Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Peter O' Toole on bagpipes

Like the last person standing in Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers I stumbled across "Hero" by Family Of The year and I dig it. That direct melody, plenty of space, the steady build. I think I'd rather just listen than watch a video but here it is:

Still haven't seen Boyhood yet.

I am chuffed to sneak into the Top 10 here

Still no reply from David blinkin' Hockney though...


...Santa gave me Brian Blessed's memoir "Absolute Pandemonium" and it does not disappoint. A wee extract concerning Peter O' Toole:

"To everyone's astonishment O'Toole grabbed one of the bagpipes and commenced playing them brilliantly. There was no end to his talents. After huge applause, he bowed and threw the pipes straight through a glass window. It was the signal for mayhem..."

Here are some beautiful words from Tracyanne Campbell about her pal Carey Lander.

If you feel like chipping in a pound or two or spreading the word, Carey's Just Giving page for Sarcoma cancer research is here. (now over £85k raised...)

Thursday, 24 December 2015


I watched this and loved it. I remember the trailers when Channel 4 was just starting. I think I had just turned 12....

Oh and this was a great watch too. Roy Hudd's bit had me overcome with emulsion...

It's Christmas Eve as I type and we're over 2.5k plays for this. Yay.

I just completed music for an advert and the client is "over the moon" with the music - so yippee for that.

Hope Santa brings me the Brian Blessed autobiography I politely requested.

Carey Lander's Just Giving page has now raised over £84k for a good cause.

And if ever get the chance to see The Bay City Rollers at a sold out Barrowlands in the run up to christmas, I guarantee you will have a good time...

P'Tang, Yang, Kipperbang - uh.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Oh Yes I Did

On behalf of myself, Schubert & Mozart - hooray for Classic FM:

Yes, this got a wee spin this morning (well it IS almost January...):

The perfect stocking filler can be ordered here.

In other news I have been tweaking music for an advert...writing music for a documentary, yakking to some students about music business stuff...Oh and I went and saw this:

Highly recommended.

My Songwriting Workshop is back on 14th Jan 2016 for 10 x weeks. If you or someone you know fancies registering here's the link (Scroll to page 46).

Random excerpt from the Kenneth Williams Diaries:

Tues 26th Dec, 1967The phone has rung a lot - someone who knows the code. Three rings and start again, but I still didn't answer. There is an awful lot of this 'social chat' over the Christmas period, and I can't be doing with it.

As I type Carey Lander's Just Giving page has raised over £81.5k. Great legacy. Let's keep going...

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Frankie Sin

"Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" is a great read. Be warned there are more than 140 characters...

(I was asked to write something about my favourite Frank Sintra song - look here)

Last Tuesday there was a Creative Writing Showcase for students on the Glasgow Uni Open Studies courses. Great night with some good readings, and four of my students sang songs. (*pause for swell of paternal pride. Ok that's enough...*) The next workshop kicks off on Jan 14th. Register before the festivities. The perfect Xmas gift for the budding songwriter in your life. Scroll to Page 46 here.

I want Lance from Detectorists to be my pal. Yay for the Christmas special.

This week I met Dougie MacLean, Ricky Ross and had a chin wag with the great Karine Polwart. And I saw a bit of a debate in the Scottish Parliament where MSPs applauded speeches with claps (instead of mannered moans and grunts).

I keep listening to this:

Oh and here is Morricone talking about melodies.

I have been giving The Iskra String Quartet a wee listen.

And I am writing music for a couple of things.

And that is all I have to say.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Ronnie Rocks

So last Sunday I saw Ronnie Spector in Glasgow. (My pal Jeremy Chatzky, who also plays with Laura Cantrell, was leading the band with his bass guitar.)

Great, fun, entertaining show. Among other things she performed her version of this, which I heard first heard as a wet-behind-the-ears 17 year-old (16?) Boy Hairdresser:

(Man, Paul Cook's drums...)

I don't think our attempt to cover it but we made it through two verses in rehearsal.

Another highlight from the show was this ditty (Ronnie's groin thrusts over the lines "when we're making up" was something to behold):

If you get the chance to see "Spotlight" - I suggest you grab it.  Tom McCarthy is an amazing writer/director, IMHO.

My 10-week songwriting course at Glasgow University Centre For Open Studies has come to an end  (aww). The students gave me a nice spontaneous round of applause at the end of the last class (awwww!). Some of them will be singing at a Student Showcase event at the STUC building, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow on Tuesday 8th Dec - £5 Entry. It all kicks off at 6.30pm. There will also be readings from some Creative Writing students and stuff. Culture an' that.

The course is back on 14th Jan 2016 for 10 x weeks. If you or someone you know fancies attending a Songwriting Workshop, here's the link (Scroll to page 46).

Thinking about that special Christmas present? Relax. Click here.

I am dipping into The Kenneth Williams Diaries. Wed 5th Dec, 1973:

"To Basil Jellicoe Hall for the Old Folks' Christmas Party. the mayor came in and said to me 'You're doing a grand job' while I was in the middle of a particularly dirty story to a lady of eighty."

I bought the new Ludovico Einaudi album. Going into a shop and buying a CD; quaint, huh?

In other news Carey Lander's Just Giving Page has now raised £78k for cancer research - look.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

28th Nov

This week I saw "Bridge Of Spies"...

I liked it. A lot.

In fact the last three BAFTA Scotland screenings have all been corkers: the above, Room and Carol.

I am right up for a bowl of this sometime too:

So I am working on some music for a thing. Hush Hush and all that.

Oh - the intro to this was in a pub quiz the other night and I thought, "Man that sounds goood"...

(That's the same pub quiz where our answer to "What animal has the most teeth in its mouth?" was "A shark eating a crocodile" didn't get a bonus point for Astonishing Hilarity. There's no justice.)

Just caught up with Peepshow and Catastrophe - double thumbs up. Toast Of London is waiting in the wings.

And tomorrow I'm going to see Ronnie Spector. Whoop!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Another Fond Farewell

Today we said goodbye to Stewart Cruickshank - a lovely, lovely man.

(Iain Anderson recently paid fond tribute here to his former producer on BBC Radio Scotland).

There were lots of stories, memories and music. Phil Cunningham played a beautiful air called "On The Edge Of The White Rock" on solo accordion and, for a moment, seemed to stop time. If only. I have been to too many memorial services lately.

Carey Lander's Just Giving Page has now raised over £75k - so that is something positive.

There are two weeks left of the Songwriting Workshop that I am teaching at Glasgow University Centre For Open Studies. It has been a rewarding experience for me and the attending students seem to have been getting a lot out of the experience. The next class kicks off in January if you know anyone interested. (Scroll to page 46 here).

I saw a sneak preview of "Room". Great film. Amazing performance from a child actor:

I'll sign off with this. Lindsay Hutton reminded me today that Ben Vaughn played Maryhill many moons ago: I was drumming and Mr. Cruickshank, among others, was jiving to the likes of this...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Jonathan And Bill And Bill And Stewart.


On Sunday I went to the BAFTA Scotland Awards. Lovely to see Bill Forsyth presenting Bill Paterson with his award. I had been meaning to watch "Comfort And Joy" for ages. It's not quite "Gregory's Girl" - but then what is?

Then last night I heard about the passing of Stewart Cruickshank - a former radio producer at BBC Scotland who helped SO MANY Scottish music folks. A lovely, enthusiastic, kind, warm, big-hearted man.

So anyway, I watched "Comfort And Joy".

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Oh! Carol

Just when I thought Classic FM had forgotten all about me, I got another play for "January Waltz" from Katie Breathwick. Yay.

This week I saw a BAFTA Scotland preview of "Carol", directed by Todd Haynes, scored by Carter Burwell. For some reason I particularly loved it. Cate Blanchette was particularly great, in my humble opinion. Ho many more times can I use type 'particularly'?

And here's the piece - inspiringly called "piece 6" - which I curated for You Can't Get There From Here at Sound Festival (thanks, BBC Scotland) - performed by Ensemble Thing.

And just to lower the tone before I go - my favourite extract from Tom Shield's Dairy...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Co-composing and Spying

Have a listen here from around 1 hour and 8 mins to hear a report on "You Can't Get There From Here" - commissioned by Sound Festival, me and 5 other composers

And you can currently hear all six pieces in their entirety here.

Lucky you.

I saw the first episode of "London Spy" last night. I do like the slow-burning pace and sense of space...

And episode 2 of The Hunt was another cracker.

Right - off you go.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Philip Glass, Don Costanzo and Classics Unwrapped

Last night in Glasgow I saw Maki Namekawa perform 20 x Philip Glass etudes.
Amazing performance.

Here is a clip of her playing No 6...

This week I had lunch at Don Costanzo. I recommend eating there before the Don retires at the end of the year. Yummy risotto. And his tiramisu is almost as good as mine.

Predictable TV highlights this week were Catastrophe and Detectorists (nice interview with the latter's writer/director/star McKenzie Crook here).

Anyway, enough of the pre-amble. Be sure to tune in to BBC Radio Scotland's Classics Unwrapped at 9pm tonight to hear a report on "You Can't Get There From Here" - the co-composition I worked on with Sonia Allori, Drew Hammond, Oliver Searle, John De Simone and Colin Broom; commissioned by Sound Festival and beautiful played by Ensemble Thing (and conducted by Tom Butler).

Tinkety-tonk, old fruit.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Belle And Simple Sebastian Minds

On Monday I went to the Save The Children gig at Glasgow's Armadillo organised by Stuart from Belle & Sebastian. 

Every B&S album seems to have a stand out track (State I'm In, I Fought In A War, etc.) and when they started their set with this it - hit the bullseye...

An hour later Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill swanned onstage, to be backed by B&S, and RAISED THE ROOF. "I Promised You A Miracle" and "Don't You Forget About Me". JK's voice and his lion-in-winter-sporting-a-funeral-directors-crombie stage presence filled the place. Cue collective energy rush. If Jim had declared, "Who wants to be saved?" I'd likely've been off down the front banging a tambourine.

And all for a good cause.

Simple Belle & Sebastian (blowing) Minds

I enjoyed Catastrophe last night too.

If you have Sky I can recommend "Prisons: First & Last 24 Hours" and not just because I did the music. (But partly because I did the music.) Episode 2 tonight (Wed 4th Nov).

And speaking of good causes...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Nov 1st

Hello November.

Like the melding of the seasons, there is an existential comfort to be had in turning on BBC One on a Sunday night and watching an amazing new wildlife documentary narrated by David Attenborough (now aged 89)....

My favourite Halloween joke: 

Small child: "What's Dracula's favourite fruit?"
Us: "We don't know - what's Dracula's favourite fruit?"
Small child: "An apple."
Small child's mum: "A nectarine."

The Scotsman has a nice write up here of Sound Festival including a favourable mention for "You Can't Get There From Here", composed by me and five composer pals and performed by Ensemble Thing.

Message ends.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Randy New Man

Last night I saw the maestro Randy Newman at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Amazing show. Third and best time I've seen him, although they've all been great. What a catalogue of songs! And yet the song that won it by a nose, for me, was a brand new one called (I presume) "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?". Brilliant. Hope it's on the new album coming next year.

So it's Halloween. Beware...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Oct 28

If I had Sky I would be watching this.

A terrible programme saved only by the brilliant music (I jest).

Both Catastrophe and The Detectorists are on TV this week. Good.

And "You Can't Get There From Here" (see last blog post) just got a nice mention in this Herald review.

I came across this Spotify Compilation that I made ages ago. 10 cover songs I played drums on live with Alex Chilton. I still have nightmares about the Chuck Berry one...

Carey Lander's Just Giving page has now raised over £71.5k for a great cause.

Monday, 26 October 2015

You Can't Get There From Here - Premiere

On Friday I went up to Aberdeen for the In Cahoots conference which ran during Sound Festival - Scotland's Festival of New Music.

I saw a Film + New Music workshop, various live performances, and I also piped up during the conference Conclusion + Talk. The point I wanted to make was that us shy Scottish people need to push ourselves forward and out of our comfort zones if we want to create new opportunities. (I am sure glad I attended New Music Scotland's inaugural meeting last year (where at first glance everyone except me seemed to be a lecturer in classical music composition) which led to my being accepted on a composer residency at Cove Park, which led to me being one of the group of six composers who were commissioned to co-write "You Can't Get There From Here" (YCGTFH) for Sound.)

Here is a candid (*chortle*) photo of us six composers, looking nicely composed, prior to the event at Aberdeen Arts Centre:

left to right: Drew Hammond, John De Simone, me, Oliver Searle, Colin Broom and Sonia Allori.
Here is a picture of  Colin Broom, introducing the premiere of YCGTFH, to be performed by the wonderful Ensemble Thing. Excellent conductor Tom Butler has his back to the audience (very rude):

And here is a picture of the audience just after the performance:

Just kidding.

It was a great experience to hear our notes finally played by great musicians. I learned a heck of a lot from the process and I would certainly do it again.

BBC Scotland recorded the show so more about that in a bit.

If you think you see me walking about the streets of Glasgow but you're not sure, I'll be the one wearing this:

Monday, 19 October 2015

Willy Wonka, Prisons, etc.

I saw Willy Wonka in the good ol' GTF on Sat morning. Hooray for Gene Wilder, etc. And the uncredited David Seltzer. Apparently Peter Ostrum who played Charlie never made another movie. Fancy that.

Here is an article on "Prisons: First And Last 24 Hours" - an 8-part documentary series produced by STV for Sky1. The first episode airs on Wed 28th October. I was very glad to work on the music for this; well made, grown up TV.

Here is a link to me talking very fast on BBC Radio Scotland's classical music show "Classics Unwrapped" about my involvement with "You Can't Get There From Here". A couple of tracks from my album got a spin:

No picture? Surname incorrectly with spelt with a large 'd'?!
BBC Scotland would be hearing from my solicitor, if I had one.

This evening I got to sit in on Ensemble Thing's rehearsal. Very exciting.

Cerys Matthews paid a nice tribute to Carey Lander on Sunday.

£68k and counting - look.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

17th Oct

I do like the colours of Autumn.

On Sunday 18th Oct (tomorrow as I type) I will be a guest on BBC Radio Scotland's "Classics Unwrapped"  yakking about my involvement in "You Can't Get There From Here" - a commission for  the Sound Festival involving 5 other composers. It is a kind of Pass The Parcel trust exercise now written and currently being rehearsed by Ensemble Thing. It made me write music in a new way and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I will be in Aberdeen for the premiere performance on Saturday 24th Oct, 1pm, at the ACT.

On Tuesday I saw and enjoyed "Brooklyn". Carey used to come to BAFTA screenings with me. I kept wondering what she would have thought of it.

Over £65.5k raised here so far.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Peter Sellers Naked


This week I attended a quietly inspiring BAFTA Scotland masterclass with Richard Brown, Scottish-born producer of True Detective.

I gave my first Songwriting Workshop class at Glasgow University's Centre For Open Studies - which seemed to go OK.

I cycled along the bank of the River Kelvin in the pitch black and didn't get murdered. So that was good.

I got the thumbs up for some of my music for a Prisons documentary - on TV next year.

I composed my final contribution to this.

I read this fascinating New Yorker article about the Lockerbie bombing.

I started to get my head around Logic Pro X.

I watched and enjoyed "Misfits - The Story Of Indie" on BBC4.

I updated my blog.

Monday, 28 September 2015

New Soundtrack Album, etc.

A wee while ago I provided the soundtrack to the acclaimed feature-length theatrical documentary "Building Jerusalem" (New Black Films). It's an engaging, highly watchable look at England's historic 2003 World Cup win in Australia against Australia. Star kicker Jonny Wilkinson is a particularly, um, interesting talking head - obsessive, determined and heroic. In whichever order you please.

Working on this project was a great experience, as was the red carpet premiere at the Empire, Leicester Square in London a wee while ago. 

The DVD was released a couple of weeks ago.

Now the soundtrack is available to order here on i-tunes.

Tell your pals.

Meanwhile I've just had a nice couple of days in North Berwick where I stumbled across a unique rock formation on the beach.

On the way back to Glasgow I paid a visit to Edinburgh Gallery of Modern Art where there is a Douglas Gordon exhibition List Of Names (Random) which apparently comprises a list of the people the artist can remember ever meeting.

I found a certain singer/songwriter lurking amid the many:

Before I go, the amazing Carey Lander has now raised close to £43k for Sarcoma UK.

Right, I'm away now. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Jekyll And Hyde

Last night, courtesy of BAFTA Scotland, I went to a preview screening of Charlie Higson's Jekyll And Hyde, a 10 hour ITV series that will run from late Oct. 'Twas fun - rollicking, unsubtle, campy fun. Think BBC's Sherlock + Indiana Jones + something else that will come to me after I have published this and can't be bothered editing it.

I keep listening to this short piece by Mendelssohn. Lovely.

In Bob news...

Bob! 18 CDs?! Argh!!

I'm finishing up my contribution to "You Can't Get There From Here" - a collaborative co-composition with 5 other composers (left to right in picture above: Sonia Allori, Colin Broom, Drew Hammond, John De Simone and Oliver Searle). It will be premiered at the Sound Festival, Aberdeen on 24th October with a performance by Ensemble Thing. It's been a fairly amazing process for me; making me write music in a different way. There's a wee bit more info here. Exciting.

I am also working on music for a documentary about prisons. (Not using a lot of penny whistles or slide trombones for this one.)


Carey Lander from Camera Obscura has now raised over £40k for Cancer Research. Amazing. I know Carey has taken a lot from the support and generosity of folks out there. Feel free to contribute/share...

Monday, 21 September 2015

21 Sep

I am working on music for a thing that I can't tell you about. Hush hush and all that.

Last week we paid a family visit to the Glasgow Art School and looked at some work by the graduates. My 5 year-old took the opportunity to draw something for the visitor's gallery:

I went to a great night of Scottish short films at the GFT last week. If you get the chance to see "United We Will Swim Again" it's lovely, short doc about the campaign to save Govanhill Baths.

Two years ago yesterday (as I type) I got the initial idea for this:

More info and music at www.FrancisMacdonald.com

I am enjoying dipping in to this:

Plenty of passages and phrases to make one smile out loud. For example; "I gently kissed away the remains of a nut cluster from her upper lip."

Carey Lander is closing in on £40k for her Sarcoma UK Just Giving fund. Please donate or share here.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Fake Cappuccino

For my birthday dinner I went to Don Costanzo. I had been meaning to go there ever since it relocated from Buchanan Street (it used to be The Caprese). I have a memory of eating there with pals about 25 years ago and the Don himself brought out a fake cappuccino and pretended to spill it over a couple of the guests. One of the waitresses told me he still does it from time to time.

DC was out of the kitchen swanning round the restaurant every 10 minutes or so daring you not to like the food, giving customers a telling off for eating too much bread, kissing female customers farewell, haranguing others into eating the beautiful cannelloni he had just prepared (he brought the baking tray through from the kitchen as proof), etc. Today I discovered that he is going to retire. Dec 31st will be the last day of the restaurant. I recommend getting a taste of this Italian-Glaswegian institution before they close the doors for good. Aww.

A tiramisu on Saturday

Then it was on the good ol' GFT For "Irrational Man" which I enjoyed. I didn't love it. I could pick a few holes if I felt like it. But I enjoyed it.

Here is an amusing Bob Dylan story.

You can now order "Building Jerusalem" - featuring my soundtrack - on DVD here.

As I type it is Sept 14th. In 6 days it will be appropriate to post this:

And finally, Esther: another reminder for Carey from Camera Obscura's Just Giving Page.

Be good.

Friday, 11 September 2015

11th Sept

This week I saw "The Closer We Get" - a lofi homegrown Scottish doc. Highly original and compelling. Go see it...

Today is my birthday. Here's one of my birthday presents:

Here is a (six year old) artist's impression of my pavlova birthday cake:

Here is my cake:

I suppose I'm too old for presents (*cries of "Not at all!", "Don't be silly, Francis!"*), but if you want to make a gesture you could donate to or share this page:

Carey https://www.justgiving.com/Carey-Lander