Scottish tunes were immensely fashionable in eighteenth-century Britain, reaching their zenith in the later part of the century. The publication of William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius (1725) helped to start the new trend: it was the very first collection of Scottish songs to be printed with their melodies. This volume was so popular that a second edition was published five years later which contained a further fifty songs. Many of the airs to which Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard, later set his own words came from Orpheus Caledonius. Despite its importance, this collection has been nearly forgotten, and it has never been explored in its entirety.
For this project Žak Ozmo and L’Avventura London are bringing the music of Orpheus Caledonius to modern audiences by partnering up with some of the best known contemporary proponents of Scottish folk music, the folk band Old Blind Dogs , who have stood on the cutting edge of Scotland’s roots revival since the early 1990s, and their special guest singer Siobhan Miller, the two-time winner of the ‘Scots Singer of the Year’ award. This collaboration mixes the sounds of eighteenth-century high art music and folk, featuring musical instruments that range from bowed baroque strings, recorders, lutes, cittern, and baroque guitar, to pipes, whistles, fiddles, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and an array of percussion instruments. Topped with vocals by some of the finest interpreters of Scottish folk song today, L'Avventura and the Old Blind Dogs combine their imagination and musical skill to interpret the eighteenth century's most popular ballads, hauntingly beautiful melodies, and lively, toe-tapping dances. With musical subjects ranging from war to love, ‘Orpheus Caledonius: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Music’ is an experience packed with history, romance, artistry and fun.