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‘Vagabond’ inspired by personal journey Reader revisits her roots

CAMBRIDGE, England, Aug 7, (Agencies): “This is my Aunty Molly’s coat,” Scottish singer-songwriter Eddi Reader, resplendent in a vintage gold-coloured jacket, told the crowd at the Cambridge Folk Festival. “She was 97 when she died. I like having her on stage with me.” Reader, who played two sets at the folk festival’s 50th anniversary last weekend, charmed festival-goers as much with her wit as her diverse repertoire. Jazz standards, mediaeval Gaelic songs and new tracks from her latest album “Vagabond” were on the set list, as was Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”, which she performed as a tribute to one of her favourite artists. Morrison closed out the festival on Sunday.

Founder

Reader said she found the coat while clearing house after her aunt’s death, along with some books and papers written by her great-uncle James Reader, who fought to help the Irish win independence and then became a founder of the abortive Scottish Republican Army. She is now a passionate advocate for Scottish independence, having reconnected with her heritage when she returned home in 2001 after the death of her father. “I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know more about my own culture, and I questioned why that was,” she told Reuters backstage at the festival. Growing up in Glasgow and Irvine, Reader performed in folk clubs in her teens before moving away for 28 years.
 
Her homecoming culminated in a critically acclaimed album of songs written by Robert Burns, released in 2003. “I wanted to reconnect with myself,” she said. “I started thinking of an album that was more about the stuff I’d done in folk clubs. They taught me everything about my culture, and I wanted it back.” She has now settled in Glasgow and has married John Douglas of Scottish band The Trashcan Sinatras. Reader says the new album “Vagabond” was inspired by travelling of all kinds - geographic, social, and through time with traditional songs. “It’s about things that made me think I could go somewhere else ... and about finding my way back home with Robert Burns.” Of the 27 pieces recorded for “Vagabond,” at least eight were about her personal journey from Scotland to London, Paris and Vancouver, before she returned home.
 
Committed
“Becoming a Scot again, I wanted to understand the journey. And now (that) I’m firmly ensconced in Scotland, I’m committed to everything my parents and grandparents were committed to, which was an egalitarian society,” she said. Reader sees the question Scots will have to answer when they vote in the independence referendum on Sept 18 as a “no-brainer,” saying Scots should manage themselves. “You can’t have a bigger nation that dominates the other three ... Let’s not kid ourselves; it’s not an equal union.” She is currently working on a book about James Reader, combining her great-uncle’s life story with his papers and notes, collected as “The Secret Revolutionary History of Scotland”. “Like me, he was an egalitarian. He wasn’t interested in political movements per se; he was interested in fairness. Living in Glasgow 100 years later, I’m equating the referendum now with the independence story then.”
 
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VIENNA: It is known as the city of music and as a destination for fans of the music of Mozart and Brahms. But now a musical extravaganza of a different variety is making its way to Vienna: the Eurovision Song Contest. Austria was guaranteed to host the 2015 competition after bearded transvestite Conchita Wurst topped the results board earlier this year. But on Wednesday, organisers revealed that the capital Vienna had beaten Graz and Innsbruck to host the show. The competition will take place at the Wiener Stadthalle, one of the premier concert halls in the city. It was designed by the Austrian architect Roland Rainer in the 1950s and seats 16,000 people. The competition — which will be the 60th Eurovision Song Contest — is scheduled to take place on May 19 and 21, with the final on May 23. The city — which is more commonly known for its world-class classical music and the baroque splendour of its architecture — was chosen to host Eurovision by the national broadcaster ORF.
 
“Vienna is situated in the heart of Europe, has hosted a number of big events in the past, and as the capital, is able to organise a competition for the entire country,” said Alexander Wrabetz, the director general of the broadcaster. Conchita Wurst, whose real name is Tom Neuwirth, took the Eurovision crown in Copenhagen in May with the song “Rise Like a Phoenix”. She won the competition some 50 points clear of her next rival, despite initial expectations that her eye-catching performance would be too controversial in socially conservative countries.

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