Christine Hanson: The Cremation of Sam McGeeThe Cremation of Sam McGee
a superbly atmospheric travelogue in music, words and pictures
Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee is a poem that charms, chills and amuses on the page. It's a complete work in itself. So how to convey its snowy atmosphere and epic sledge runs in music was quite a challenge when cellist Christine Hanson, pictured, decided to adopt "Sam" for her Celtic Connections New Voices commission in 2005.

It was a challenge she rose to brilliantly. Using a small folk orchestra with the added casting masterstroke of having Michael Marra narrate, she created a piece that succeeded in transporting the audience every mile of the way.

Now Hanson, who is more usually found in the supporting cast - she's played with Martin Carthy, Karen Matheson, Justin Currie and Eddi Reader among others - steps out front to lead Sam on another trip from the frozen Yukon frontier to the fire.

It's a superbly atmospheric travelogue in music, words and pictures, as the Arctic icescapes of fellow Canadian Ted Harrison lend an appropriate backdrop. No need to wrap up warmly, though, as things ultimately hot up for the hero and Marra's telling of the tale leaves a definite glow.
ROB ADAMS, Herald Scotland
  Christine Hanson: The Cremation of Sam McGeeThe Cremation of Sam McGee
The imagery of snow and ice, hope and struggle is unmistakable
Robert Service's melodramatic work, The Cremation of Sam McGee, must be one of Canada's best-known poems, especially in the West where its gold-rush setting and frozen imagery ring almost true.We learned its internal rhymes in school, and loved the heroic absurdity of its logically entailed train of events. It's quite a treat to hear this epic again, not in the plodding singsong of our childhood recitation but as a deadly serious narrative that Michael Marra speaks in an earthy Scots brogue. And that's not even the best part.

Edmonton-born cellist Christine Hanson has composed a Cremation of Sam McGee suite, with six movements interspersed among the spoken words. Hanson's cello evokes the beautifully bleak setting of Service's poem, and the effect is enriched by the ornamentation and accompaniment of a diverse ensemble including trombone, guitar, mandolin, violins, bass, piano, accordion, and percussion. The subtle accents of trombone and percussion are especially effective. The imagery of snow and ice, hope and struggle is unmistakable, especially as simultaneous backdrop to the voice. But Hanson has composed much more than just a soundtrack to accompany a short poem. As the suite progresses, the score is liberated from the original inspiration and finds its own way--reflective, meandering, playful, and satisfying.

Hanson studied jazz performance at Grant MacEwan College, classical music at the University of Alberta, and has worked with folk musicians in Scotland, where she now lives. All those influences are apparent. The poem is delightful to hear once or twice. But the music has more enduring appeal. Happily, after 39 minutes of words and music, the CD then repeats 31 minutes of just the instrumentation. Sam McGee was an effective inspiration to this album, and an amusing introduction, but the tonally adventurous, totally listenable music alone is a splendid achievement by this young composer/musician.
  Christine Hanson: The Cremation of Sam McGee"The Cremation of Sam McGee", Robert Service - The Live Show
Celtic Connections: New Voices: Christine Hanson
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Star rating: * * * * *
Celtic Connections 2005's final afternoon concerts conspired to show both an intriguing way forward for the sticky subject of extended compositions in traditional music.

Cellist Christine Hanson's New Voices piece took its inspiration from Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee and succeeded brilliantly, not only in bringing the poem to life but also in taking the listener all the way across the frozen landscape.

With Michael Marra reciting Service's words with typical declamatory relish, the music took up the narrative, now dancing along behind the huskies pulling McGee's carcass, now evoking elements through inquiring cello and trombone lines.

There were moments of macabre musical humour to match the text and back-projected illustrations and although the dance tunes played by Hanson and fiddlers Bruce McGregor and Gillian Frame were Scottish in essence, their treatment - with the rhythm section sometimes using a loose and subtle, jazzy swing - placed it in the poem's American locations.

Most impressively of all, though, was how Hanson achieved a real band sound with the octet. This, and the attractive quality of composition, made the piece as a whole the sort of thing even a worn-out reviewer could have sat through happily all over again.
ROB ADAMS, The Herald, Glasgow Scotland

Sam McGee - The Live Show
a chilling, enthralling and entertaining work
A brilliantly atmospheric travelogue in music, words and pictures, Christine Hanson's Sam McGee presentation celebrates both the Scottish birthplace of Yukon poet Robert W. Service and his greatest creation, the irascible, ill-fated and fascinating Sam McGee.

Exploring the Scottish tradition, the members of the Sam McGee ensemble - featuring some of Scotland's finest traditional musicians drawn from top bands including Blazin' Fiddles, Shooglenifty and Session A9 - begin by showcasing their individual and collective talents before the first half closes with the unique, gravel-voiced Michael Marra fronting the full, eight-strong band.

Hanson's musical adaptation of Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee switches locations to the frozen Yukon frontier where the cellist's original compositions take the audience across the snow in tandem with this quirky, tragicomic tale.

Narrated with conspicuous relish by Michael Marra and with the celebrated Canadian artist Ted Harrison's beautiful Arctic icescapes projected as a backdrop, The Cremation of Sam McGee is a chilling, enthralling and entertaining work whose music opens a window on deeper themes of friendship, promises made and eventual rebirth.
ROB ADAMS, Herald Scotland

Kissin’ Is The Best Of A’ (Brechin All Records)
Bruce MacGregor, Christine Hanson & Friends
The “& Friends” tag can often be applied to album and concert billings to give an impression of informality that turns out to be bogus. Not here, though, as fiddler Bruce MacGregor and cellist Christine Hanson gather around the studio mics with guitarist-melodeonist Tim Edey and pianist Brian McAlpine to make music that conveys the immediacy of a backroom session – or saloon barroom session in the case of the country-flavoured waltzes – while also achieving the grandeur appropriate to Scott Skinner’s pibroch-influenced Dargai and MacGregor’s own Lament For Captain Simon Fraser. It’s also a kind of pocket guide to Scottish fiddle music history, with the suitably ancient sounding and obviously heartfelt Gin Ye Kiss My Wife I’ll Tell The Minister and a rarely heard slow strathspey included in a programme that captures all four players’ expressiveness and creativity as well as demanding that the furniture gets shoved back for the superbly rugged and exuberant dance set The Rant.
ROB ADAMS, Herald Scotland

Dave Formula & Christine Hanson
The Organ of Corti
Eclectic release from Manchester enigma
Renowned for his contributions to Magazine and Visage, keyboardist and composer Dave Formula joins forces here with Christine Hanson (strings, vocals, electronics), to create a masterful album of idosyncratic contemplations with bonus traces of funky blues, jazz and humour. Mistaken For A Dream is soulful and heartwarming, while Angel of Merci is suspenseful. The contrasting tracks are highlighted by contributions from Buzzcocks and Magazine vocalist Howard Devoto, Noko (Apollo 440), trumpeter Giorgio Li Calzi, singer/writer Michael Marra and guitarist Pat McCarthy.Top drawer.

The Organ of Corti
It's titillating, intriguing and at times just plain wonderful
It's always nice when a hero of yester-year suddenly pops up in an unexpected and surprising way with a project. In this case it’s Dave Formula, the man behind the legendary British post- punk band Magazine and a founder of Visage.

In recent years however, he’s been busy as a producer as well as making a particular mix of jazz and ...electronics. He now is working together with the Canadian Christine Hanson on the new album - The Organ Of Corti. Released on the adventurous Off Belgian label, which focuses on modern jazz, neoclassical, avant-rock, experimental beats and female vocals.

Brief research shows that Hanson is a gifted cellist with a penchant for experimentation, working with a variety of artists, both live and on various recordings. On this new album she is singing alongside her cello and electronics, while Dave’s keyboards, voices and electronics, are all thrown into the heady mix. The two together combine to make a surprising mix of jazz, avant-garde, neoclassical and dark cabaret.

They get help from Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks, Magazine), Norman Fisher-Jones aka Noko (Luxuria, Umbrella, Apollo 440), respectively, spoken word and guitar. Several other prominent musicians feature on trumpet, percussion, vocals, guitar and bass.

The music unfolds like a nocturnal adventure that lies somewhere between reality and dream. They seem to outright run away from the once leading, Made To Measure series on the Crammed label. It's titillating, intriguing and at times just plain wonderful.

Consider a reference to a mix of Strange Attractor, Tuxedomoon, Hector Zazou, Nils Petter Molvaer, Giacinto Scelsi, Tin Hat Trio and Michel Banabila. You get a very specific combinations of styles as the two make their way through uncharted territory, creating all sorts of surreal and wonderful creations that sound very attractive and drag you into extreme areas of the imagination
It is a beautiful ode to a mysterious and silent night falling.
Jan Willem Broek for the Dutch magazine Caleidoscoop
  Cellist wins praise for adaptation of Service poem
Edmonton Journal
Poet Robert Service, who was born in England to Scottish parents, took great inspiration from his years in Canada's Far North to pen classic works like The Cremation of Sam McGee. It's a poetic irony, then, that Alberta cellist Christine Hanson wound up creating her musical adaptation of the famous Service poem in Scotland. More>
  Bruce MacGregor, Billy Riddoch, Christine Hanson: The Strathspey KingThe Strathspey King
Dogstar Theatre Company
“…a colourful roller coaster of huge successes and dramatic failures…Billy Riddoch brought the character alive in vibrant and sympathetic fashion, fuelled by Hamish MacDonald’s sensitive and often very funny script……Scott Skinner’s music was also in good hands. Fiddler Bruce MacGregor and cellist Christine Hanson performed his tunes live throughout, and were worth the admission money on their own…This was a piece of imaginative and beautifully realised music theatre honouring a flawed genius of Scottish music.” The Herald

Touchwood Iain Fraser & Christine Hanson
"Iain Fraser performs Scottish fiddle music from the 18th and 19th centuries—from slow airs to jaunty jigs—as Christine Hanson contributes freshly composed cello parts (not based on the original bass parts). The result is a refreshing mix of the traditional and the modern. The set culminates in a monster eight-tune medley performed in a Cape Breton style and inspired by the fabled Buddy MacMaster, uncle of fiddler Natalie MacMaster."
Strings Magazine.

Iain Fraser, Christine Hanson: TouchwoodTouchwood Iain Fraser & Christine Hanson
"Subtitled 'Scottish fiddle music from the 18th & 19th Century', but forget the twiddly-dee twee image of drawing room and ballroom fiddle politesse; this is an album of sultry strathspeys, throbbing cello and calculated flashes of silk stockings! Supreme musicianship, perfect clarity, and inspired creativity make this one of the best Scottish fiddle CDs ever, and certainly the sexiest country dance music for a couple of centuries! Fiddle, cello, and sensuality!"
Music In Scotland.

Iain Fraser & Christine Hanson Touchwood
"Supreme musicianship, perfect clarity, & inspired creativity make this one of the best Scottish fiddle CDs. and certainly the sexiest country dance music for a couple of centuries!"
Eagle Music
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