Councillor’s music wins crowd’s vote

Richard Lewis and Andrea Baker. Picture: Toby Williams
Richard Lewis and Andrea Baker. Picture: Toby Williams
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Richard Lewis – SNP councillor for Colinton and Fairmilehead – treated an appreciative audience to a fine evening of classical music at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church last night.

By day, Edinburgh City Council’s convener for culture and sport is more likely to be found behind a desk than behind a piano. However, across 70 entertaining minutes, Lewis demonstrated he knows just as much about tickling the ivories as he does about ticking boxes on council forms.

A one-off Fringe performance, Lewis’s programme focused on the links and influences (however tenuous) Scotland has had on some of the world’s most celebrated composers.

Beethoven’s Ye Shepherds Of A Pleasant Vale/ Highland Harry, for example, is drawn from the Scottish folk tradition, whereas Debussy’s La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin is literally about a young Scots woman running through the heather.

Supported by mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker, the George Walker arrangement of Burns’ My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose might have had more in common with Frank Zappa than the Bard. However, a “four-hand” duet with Lewis’s piano teacher, William Alexander, added some extra zip to proceedings.

While he appeared slightly nervous talking to his audience, it’s at the piano where Lewis truly feels confident.

If he missed a note, then it wasn’t apparent. And he became more animated as the evening wore on: a furious, key-slapping Verdi score resulting in Lewis having to shake his wrists in mild pain.

And to prove that this wasn’t an entirely “stiff” occasion, both Lewis and Baker encored with a swinging jazz version of Almost Like Being In Love from the musical Brigadoon.

Whether Lewis is a better politician than musician remains to be seen. However, on last night’s evidence, the audience appeared to give his musicianship their vote.