Last June we got some great news. We had received funding from Creative Scotland to help us make an album with our Rajasthani collaborators Dhun Dhora at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, and to also produce a documentary about the process. We should have been in celebratory mood, but our collective gut told us that there was something not quite right with our fiddle player Angus. Just over a month later we got the news we had been dreading. Angus was very ill indeed and the prognosis was dark: he wasn’t going to get better.
Shooglenifty gigs were being cancelled all over the place, our India trip was put on hold, and everyone was rallying round Angus and his family. When he died in October the outpouring of love from Shoogle friends and fans all over the world was quite overwhelming.
Thanks to Donald Shaw and everyone at Celtic Connections, we were able to focus our grief and the appetite for public tribute into a concert for Angus at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in January. 62 musicians – all people who had played with Angus at one time or another – came together for a gig that has already attracted legendary status.
Our manager was warned from the start that the concert should not over-run, and she had neatly programmed the show to finish at 10.30pm knowing that with the cast of characters on the bill, this was about as likely as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards travelling to a gig in the same car.
With half an hour to go there were parties going on in every dressing room backstage, fiddlers sessioning, mandolin players rehearsing, pipers warming up, Rajasthanis jamming with Galicians, and stories of Angus being shared in every corner. The documentary production crew, who had re-focused their energies into recording the gig, were squeezed into a backstage cupboard, and camera operators were taking position in the auditorium. Everything and everyone was where they should have been pre-show. And then, the fire alarm went off. So, at the time when the gig was due to start more than 2,000 people were standing in the street outside the Concert Hall.
Luckily gut wrenching time was kept to a minimum thanks to swift work by the fire brigade and everyone was back inside the building by 8pm. The joke of the night was that it was the ghost of Angus having a fly fag in one of the toilets that set off the smoke alarms.
The show finally began with an uncharacteristically seated Shooglenifty playing Adam Sutherland’s heartfelt new composition The Wizard, a tune inspired by Angus. The first half also included performances from our late fiddler’s niece Eva, his dad Aonghas, sister Fiona, representatives from various sessions he had been involved with over the years, and bands who wanted to pay their respects. The Shoogles and Duncan Chisholm closed the first set with a heartrending pair of tunes: Farewell to Nigg and Sileas. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. But from the moment the second half kicked off we were into party mode and there was just no stopping that juggernaut once it had started. As anarchic as the man himself, and every bit as spellbinding, the show finally ended with everyone on their feet chanting Angus’s name at 11.30pm. Numerous people missed their last train home, but since the after party went on all night this didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. It’s what he would have wanted …
Shooglenifty: A Night For Angus is available to stream or download on Vimeo on Demand. Proceeds from the video will contribute to the completion of a documentary about Angus and the band, with a percentage from each transaction going to Cancer Research’s work into prevention and treatment of oesophageal cancer.
The video of the concert includes 90 minutes of Shooglenifty’s performance from 21 January and also features the following players:
Laura Beth Salter
Dayam Khan Manganiyar
Latif Khan Manganiyar