A series in which a musician gives us insight into the background of one of their recordings
Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov
Two Hours After Midnight
The title of the new album by Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov, Two Hours After Midnight, was inspired by the last letter written by Mary Queen Of Scots to Henry III, King of France, before she was executed. It was signed "Ce mercredi, deux heures après minuit. Votre très aimante et très vraie sœur, Mary R" ["This wednesday, two hours after midnight, your very loving and true sister, Mary R"].
Louise and Elchin came across the letter in a book, Scotland : Her Story - the nation's history by the women who lived it, by Rosemary Goring who explains, "This final letter, written by Mary, Queen of Scots to Henry III, King of France hours before her beheading, is among the most powerful ever sent. In many ways it is a model of a historical document, conveying the author's p;ersonality - dignified, angry, sorrowful but neither remorseful nor afraid." In December 2021, The Guardian newspaper reported on how researchers had uncovered the letter-locking used in this final letter - you can read more about it here.
Vocalist Louise Dodds was nominated for the Best Vocalist Award at the Scottish Jazz Awards 2022. Pianist and composer Elchin Shirinov was in Avishai Cohen's trio from 2018 to 2022 and was featured in All About Jazz's December 2022 poll of the top 200 favourite living pianists. The album they have recorded features eight traditional Scottish folk songs which have been arranged by Elchin drawing influence from the traditional music of his homeland, Azerbaijan. Other influences you will hear are those of Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Ravel and Debussy.
Elchin says: "We were very tempted originally to record a whole album of Robert Burns songs as there are so many wonderful ones, but we wanted to show the world that there are many other beautiful songs by other composers in Scotland's history."
You can listen to the whole album here, but below is one track The Lass O' Gowrie, written by Lady Nairne, a contemporary of Robert Burns. Also known as Carolina Oliphant, she kept her identity a secret her whole life. Louise says: "It feels that people are just becoming aware of her and her work now. Some of her songs are very well known and it feels right that she too becomes a household name. We love this song and it was important to us that we include a female composer on the album."
'Twas on a simmer's afternoon,
A wee afore the sun gaed doun,
A lassie wi' a braw new goun
Cam' owre the hills to Gowrie.
The rosebud washed in simmer's shower
Bloomed fresh within the sunny bower;
But Kitty was the fairest flower
That e'er was seen in Gowrie.
The full lyrics are here.
Details and Samples of the album Two Hours After Midnight are here