Tag Archives: Mark van der Stelt

CeltCast Classic – Back of the Moon – Luminosity (2005)

The last months we started a new series of reviews that we call the CeltCast Classics. In this series, we feature older albums that we feel deserve to be in the spotlight one more time either because of their importance, their influence on the scene, or just because they are stunningly beautiful. Now the collective CeltCast record collection will be quite enough to keep us going for a good while, but we felt it would be way more interesting if we would ask well-known people from the scene to nominate a CeltCast classic. The very first we asked to do so was no other then Vana‘s creative director and one of the masterminds behind Castlefest and Keltfest, Mark van der Stelt.
His answer came swiftly:” I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options, The Corrs, Back of the Moon or Loreena Mckennitt. It’s gonna be Luminosity by Back of the Moon, that’s the album I play the most. The first time I heard this CD I knew I wanted to invite this band on one of our podia. The music comes together perfectly. Delightful timing, and the voice of the singer is brilliant.
Sadly they split up. It would be really something if they would be willing to grace Keltfest for a one-time reunion concert!

Albumcover Gillian frame and back of the moon So the research began. Who were Back of the Moon? What did their music sound like? What are the band members up to nowadays? And most importantly, can we still get a hold of their music? Well, Back of the Moon are a Scottish band that formed in 2000, first under the name Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon. The founding band members were Gillian Frame (fiddle, vocals), Simon McKerrell (border pipes, uillean pipes, whistle, vocals) and Hamish Napier, (piano, vocals). In 2001 Findlay Napier (guitar, vocals) was asked to join the band and with that line-up, the band released their first album Gillian Frame & Back of the Moon on the Foot Stompin’Records label. In 2003 their second record Fortune’s Road came out. A lovely Scottish folk album, mixing Scottish instrumental folk songs with traditional sounding vocal songs. At that point, they shortened the band name to Back of the Moon.

album cover Back of the moon, fortune's road Fortune’s Road won the band their first accolades, winning Best Up and Coming Act at the Scots Trad Music awards back in 2003 and Best Celtic Group” at Festival Interceltique de Lorient.
After that Simon McKerrell left the band and was replaced by Ali Hutton (border pipes, whistle, Bodhrán) and in that formation Back of the Moon recorded Luminosity which was also released by Foot Stompin’Records in 2005 and is still available through them as digital album. (for information click here)
With Luminosity, Back of the Moon won the title of Best Folk Band with the Scots Trad Music awards. A well-deserved reward! Sadly, in November 2007 the curtain was drawn for the last time, as Back of the Moon played their very last gig at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.
As far as I can see only Luminosity is still officially available with Foot Stompin’, but CD’s are still regularly available second hand through eBay and Amazon, and that is how we got our copy of this brilliant CD, ’cause I can already tell you this really is a gem. So let’s dive into it!

Wow, that opening stands. That’s the first thing I thought as I heard the powerful first piano chords of Lumsden’s Rant. This sounded more like a pop album, a bit like Keane actually, not like the Celtic folk I was expecting. Not for long though. Soon enough the pipes, violin and whistles join in the fun for a good old Gaelic dance tune, full of energy, full of cool variations in the melody. Still, it’s not in your typical folk style, the piano chords and pop arrangements under it give it some extra dynamics, as if Keane indeed started playing Scottish folk. Back of the Moon has me wide awake after this strong opener.

I actually expected the band to carry on with that same full-on energy but no, they change down gears all the way with the second and third song; Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig. Both are beautiful ballads that wouldn’t look out of place on any good singer-songwriter album.
Glenlogie is – according to the booklet – one of the few traditional Scottish ballads with a happy ending and it features the beautiful voice of Findlay Napier. You can compare it to Belgian singer-songwriter Milow. Findlay has the same pleasant, friendly tone that Milow has. Your mind instantly calms down when he starts singing. Mesmerising. And Back of the Moon had two such those voices! As you can hear on Nine Stone Rig, Gillian Frame is blessed with an equally mesmerising voice, a wee bit like Shantalla’s Helen Flaherty. It’s rare for a band to have two singers of this calibre and luckily Back of the Moon makes full use of them.
Both Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig are lovely calming ballads, played ever so tenderly, weaving a blanket of soothing notes around the vocalists, making them sound even warmer and softer than they already are. The lovely trumpet ‘solo’ in Glenlogie or the flute improvisations in Nine Stone Rig are the icing on the cake. What a wonderful start to this album.

Back of the Moon performing The Brewer lady at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2007

The fourth song, Eggs In The Kitchen, is the second of the six instrumental folksongs you’ll find on Luminosity. This time it starts more traditional, a gentle violin melody opens this song, named after a remark grandpa Napier once made:’There are eggs in the kitchen!.’ Well, it must have been scrambled eggs, cause when the pipes come in the tempo accelerates fast and Eggs In The Kitchen becomes a tasty mix of Celtic folk meets upbeat pop music. I actually love the pop arrangements Back of the Moon added to their instrumental songs. It gives them something extra. A bit of extra punch.
It always sounds so easy, recording a Gaelic jig or reel, but it actually is really hard. First, you need a catchy tune, then the talent to keep the variations interesting and lastly the imagination to give it the arrangement that makes it stand out from all those other dance tunes out there. Back Of the Moon combined all those talents. This includes the cool stereo effects in Eggs In the Kitchen, the lovely melodies and variations in songs like Lumsden’s Rant, Eggs In he Kitchen or Goodfellas, or the lovely pop arrangements and trombone halfway through the latter song. Back of the moon has it all.
With Joey Beauty and Voodoo Chilli, the band even recorded two instrumental ballads! And good ones at that. Joey Beauty, for instance, is a beautiful love song, sung not by vocals, but by Gillian on fiddle and Hamish on flute.

Now that I’ve mentioned them, ballads are the speciality of Back of the Moon. I already mentioned Glenlogie and Nine Stone Rig, but there are way more gems like that on Luminosity. Gillian’s beautiful voice (and also Ali’s lovely whistle melodies) shine once more in The Final Trawl.
Brewer Lad is a positive upbeat folk song, sung by Findlay Napier, reminding me a lot of the German band Cara who we featured in our previous CeltCast Classics. I especially like how Findlay and Gillian’s voices blend together here. A match made in heaven.

I’ve saved the best for last though. A song that is also Mark van de Stelts favourite: Ship In A Bottle. It starts with a stunning violin and flute intro that made me totally tear up the first time I heard it. I still get goosebumps all over when this song starts. Findlay’s voice is absolutely beautiful in this touching ballad of what could have been but never was. One of the best ballads I’ve heard in a long while. Celtic singer-songwriter folk at its very, very best! I fully understand why Mark nominated Luminosity to be a CeltCast Classic. This song alone makes this album worth that title. You may need to search a bit to obtain it, but it will be so worth the effort. Luminosity is a wonderful pop-folk album. I can only hope that Mark manages to make his wish come true and that Back of the Moon will grace the stage one more time. I know that I’ll be standing right there, front row, taking it all in. Guaranteed

-editor: Diane Deroubaix

Special thanks to Mark van der Stelt and Diane Deroubaix for providing me with the music and inspiration.

Epilogue After the breakup of Back of the Moon, all bandmembers remained extremely active within the Scottish folk scene. Here is a small summary:
Simon McKerrell now has a PhD. To quote his biography: ‘Dr Simon McKerrell is a Reader in Music and Society at Newcastle University and has previously worked at the Universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is interested in the social impact of music and the creative industries. His current research focuses on music in the creative economy in rural areas and takes an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach to the relationship between culture and policy. He is the author of Focus: Scottish Traditional Music (Routledge), and the Co-Editor of both Music as Multimodal Discourse: Media, Power and Protest (Bloomsbury) and Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Modernity (Routledge).” He is also still actively playing the pipes.
More info on that can be found on his website: https://simonmckerrell.com/

portrait Ali Hutton – Ali Hutton has been extremely busy since 2007 sharing his talent with numerous folk acts and bands, building up a discography that counts well over thirty records! Among them are Ross Ainslie, with whom he has the Ross and Ali project, which at the moment is BIG news in the UK and the band Old blind dogs. He is also a founding member of the Treacherous Orchestra, which, according to Findlay Napier, is a HUGE band in the British folk scene -and I’ll gladly take his word in it.
For all info: https://alihutton.com/

portrait Hamish Napier– – Hamish Napier has been just as active as Ali Hutton, working as a tutor; a composer; a producer and co-arranger a solo artist and a live performer. He does that as part of the duo Nae Plans with fiddler Adam Sutherland; with Duncan Chrishom’s ‘gathering’; as well as the Jarlath Henderson band. He also works together with Ross Ainslie in his Sanctuary band.
Next to that, he has received many more accolades over the years. Among them, Best composer and Best tutor of the year with the Scots Trad music awards, AND has his own solo work out. The lovely albums The River (2016) and The Railroad (2018). Both cd’s I’m sure will find their way to my review table at some point in time.,/br> More info: https://www.hamishnapier.com/

portrait Gillian Frame -Gillian Frame, just as all other former Back of the Moon members, has been an active contributor to the Scottish folk scene, as a tutor but also a session musician with acts such as The Unusual Suspects, Breabach, Treacherous Orchestra, Rachel Sermanni, Deaf Shepherd, Mairearad Green and Anna and Duncan Lyall’s infinite reflections.
In February 2016 she released a solo album called Pendulum, a CD of which she herself says: ‘This is a collection of songs and tunes that have cemented themselves into my repertoire over the last 15 or so years. Favourites from both performing and teaching contexts and arranged here with the support of the wonderful Mike Vass, Anna Massie and Euan Burton. ‘
Together with her husband Findlay Napier she has also been active in the Findlay Napier Trio and a soon to be launched new project called The ledger
More info is found here: https://www.gillianframe.com/

– Last but not least is Findlay Napier, who has also been busy, releasing three solo albums, VIP: Very Interesting Persons in 2015; the mini CD very Interesting Extras in 2016 and Glasgow in October 2017.
Furthermore, he is touring with The Findlay Napier duo, trio, quartet or band, depending on the wishes of the venue. he is about to launch a new project with his wife Gillian Frame called The Ledger; he also became a tutor just like Gillian and Hamish and organises the Glasgow Songwriting Festival.
More info on Findlay Napier is to be found here: https://www.findlaynapier.com/

Location: Castlefest (NL) – Day 2 Band/Artist: EMIAN PaganFolk – Part 2 Closing by Mark van der Stelt

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (3/3)

Mark After yesterday’s revelation we now bring you the third and final chapter of our Keltfest​ interview with Mark van der Stelt.

In this last part we talk some more about the future of Castlefest and other festivals and about the feel of the atmosphere. We talk about fantasy and historical TV shows and all things medieval. We hear how the wicker burning, an idea originally brought to Castlefest by Steve Sic (Omnia), has grown and has become an integral part of the festival and about the story behind the stage diving fruit. Of course the very talented Fieke van den Hurk (Orchus studio) is mentioned because of all her work for Castlefest and we end with some advice for people who have never been to Castlefest. Guess what that advice could be 😉

As said before, because of the length of the interview we cut it into three parts of which this is the third part. It’s audio only, but you can find the written text below the video 🙂

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (3/3)

At Keltfest 2015 we had a very open and heartfelt talk with none other than Mark van der Stelt, one of the driving forces behind Castlefest and everything Vana-related!

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we talked for almost 45 minutes about the festival scene, how Castlefest and other festivals came to light. We talked about the importance of music and creativity, and of course about the future!

Because Mark was so kind to take a lot of time for us we had to cut the interview into three parts, of which the third and final part is released today! Mind you, it’s audio only, though you can find the written text right here. 🙂

CeltCast: Is there any limit to this? Where do you see yourself in like ten years?

Mark: That’s a difficult question because there’s no goal in growth. So when I think of the future I only think about all the plans I have, all the dreams I still have, and how we could manage to make them true. So there is no view to the future, it’s always “this day, and what we are doing now, and what we like now, and what we would like to create.” We are only creating, that’s what we like most. I hope in ten years I will still be creating things.

CeltCast: Like the festivals, you are building on the past?

Mark: Yes, but that’s because of the atmosphere around “medieval”, medieval things, and nature of course.

CeltCast: What is your opinion on series like Game of Thrones or Vikings?

Mark: I like them. I like them a lot. And also other Fantasy films like The Golden Compass or Narnia and of course Lord of the Rings. We like fantasy and we like history, not in the historical correctness of it, but in the atmosphere around it.

CeltCast: Do you still get time to enjoy your own festivals?

Mark: Yeah, more and more. We have very very good colleagues and we have…our volunteers are the best. We still have quite a few volunteers since the first year, so they are already with us over ten years. At the festival, after about an hour after opening on the first day, then it’s good, and I can visit bands or enjoy the festival. And what I enjoy most is the smiles on the faces of the public, because that’s the goal.

CeltCast: Like just now, we were walking to a say more quiet area to do this recording and there were people just walking up to you and say “Oh my god, I haven’t hugged you today yet” and you allow them to and you just…

Mark: Well of course. It’s something we do together. We can’t make a festival where people enjoy if they are not willing to enjoy. The person who came up to me when we were walking, that’s a market salesman, and if market salesmen are with smiles behind their stands because they are enjoying themselves it reflects on the public, and then it reflects on the rest of the public. It’s a sort of snowball effect.

CeltCast: When talking about enjoying yourself at a festival, what’s with Castlefest and fruit stage-diving?

Mark: We have a very very good friend, Hans Rek, who is with us since the first Castlefest and never ever skipped a festival, and when we started to know him he only did his “nar” (jester, red.), he did only one act. And we said to him “we would like you to do something new, something different.” And he had so much ideas. And after a few years he came in a banana suit. And he asked me before “do you allow me to stage-dive in a banana suit?” I laughed my ass off, I found it the best idea ever. So yes of course you can! And the year after he made two grapes, and my brother and I were not asked to, no, we were pressed to get in that suit and stage-dive with him. And the public went wild. From that moment it was something special for us. We didn’t do it every year. We stopped doing it for a few years. One year Hans did it together with a couple of friends of his, but we got emails of public who asked us if we could do that again because it was so much fun. And from what I’ve heard it still is at Castlefest at the Sunday that people, when the last band is on stage, people are looking over the fences or between the fences if they are already seeing someone in a fruit suit. So it became a big anthem, it’s nice.

CeltCast: The other big anthem is of course the wicker, every Saturday. How did that come into being and how much of the pagan aspect of it is important to you?

Mark: If was an idea of Steve from Omnia. He told us that he, every year he did a wickerman burning, and that he would like such a ritual on Castlefest, and what we thought about that. And from that moment we created the wickerman. Mostly Steve at first because he made the pictures, how to build it. The first few years they helped with building it. So it became a real important part of the Castlefest Saturday, the Pagan night. And of course it’s an old religion, pagan ritual, but for Castlefest it’s more than that. We have visitors that are not only pagan, but they all have a special feeling for the wickerman, so it’s not only pagan anymore. People find closure, or new beginning at the wickerman with offering the thing they want to offer. So it’s very special for us, that’s even why we started to make it a sole ritual and not a part of the Omnia show.

CeltCast: It stands with music now, I think composed by Fieke van der Hurk from Orchus Studio.

Mark: Yeah. What we did, we composed it together with Fieke. Natasha and I can’t compose music but we had an idea of how it should be, emotionally, energy wise, and we took the videos of the last few wickermans and we made a sort of time-line from lighting it until it burned big and it went smaller again. And on that time-line we started creating the music. For us it’s real emotional. Some people call it just a tape but for us it’s so much more.

CeltCast: I’ve been in the crowd for ten years now, and I can tell anybody who disagrees that it’s way more than that.

Mark: Yeah, there’s so much love and also cries in composing this piece. And Fieke did a really really good job. Because that’s what makes Fieke such a special creative person. She can translate a feeling into a graphic design or a music design.

CeltCast: Yes, she does a lot of graphic work for you as well.

Mark: Yeah, almost all.

CeltCast: Well, I know she’s multi-talented. Of course she’s also playing in Cesair and she has her own studio. It’s wonderful to be able to build on people like that. Alright, well, I want to thank you for your time.

Mark: You’re welcome.

CeltCast: And before we leave, is there anything people should know, if they’re not already convinced that they should come to Castlefest this year?

Mark: I don’t know how to answer that question. The only thing I can say is that every person who I tried to persuade to come to Castlefest, when he finally came, after that it wasn’t even needed to ask again because everyone wants to stay. It’s such a special, magical place. I don’t know why, but it is.

CeltCast: That’s true! Just keep on at it! Thanks again, thanks very much.

Interview with Mark van der Stelt (2/3)

Mark And now for part 2 of our Keltfest​ interview with Mark van der Stelt, wherein he reveals BIG news about… well, have a listen! 😉

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we had a very open and heartfelt talk with none other than Mark van der Stelt, one of the driving forces behind Castlefest and everything Vana Events-related!

On this rainy but beautiful festival day we talked for almost 45 minutes about the festival scene, how Castlefest and other festivals came to light. We talked about the importance of music and creativity, and of course about the future!

Because Mark was so kind to take a lot of time for us we had to cut the interview into three parts, of which the second part is released today! Mind you, it’s audio only, though you can find the written text on our site. 🙂

And of course, stay tuned for part 3 🙂


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