The harmonious trio of Elliot Cole, Fiona Gillespie and the Makaris ensemble present a fascinating audio-visual trip for the senses in ‘Tam Lin’, a Celtic-Baroque folktale rock opera set on All Hallow’s Eve. Produced by Kevin Eikenburg and Four Ten Media, this period video was filmed at St. Mary’s on Grand in NYC.
This 17th-century ballad and fairy tale from the Scottish Borders is newly told in original music by Cole and Gillespie. A modern adaptation of this historic story of transformation and love, it has come to life through this folk-rock cantata – a half-hour long musical drama, weaving traditional Celtic, ancient and modern musical styles and instruments.
‘Tam Lin’ tells the story of Jenny, a girl with an unplanned pregnancy who defies social expectations to turn a bad situation good, pursue an unconventional love, and then perform a daring rescue of her beloved from the hidden world.
Elliot Cole is a composer, singer and “charismatic contemporary bard” (NY Times). He scored the film ‘Evolver’ (executive director Terrence Malick), he has written for and performed with Grammy winners Roomful of Teeth, Grammy nominees A Far Cry and Metropolis Ensemble, among others. His percussion music, which has been performed by 250+ groups around the world, evokes “sparkling icicles of sound” (Rolling Stone). Currently on faculty at the The New School and Juilliard, he is also Program Director of Musicambia at Sing Sing, where he runs a music school for incarcerated men.
Fiona Gillespie is a classically-trained soprano, folk singer, instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger. Born to a family of Celtic musicians, she sings with professional chamber and choral ensembles around the nation, while touring with her folk band The Chivalrous Crickets. She also collaborates with colleagues in the folk, early music, and contemporary music worlds. Commercial releases with Makaris include ‘Wisps in the Dell’ (2019), ‘Tam Lin’ (2021), ‘The Galant David Rizzio’ (2022), for which she was noted for her, “responsive lead vocals… warmth of tone… musicality, [and] comic defiance” (Early Music America).
Formed in 2018 and named for a royal court troubadour of medieval Scotland, Makaris explores Scotland’s broad musical heritage and culture. Their debut album ‘Wisps in the Dell’ (2019) was met with critical acclaim. A study of continental classical composers’ takes on traditional Scots tunes, it also featured the premiere recording of several arrangements by Beethoven, alongside those of Schubert, Weber and Haydn. Their 2022 sophomore album explores a bizarre 18th-century musicological myth, whereby many popular Scottish melodies were implausibly attributed to the 16th-century Rizzio (secretary and consort to Mary, Queen of Scots, who was brutally murdered while in her service).
“Growing up in the Celtic music tradition, one of my favorite stories was the Ballad of Tam Lin. Like countless singers and storytellers before me, I’m pulled in by the weave of elements in this story. As a child, I loved the evil fairies, animalistic transformations, and a heroine in a plaid. As an adult, I’m also drawn to the rich symbolism, cultural history, the issues around societal standards and pressures that still resonate… and a heroine in a plaid! The more I understood everything contained in its 43 verses, the more complex it became to interpret easily. It challenges me, as I think it has – and as the best fairy tales do – all of us who have been sharing it for centuries,” says Fiona Gillespie.
“I asked my dear friend Elliot to join me (and guide me!) in setting this ballad as a cantata-style dramatic piece. We composed it together, weaving our tunes, chords and concepts into one, and then brought it to our friends, the great medieval, baroque and folk musicians of Makaris, to bring it to life.”