No need to flinch – there is not even a pinch of a Grinch in sight, despite the name of Claymore’s Christmas collaboration with Order Of Australia recipient Eric Bogle and the Glenbrae Celtic Dancers!
Quite questionably titled, A Grumpy Celtic Christmas aims to deck the halls with boughs of frivolity in its light-hearted ‘aversion’ to the usual Christmas conventions of commercialist cheer with grimacing grumpiness!
In true Scottish festivity, audiences who experience the spectacular showmanship of Claymore will be eager for the band to stay more and play more, given their infectious mood and lively tales; and as outrageous frontman William Hutton comically conveys, “Claymore literally in Gaelic means a Great Sword…and I’ve always thought that when music is strong, can be held onto firmly; and if used in the right way, can chop people’s heads off!”
The concept of grumpiness emerged from an instinctive remark made to Eric by William; and as William narrates, “Eric’s getting on in years, and he tends to be a bit bah humbug; so he’s the grumpy portion – that’s what we’re telling everybody… Eric’s persona just amplifies grumpiness; and we always have a little bit of a dig at each other – a friendly dig, of course; so I guess we’ll carry that one through the theme of the night!”
The programme of the musical celebration will involve “more well-known Christmas sing-along type songs so as everybody knows them and they can all join in. There’s a fair amount of normal material… and a smattering throughout the evening of Christmas stuff, just to maintain the theme of the night.”
Already in its fourth successive year, the notion began with co-creator Damien Leith, accelerating to become a “massive success”; and after a sell-out show, others appealed to William “Are you doing it again next year?…and we kind of looked at each other [realising] we’ve created a monster here!”
Born in merry Scotland, William believes the band has continued to evolve, incorporating stirring swoops of the Bodhrán; Lindsay Hodgson’s Didgeridoo and Grant Scoggie’s spellbinding Bagpipes in a spiritual and tribal fusion. William boasts “There’s a lot of talent there. We’ve got a miniature pipe band coming along as well… we couldn’t fit the whole band on stage because there’s far too many of them, so we’re bringing a cut-down version; so I’m sure everybody will enjoy that as well.”
A strong sense of national heritage is pervasive among Claymore’s performances, and as William expresses “it’s amazing how many Australians do have a connection to either Irish or Scottish heritage…it’s still quite strong in Australian culture. I think that’s one of the most amazing things about this great country of ours… it’s been a real melting pot”.
With trails of tartan decorating his microphone stand, William teases “Sometimes I wear my kilt, but not too often when I’m playing – it’s a bit heavy and sweaty to be running around in. I think I’d fall over and shock the audience!”
In summation of Claymore’s sprightly celebration, William philosophises “I just love Christmas; I can be a little bit bah humbug about the commercialism. We’re all losing track of the true meaning of it. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s still a great time of the year.”
When & Where: Geelong Arts Centre, Geelong – December 18.
Written by Renée N. Abbott