Monday 17 June 2024

LISTEN: Stornoway - 'Excelsior' (Edward Nesbit and Tom Hodgson Rework)

Somehow, criminally, I haven't posted about Stornoway here yet this year. Let's fix that. It is a Monday night (almost) in June, after all (IYKYK.) They've a new acoustic version of Anwen on the way this week which I am very excited to hear having listened to Brian and Fyfe Dangerfield playing the track a few times at the London Wetland Centre during and after their album launch event there last year. 

For now, though, I'm enjoying this latest version of Excelsior, a reworking of the track by composer Edward Nesbit and my friend Tom Hodgson, a beloved member of the extended Stornoway touring party, featuring Sydney Wang on piano. The track was already beautiful, a highlight of one of my favourite records of the last few years, and this version is a stunner. Tender and poignant and somehow mournful and celebratory at the same time, I love it. 

I'm reading How To Read A Tree by Tristan Gooley at the moment (among far too many other books to admit) so trees are very much on the brain at the moment, and this song is about ash dieback, a fungal disease affecting our ash trees. The ash tree's scientific name is 'Fraxinus excelsior' (hence the name of the song) with excelsior translating from Latin to 'ever upward'. I think that the song is a kind of call to arms to do what we can to protect nature, to appreciate the wonders of nature around us - something that is at the heart of everything the band do. 

Talking about the track, Ed and Tom share: “When we first heard Excelsior, we were struck by its expressive beauty and lyricism, and immediately started to think of ideas for a new arrangement. Our version, with a new accompaniment inspired by romantic piano writing, attempts to capture the beauty of nature, as well as sorrow at its loss.”

You can catch Stornoway at a few more festivals before the year is out - all the info on upcoming shows here.

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