Fall in love with Scotland. Take your time.” That’s the advice Mairi Campbell’s grandmother gave her, and these words also encapsulate the audience’s experience in ‘Pulse’: a slow but deep falling in love alongside Campbell as she searches for her voice. Through music, theatre, poetry and movement, Campbell weaves a carefully detailed story of her relationship with music and her culture. From the first moment of this journey, the award-winning Scottish musician’s bare and unabashed honesty captivates you, and every time she plays the viola, an unspoken sense of belonging inundates the room. Even if you’ve never heard her music before, or never listened to Scottish folklore, by the end of ‘Pulse’ you’ll feel transformed.

Three Weeks *****

Read the full review here.


TV bomb

Pulse is a clever show. Covering the time from Mairi Campbell’s final year at world famous conservatoire, Guildhall in London, and journeying to the present day where she has found her heartbeat, her pulse, the vein that runs through her Scottish music journey. The show tells a story through music, drama and dance written by Campbell herself in collaboration with director, Kath Burlinson.

The story starts with Campbell finishing up her musical education and yet, for her and the audience, the journey is only just beginning. Campbell felt stifled at Guildhall and like they had taken the heart, the pulse, away from her music. They had taken the love and the creativity away. She returned to Lismore and was encouraged by the locals to go and ‘find herself.’

The show then takes us to Mexico where she describes a humorous lust for the wrong man and on to Cape Breton where she finds just what she is looking for – something new (yet old) and exciting – step dance.

Read the full review here


TSOTF – the Sick of the Fringe

Full disclosure: when I hear Mairi Campbell’s voice, I feel at home. Campbell’s version of Auld Lang Syne is my regular YouTube go-to cry-song (it featured in Sex & the City The Movie) and when I hear her voice I feel safe, and warm, able to cry… I feel home. Watching Campbell’s journey to find her home and her authentic voice, therefore, felt like a journey I already associated with her.

Much has been written on the science of the voice and of music (Wellcome Collection’s This is a Voice exhibition being a recent major example), from the study of how the voice and ear physically understand and receive sound, to the chemicals released in our brain upon hearing music, to the physical benefits derived from dance. In Mairi Campbell’s Pulse, however, it is the quest to find the music which suited her body, to find the music which fit with her bones, which is the central journey. The history of music (and folk music in particular) is inherently bound to questions of nationality, or migration, of colonialism, and of intercultural exchange – and this is an area around which Pulse treads lightly – but in Campbell’s journey, an idea of ‘home’ feels less psychological or political and more physical, even genetic.

Read the full review here

Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson on the story of Pulse

Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson at the the List magazine's party at Summerhall, Edinburgh
Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson at the List magazine’s party at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Mairi Campbell and Authentic Artist Collective founder Kath Burlinson have been collaborating together since 2009. Their latest work Mairi Campbell: Pulse is running at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 3-28 August.

In the last of this three-part series, Mairi and Kath talk about where the story of Pulse came from, the journey from trad musician to theatre and what Mairi has learned since starting her journey with Pulse.


Where did the story of Pulse come from? Talk a bit about your creative process.
Mairi: The story is my experience in 1990 of leaving music college, travelling/backpacking for a few months in Mexico and then heading up to Cape Breton, Canada where I heard Scottish fiddle music that blew me away.

I was a frustrated musician at the time. Trained to play viola in an orchestra, which I never wanted to do, but what I did want to do was understand music better, understand how it worked, why it’s so emotive, how to create it and play it – not just play a few composers from a very niche tradition of middle European classical music. I needed to be able to play with really good timing, and that was one thing that my training spent very little time on. There’s no emphasis on that in an orchestra, which I totally understand, but it was frustrating too. I couldn’t play a tune or sing a song from Scotland and that was doing my head in – it felt wrong. So, I left London, moved back to Scotland and threw myself into traditional music to find my feet again and carry on. 

The journey from trad musician to theatre. Why? How?

Mairi: There’s a rich seam to be explored between music and theatre. It’s been a gradual journey. Music takes many years to mature in a person, so when I felt that my timing (ability to keep a beat and swing) had ‘landed’ which was around 2011, then the next steps could be taken. I had three shows to find: one, a story from the female line of my family, the other, from the male line of the family, then my own story.

Kath: These stories became three shows, the first two performed by Mairi and Dave Francis (‘The Red Earth’ & ‘Revival!’) and now ‘Pulse’.

Mairi: Kath, Paul Oertel and his wife Nancy Spanier were all working with me to help me nurture the courage and skills required to make a solo show. It also helped that I was asked to work with Youth Music Theatre UK as music director for three productions in the last few years as well as creating ‘The Red Earth’ and ‘Revival!’, our own shows. These were important learning steps and again, came about through the Authentic Artist Collective. With such care for each person’s gifts to be brought out, what I didn’t see was seen and encouraged by my mentors. I am so grateful.

What have you learned about yourself since doing Pulse / how have you grown?

Mairi: Making shows, and digging in like this does require being able to experience pain! It does require tears and outrage. It does require positive disintegration. It’s been hard at times, but the result is so exciting that it gives me the courage and confidence to carry on.

Our whole culture needs positive disintegration, to find new narratives and it’s better for us to do it consciously, so we don’t inflict it on everyone else. I’ve discovered that I’m not as robust as I thought I was, that I can get very scared, that I also have the gift of music and can rest in strong pulse. Pulse is ballast and gravity.

A major change is the relevance people are now finding in native American and indigenous teachings. There’s a deep respect for the wisdom that is there, and for the nobility of character that it fostered. I think that it is a precious addition to our time, that the native peoples are speaking out.

Mairi Campbell: Pulse
3-28 AUG 14:25 (15:20), PREVIEWS: 3 & 4 / BSLI : 18 & 25, NO PERFORMANCE: 15 & 22
The Old Lab, Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL

Buy Pulse tickets here:

Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson on getting Pulse to where it is now

Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson at the the List magazine's party at Summerhall, Edinburgh
Mairi Campbell and Kath Burlinson at the List magazine’s party at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Mairi Campbell and Authentic Artist Collective founder Kath Burlinson have been collaborating together since 2009. Their latest work Mairi Campbell: Pulse is running at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 3-28 August.

In the second of this three-part series, Mairi and Kath talk about the highs and lows of working together, starting the journey of being an authentic artist, and the process of creating the show Pulse and getting it to where it is now.

What have been the highs and lows of working together?
Mairi: The massive high is the unfolding of this amazing journey that Kath and I are on and there’s more to come…
Lows. When the water stopped working (again!) at the cottage on Lismore, but really, nothing. It’s all good.

Kath: One high was hearing the audience’s responses after the R&D sharing at North Edinburgh Arts Centre – it was clear we were on to something. Something bigger than us was beginning to unfold. Lows: Mairi leaving her computer in the bar at the Tron, with all the shows cues, music, etc etc.

Why should more people start on the journey?
Mairi: It’s happening anyway. I suspect we’re all responding to some sort of evolutionary shift and looking for ways to integrate intense change inside and out.
Art is a great way of understanding ourselves and others – giving ourselves permission to explore without words has powerful medicine in it.

Kath: It’s not a ‘should’. People come to the Authentic Artist workshop, for example, through word of mouth, because they feel it’s the right time for them to find a new edge or explore new avenues of expression.

Favourite moment?
Mairi: Premiering the show at the Tron in Celtic Connections 2016
Swimming in the loch on Lismore on a hot day after intense work in the studio.

Kath: ditto above. Both magical experiences, though I was more nervous at the Tron and more tingly after the Loch.

Favourite blooper?
Mairi: Forgetting to pick up one of the participants of the course and leaving her on the pier for an hour and a half!

Kath: Yes, that was a good one! For me, wearing a VERY erotic T-shirt designed by a French artist to the Lismore Heritage Centre and bumping into some local farmers…

The process of creating Pulse and getting it to where it is now
Mairi: The show came from the music score and songs that Dave Gray and I made. I had an intense few months back in 2014 creating the tracks from a mix of me doing improv and Dave adding guitar and percussion and other stuff! Lots of good other stuff. I was so excited about the music and thought that it was more of a show than a gig, so set about seeing if I could get some funding to make the Pulse.

Creative Scotland has fortunately funded the making of the show, it’s a state funded show, so when that was in place it was full steam ahead to get the show made. Accessing the material was a fascinating process: we’d find the material through improvisation, then it was crafted, decisions were made, text was written and memorised, extended into physicality and animation of the space. We looked at the elements: what elements would we use to tell the story? Stepping, voice, viola live, recorded tracks, dance, animation/images, storytelling.

Kath: I often ask myself the question when making theatre – what does this piece want to be? It helps me to get out of the way somehow. In this case, it seemed that a clear narrative would help hold all the other elements we wanted to explore, allowing an audience easy access to the more unusual blend of music, visuals, song and animation. Mairi’s husband Dave Francis suggested we look at the Hero’s Journey and we found it really helpful as a structuring device we could adapt to our own ends.

Mairi Campbell: Pulse
3-28 AUG 14:25 (15:20), PREVIEWS: 3 & 4 / BSLI : 18 & 25, NO PERFORMANCE: 15 & 22
The Old Lab, Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL

Buy Pulse tickets here: