TRUSADH – KENNETH MCKELLAR
Thursday 30 December at 9pm on BBC ALBA
He did for Scottish song what Pavarotti did for Opera, bringing it to the masses with unequivocal poise and purity of tone. Kenneth McKellar, who died earlier this year aged 82, leaves a musical legacy that few could hope to replicate. As 2010 draws to a close, a moving television tribute celebrates the life and work of this favourite son of Scotland, the nation’s kilt-clad ‘Great Tenor’, composer, and self confessed patriot.
The hour long BBC ALBA documentary ‘Trusadh: Kenneth McKellar’ produced by MacTV, delivers a stirring musical journey peppered with tales from showbiz friends such as River City’s Johnny Beattie, motoring top man Jackie Stewart, and the renowned singer Anne Lorne Gillies, who leads the tribute with her moving narration. We also hear from friends and family as well as the Gaelic and Scottish musical community. A range of stories, warm recollections and anecdotes are shared offering a portrait of an often understated and underestimated talent from working class Paisley who rose to being a musical maestro.
The programme takes a journey through his colourful career, from his early spine-tingling classical arias and famed rendition of Handel’s Messiah to his trademark Scots Folk Ballads which he brought to an international audience. His countless contributions to television and comedy, including the surprising revelation that he once wrote a sketch for the Monty Python team, are also celebrated.
Johnny Beattie, who formed a comedy partnership with McKellar, said: “To entertain people like he did with that glorious voice and of course the comedy aspect of his career too: you can leave no finer legacy.
“He wasn’t the usual gregarious show business type but once you got to know Kenny you realised he was a truly great man.”
McKellar’s daughter Jane, speaks honestly about her father’s life which was characterized by an unerringly humble approach to fame. She reveals the family man behind the many colourful album covers, the devoted father who refused an OBE, shied away from interviews and even spurned the idea of a fan club.
‘He was offered an OBE but in his own independent spirit actually turned it down,’ she says. ‘He tended very much to buck the trend and to make decisions which ultimately some may say had a negative effect on his career but for him that wasn’t important at all. That kind of recognition was something he didn’t strive for.”
Here was a man whose commitment to Scotland over-rode all, and though never a fluent Gaelic speaker, the musicality of the native language influenced his interpretations of the traditional songs that he was best known for.
Kenneth’s daughter Jane, said: “Throughout his life he never ever forgot the fact that he was Scottish, a ‘Paisley Buddy’, and that was something he was very passionate about, even when he was living abroad towards the end of his life.”
The programme enlists the help of voice expert Professor Chris Underwood, of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, who guides viewers on a journey through some of McKellar’s most moving work, examining the qualities that set his voice aside.
Professor Chris Underwood said: “It’s as if with a great singer you can see the expression on their face, even when they are just listening, and that shows how communicative he was as a performer. At the end of the day he knew what singing was for and it was to light up people’s lives and that’s of course what he did.”
Trusadh: Kenneth McKellar will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on Thursday 30 December at 9pm with a 30 minute programme titled Kenneth McKellar – Scotland’s Great Tenor being broadcast on BBC Scotland on Sunday 2 January.
Picture caption: Kenneth McKellar and crew filming Road to the Isles
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NOTES TO EDITORS
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BBC ALBA is run by MG ALBA in partnership withthe BBC. MG ALBA is the operating name of Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gaidhlig (Gaelic media Service). Find out more about MG ALBA and the partnership at www.mgalba.com.
Contact: Gary McQueen