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Tommy Smith

Edwin Morgan

Edwin Morgan
The first Scots’ makar’, or national poet of Scotland, Edwin Morgan (b:1920) and I (b:1967) shared the same birthday, April 27th, and I never forgot to send him a card. Although we were many decades apart, we collaborated on 55 poems over a decade, encapsulating broad themes like the bestiary, Beasts of Scotland; the history of evolution, Planet Wave I & II; an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo into a third-stream concoction; Monte Cristo; a history of Scotland’s famous people, The Sons & Daughters of Alba; a song for the kids of Glasgow, Song for Glasgow; and a work for Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth, The Millennium Suite.

A week after Norman MacCaig’s funeral at the end of January 1996, I asked my friend Morvan Cameron, who had introduced me to MacCaig, if she knew any other great poets, and gladly, she knew plenty. Soon, I was sipping tea and nibbling scones in a luxurious Glasgow flat with another legend, Edwin Morgan, who we all studied in high school; remember ‘In The Snack Bar’? After getting to know each other’s backgrounds and intentions, with Morvan keeping a close eye, as it was her flat, Edwin decided to give it a shot with me. Our next meeting was at the Gandolphi Café in Merchant City with Phil Hobbs from Linn Records and Derek Gorman from the Glasgow Jazz Festival. We were there to discuss my next Linn recording and festival concert premiere, but more importantly, the theme of our collaboration. We skirted around many ideas, then Edwin said, “how about a bestiary?” I knew he had already written many beast poems like the Loch Ness Monster Song, The Bear, The Blackbird, The Dolphin, and The Chinese Cat, but many beasts were still out there for us to depict. Together we decided on 10 beasts from our country, Scotland, that we could capture in words and music. It was already the beginning of February 1996 and we were working faster than a bullet. The way we collaborated was fast a furious. Eddie would complete a poem on his famous typewriter and send it to me via fax machine; I’d read it, reply and begin writing the music for sextet at my piano. This process lastest a few weeks until all 10 works were complete. In those days, all I had was music. My deadline was tight as I had the studio session booked in London on the 25th and 26th of February 1996 at Olympic Studios.

Poems & Music

1996 Beasts of Scotland – Toured the UK
Released on Linn Records

  • Red Deer
  • Salmon
  • Midge
  • Wild Cat
  • Wolf
  • Conger Eel
  • Seal
  • Spider
  • Golden Eagle
  • Gannet

1997 Planet Wave
Premiered at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Town Hall, Recorded on BBC Radio w/Edwin Morgan
Toured again with the SNJO in 2020 with actor Niall Grieg Fulton

  • The Beginning [20 Billion B.C.]
  • The Early Earth [3 Billion B.C.]
  • The End Of The Dinosaurs [65 Million B.C.]
  • In The Cave [30,000 B.C.]
  • The Great Flood [10,000 B.C.]
  • The Great Pyramid [2,500 B.C.]
  • On The Volga [922 A.D.]
  • The Mongols [1200-1300 A.D.]
  • Magellan [1521 A.D.]
  • Copernicus [1543 A.D.]

1998 Monte Cristo
Toured in Scotland with the Paragon Ensemble and actor/singer Jeff Leyton

  • The Dungeon
  • Mercedes
  • The Abbe
  • The Plot
  • Father & Son
  • Monte Cristo
  • Four Men
  • The Puppet Master
  • The Revenge

1999 Song For Glasgow
Written for the School Kids in Glasgow

  • Song For Glasgow [Song for a City]

1999 The Millennium Suite
Premiered in the Kennedy Centre by Cleo Laine and John Dankworth

  • The Millennium Suite

2000 The Sons and Daughters of ALBA
Premiered at Glasgow Jazz Festival w/Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw, & Michael McGoldrick
Gilas Boclé, Tom Bancroft, Tom Skinner, and Baptiste Boclé

  • The Glen of Tranquility
  • Madeleine Smith [1835-1928]
  • Mary Queen of Scots [1542-1587]
  • St. Tenew [6th Century]
  • St Columba [c.521-597]
  • John Muir [1838-1914]
  • Robert Burns [1759-1796]
  • Burke & Hare [1792-1829; c.1790-1860]
  • Finella [995]
  • Janet Horne [d.1727]
  • Helen Adam [1909-1993]
  • John Knox [c.1518-1572]
  • Jenny Geddes [c.1600-c.1660]
  • William Wallace [c.1274-1305]

2002 Planet Wave [part 2]
Recording on Evolution, Spartacus Records 2003
Toured throughout the UK with John Taylor, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Bill Stewart, and John Patitucci

  • The Juggernaut [1600 A.D.]
  • Easter Island [1722 A.D.]
  • The Lisbon Earthquake [1755 A.D.]
  • Darwin In The Galapagos [1835 A.D.]
  • Rimbaud [1891 A.D.]
  • The Siege of Lennigrad [1941-1944 A.D.]
  • The Sputik’s Tale [1957 A.D.]
  • Woodstock [1969 A.D.]
  • The Twin Towers [2001 A.D.]
  • On The Way To Barnard’s Star [2300 A.D.]

2009 Planet Wave [part 3]