We are here to journey into space with Mary Casio the 86 year old protagonist of Hannah Peel’s electro brass concept album Mary Casio: A Journey to Cassiopeia, an odyssey in seven parts. Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket is perhaps a fitting venue for Hannah Peel’s live rendition of Mary Casio, in collaboration with the twenty-nine person Tubular Brass band, the building being a fusion of old and new in its acknowledgment of the past as both a way forward and memory base.
Peel kicks off her Celtic Connections appearance with a short introduction to her half of the show (Tubular Brass will go onto to perform Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells after the break with Peel returning to close by singing Bowie’s Life on Mars with them). We are reminded that we all keep on dreaming, a reference perhaps to her previous album Awake But Always Dreaming and it’s exploration of dementia, place, memory and imagination but also to the underlying political resonance of Mary Casio as an antidote to troubled times and minds. She references the miners’ strike in relation to brass bands and talks of the lights on the miners’ helmets forming an underground galaxy of stars in the dark, a compelling image for an averagely aged fifty-five plus almost sold out Glasgow audience.
With the band somewhat blandly receding stage left and Peel and her synths sparkling explosively stage right with a screen for visuals as the sonic meeting point in the middle, the juxtaposition is set and the journey wherein worlds meet in raw edges, clashes and moments of melancholy and pure entrancement begins. Peel’s energy flies around the stage, even when momentarily distracted by some apparent tech issues with her synth. She limbers up in anticipation of the journey, indeed noticeably physically ramping up for her spectral vocals on Sunrise Through the Dusty Nebula.
The live rendition really starts to earn its necessity on Andromeda M31 when lighting and visuals meld in a way that allows the audience to really be transported to other places by the clashing dance of the accomplished brass and synths. The red auditorium lighting from this point lends itself much more than the prior blue to a really immersive experience; with the brass on Life is On The Horizon providing movingly pure and keening melancholy. Archid Orange Dwarf jolts us relentlessly yet apprehensively with joy and we land finally in the in the multi-layered Planet of Passed Souls where Peel plays music box as her thirteen year old choirboy grandfather sings in a perfect fusion of time, connections, life known and unknown.
Hannah Peel has proven the unexpected is not only possible but a life affirming experience.
For more on the Celtic Connections click here.