On tour with Sarah Slean!

In June 2012, we were delighted to be asked by Canadian songstress Sarah Slean to perform with her at the TED Global Conference in Edinburgh. It was a short performance of just two of her songs, which were such fun to play, so when she asked us to go on a mini-tour of Glasgow, Dublin and Holland in January of this year, how could be say no?!

The tour kicked off in our home town of Glasgow, with rehearsals bright and early on the 19th. I picked up Sarah, who had just flown in from Paris, in my wee Fiat 500 which she was very excited about, and Fiona had the coffee ready to rumble on our arrival. After a quick catch up and caffeine hit, we began rehearsals with the songs we had learnt for TED, and we were reminded just how beautiful Sarah’s music is. She is such a great singer to work with and is so inspiring! After a few hours of rehearsal, we had nailed all the songs for that evening’s gig, and we made a quick dash to a beautiful wedding at The Vu in Bathgate. We have always loved the setting of this venue, but it looked even more stunning today with the light dusting of snow and frozen lake. Our highlight of the wedding was the excellent rendition of Give Me Oil in my Lamp, which has always been Fiona’s favourite hymn!

We ended the reception with some Lady GaGa, and headed straight to Stereo for soundcheck for the evening’s performance. At soundcheck, we met Dan, tour manager and sound engineer. As soon as we met him, I said to Fiona “He is the first person I have ever met that makes you look short”. And it was true… We managed to squeeze in a quick dinner and change, and after our backstage moral boost and “Goooooooo Band” chant, we took to the stage at 9.30, opening with California. Time flew so quickly, and before we knew it, the show was over! Sarah performed an encore called “My Eyes and Your Eyes”, which I fell in love with straight away, then we joined her for the final song, Sound of Water. The Glasgow crowd thoroughly enjoyed the gig, as did her Canadian fans,who had travelled from far and wide to see her. It was straight home to bed for us afterwards as we had a very early start the next day to make it to Edinburgh for rehearsals with Stanley Odd to prepare for our Celtic Connections gig the following Wednesday.  It was so exciting to hear a twelve piece string orchestra playing with a hip hop band. It may sound like a bizarre mix, but worked surprisingly well! The one probem we knew we would have would be converting from hip hop to Sarah’s music for that evening’s gig! After rehearsals, we jumped into the “Steel Mobile” and drove straight to Edinburgh airport to catch our flight to Dublin. After a wrong turn or two, we made it to the airport just in time! We always look forward to flying as a quartet, purely so we can laugh at the shenanigans that go on with the cello! We once had a cello engineer to strap Mr Charlie Cello in to the seat! No such luck today though.

On arrival in Dublin, we met our driver, Gerry, who spent the entire journey from airport to venue explaining to Sarah and Dan (tour manager) what Father Ted was, and telling every joke from every episode! It was quite entertaining though, as was a nice welcome to Ireland. The venue for tonight was Whelan’s, a lovely wee venue on Wexford Street (Annemarie and I spied that Mumford and Sons had also performed here…). It was a lovely bar with a venue upstairs with an open fire and long island ice tea on tap. Who could ask for more? Sarah was taking part in a Q&A before the gig, so we explored the club above the bar. It was designed in the style of a 1950’s flat, with the most excellent curtains and wacky wallpaper, complete with framed prints from a 1950’s playboy calendar! It was here that myself and Annemarie met Jesus, or at least a statue of Jesus with someone else’s face sellotaped on top. Just before showtime, we changed into our Dreamboats (our matching lacy numbers) and met Sarah for our backstage chant before going on. The Dublin crowd were mesmerised by Sarah’s voice and it was lovely to play to such an  attentive crowd. We left the stage as Sarah performed My Eyes and Your Eyes, and this time we partook in some backing vocals backstage, which Sarah later insisted should be included in the performance…we’ll see about that… It was lovely to see Annemarie’s mum and dad and a couple of her friends at the gig, and we had a drink and a catch up with them afterwards. We were also loaded up with Irish chocolate, which got us through the long journeys in Holland over the next few days!

It was another 7am start the next day and we were heading for Amsterdam. After a small delay at the airport due to the weather, we made it to Amsterdam at 1pm, picked up our van, and began the 2 hour drive to Veendam in the North of Holland. It was a very picturesque journey in the snow, and Dan was a trooper driving in those conditions! When we arrived in Veendam, we headed straight to the studio to record some tracks for a local radio station. After laying down some great recordings, we headed to the hotel for some dinner, a Hoegarden and an early night. Rock n Roll!

Tuesday was the first day we got a lie in and slept til 10. We loaded up on a breakfast of cheese, ham and fruit with chocolate sprinkles on top, hopped in the van, and headed south again for Lieden, a small city just outside Amsterdam. Tonight’s venue was Q-Bus, a really cool gig venue and rehearsal space. Tonight’s gig was being recorded for radio so sound check took a bit longer than usual, but the promoter had got in a Chinese buffet for dinner and saved the day! Whilst we were getting ready backstage in our dressing room, Annemarie and I found Rudolph. We are considering starting a blog of “things Cat and Annemarie find”. The venue filled up really quickly and we began to get really sad that this was our last gig on tour with Sarah. But she insists she will have us back! I thought this last gig was the best of them all, and the crowd were loving Sarah! The highlight of this one for me was “Life”, a rock song which she arranged for string quartet specially for this tour. It gave me goosebumps when we were playing it, and knew I had to download it as soon as I got home. When we got off stage we were all a little bit emotional that it was over, but we in agreement that is was such a great tour and that we would jump at the chance to tour with Sarah again.

The next morning we had to wave goodbye to Sarah and Dan as we were heading back to Glasgow for our Celtic Connections gig, and they were off to Paris. Lucky them! If any of you ever get the chance to see Sarah live, just do it. Hopefully we’ll see you there!