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Isla St. Clair: Musical Memories of Home

January 26, 2019 11:35 am

Close your eyes, and think of Scotland. It’s a land of majestic natural beauty, of ancient and fascinating cities, of inventive and friendly people, and of a million other delights to all the senses. It’s also a country with one of the strongest, proudest, and most evocative musical traditions on earth, and for Scotsmen and women everywhere, the lilting ballads, feisty dances, and the irresistible power of the pipes are engraved upon their hearts, and never anything but an utter joy to encounter.

Over the centuries, Scotland has produced many of the most talented and timeless musicians, singers, and folk artists that have ever graced a stage. Imbued with a natural romanticism, and possessed of an ability to weave stories through song, they’ve contributed so much to Scottish cultural identity and a sense of being. Among the finest of the Scottish folk singers, we find the unique talent and stage presence that is Isla St. Clair; folk singer extraordinaire, and bonafide Scottish celebrity whose performances never fail to bring a reel to the legs and a patriotic tear to the eye.

Singing Songs as Old as the Hills

When Isla St. Clair takes to the stage, she brings centuries of heritage with her. Few folk singers today have such a clear passion for their material as Isla does, nor do they possess such an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history and cultural significance of the songs they sing. Whether she’s singing a simple reel, a timeless ballad, or one of her favourite popular folk numbers, Isla has the ability to capture her audience with little more than an acoustic guitar and her golden voice. At once melancholy and euphoric, her reinterpretations of iconic folk songs have brought delight to countless thousands across the years, and she seems to get better year by year on the folk circuit.

Isla St. Clair’s ability to transmit the history and majesty of the Scottish landscape, the essence of Scottish history and culture, and the incredible and evocative folk tradition she forms part of is a wonder to behold. It’s something which has come about after a lifetime of performance, study, and passion, and her expertise and mastery of the songs and her vocal skills are evident from start to finish. Isla’s musical career is one which has spanned the decades; she was already an established folk club singer in Aberdeen by the age of ten… and her star has only risen and risen since then. No wonder, then, that she is considered a preeminent folk singer and champion of Scottish musical heritage, and a performer of incredible pedigree and distinction.

Isla St. Clair: A Life in Music

Born on the 2nd of May, 1952 into a musical household in Grangemouth, Stirling, it was clear from a very young age that Isla St. Clair had a life in music ahead of her. Her regular performances at the Aberdeen folk club – at the tender age of ten years old – made her a favourite with those seeking to hear the classics sung with the purity of her young voice, and by the age of twelve, she was performing on both television and radio. Through her appearances on popular television programmes, such as My Kind of Folk and Stories are for Singing, the young star made contact with plenty of well-established singers on the folk circuit (not least the hugely successful and now almost legendary Jeannie Robertson), which undoubtedly fueled her enthusiasm. After leaving school at seventeen, Isla decided to follow her dreams and her heritage, and became a full-time professional folk singer with dozens of credits soon appearing against her name on the national and international folk scene.

Before long, the allure of London was irresistible to the young singer, and her natural charm and flawless voice made her the perfect choice to present The Song and The Story. Popular with viewers up and down the UK, and with her old fans in Scotland cheering her along every step of the way, her television career began to take off in a big way. Of course, we all remember with great fondness Isla St. Clair’s long-running collaboration with Larry Grayson on the BBC’s family game show, The Generation Game. Her appearances on Saturday night primetime TV led to many new fans discovering her vocal work and folk heritage, and when she finally left Grayson’s side to renew her enthusiasm for live folk performances, her fans remained true and endlessly supportive.

Over the decades which followed, Isla recorded several albums of traditional Scottish music, to great critical and fanbase acclaim. These included the stunning Inheritance, as well as the transportative album Scenes of Scotland, which featured Isla getting in touch with the music composed by her mother, and which she had once danced and sang along to as a little girl. Today, Isla remains at the peak of her powers, and her love of performing live to an enthusiastic audience seeking authentic Scottish folk music has faded not one bit. Her voice remains pure and true, her clear understanding of and passion for her her songs remains at the heart of her engrossing performances, and the essence of the musical tradition of her homeland informs each and every note.

A Night to Remember at The Caledonian Club

Back in April 2017, Isla St. Clair performed at the Caledonian Club in London for members. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting venue for the veteran folk singer; she was surrounded by those who share an enthusiasm, a fascination, and a deep respect for Scottish heritage, folklore, and culture, and her performance was met with rapturous applause, and nary a dry eye in the house.

Such cultural events are far from unusual at The Caledonian Club. As London’s premier private club for those of Scottish descent and heritage, concerts, performances, dance events, poetry readings, dinners, and whisky tastings – among many more cultural highlights – are key aspects of this elegant club’s monthly roster of gatherings. It’s a place to be surrounded by friends and fellow countrymen and women, and something of a home from home, where tales are shared and memories relived. What’s more, with the Caledonian Club’s incredible chefs and catering team, it offers a more literal taste of home, and a wide range of sensory delights which are sure to transport you to the beauty and majesty of Scotland.

Isla St. Clair’s beautiful performance in one of the grandest rooms of the Caledonian Club was a genuine pleasure to be involved in, and her songs undoubtedly moved the emotions of all who were present. She’s sure to return some day soon, bringing her ancestral music with her… but in the meantime, there’s plenty to explore and enjoy at this wonderful events space and clubhouse. We hope to see you soon, and provide you with an authentic Scottish welcome that’ll never be forgotten.

1 Comment

  • Richard McKill

    I have just watched Isla singing When Pipers Play accompanied by massed pipe bands absolutely haunting and mesmerising brought tears to my eyes but made me feel good.

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