Today, CHRIS CONNELLY and MONICA QUEEN present their collaborative album THE BIRTHDAY POEMS on Jnana Records. This album is a fictionalized account of the romance between celebrated Scottish poet and author George Mackay Brown and his muse Stella Cartwright, as well as their friendship with Edinburgh-born poet Stanley Roger Green, spanning three decades.
Named for the poems that George would write for Stella every birthday until she died, THE BIRTHDAY POEMS is a song cycle based on the relationship between these highly significant cultural figures of 20th-century Scotland. Stella’s voice is sung by Monica Queen throughout this colossal and historically significant 18-track album. The album is released the year in which the literary world celebrates the 100th birthday of Orkney-born poet George Mackay Brown.
This album represents a sometimes overlooked but very important part of Scottish culture. Stella had a deep relationship with Mackay Brown, which turned into a friendship enduring from the mid-1950s until her untimely death in 1985. It was not always a joyous one–neither of the pair were particularly happy, and their love of whisky did not help.
Video for the spoken-word track “Let Us Be Hushed” by Kimberly Blessing
“While she had relationships with many of the poets who would haunt the bars of Edinburgh’s Rose Street during the ’50s and early ’60s, her love of literature, art and culture was insatiable. She was never given credit or encouraged in her own art and expression. I hope that this album illuminates the beautiful treasure that she was, and how hugely significant she is to Scottish literature of a certain era,” says Chris.
You can hear more from Chris about the inspiration behind and the making of THE BIRTHDAY POEMS in A Conversation with Chris Connelly, an online event on Thursday, July 1st, 2021 at 7 PM CDT (midnight UTC on the 2nd). Tickets for the event are available on Bandcamp.
Reception of this new work has been enthusiastic. Writing for Louder than War, Neil Hodge called THE BIRTHDAY POEMS a “stunning alternative folk masterpiece”, further stating, “if anyone listens to this album and fails to be touched by the music, and the story of Stella, Stan and George, they have no heart or soul”. Fiona Shepard in The Scotsman gave the album four stars, calling it “a surprise gift”.
You can now pre-order THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, Chris’s song cycle about the romance between STELLA CARTWRIGHT and GEORGE MACKAY BROWN, and their friendship with STANLEY ROGER GREEN. The album will be released digitally and on CD with 24-page libretto by Jnana Records on June 15th, 2021. Pre-order on Bandcamp
Today the second single from THE BIRTHDAY POEMS drops, debuting MONICA QUEEN (Facebook, Twitter) as the voice of Stella Cartwright. “My Father Took Me Everywhere” introduces Stella and the unique upbringing which would lead to her becoming “the Muse of Rose Street”. As a young girl attending Mary Erskine School for Girls in Edinburgh, Stella would ravenously devour literature, art and music. On many nights her father would take her to bars, parties, the theatre and other social and cultural events where she would meet and charm Scotland’s cultural elite.
The single is introduced with the release of a video by Iain W. Mutch (Walkerandwilliam), in which Monica and partner Johnny Smillie re-enact scenes from a 1964 film short by Margaret Tait called PALINDROME, which features some of the only known footage of Stella.
To learn more about Stella Cartwright and the story behind THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, visit The Birthday Poems website.
Tae the Poets! tells the story of how Orcadian writer GEORGE MACKAY BROWN was coaxed out of his shell to join the “clamjamfray of poets” (so-called by Stanley Roger Green) who congregated at the Abbotsford Bar on Rose Street in Edinburgh, while also being a rousing toast to all Scottish writers.
Just yesterday, Spill Magazine premiered the video, and we were honored by their words: “This track has a feel good rating of 10, while actually capturing a point in Scottish history that few know about. Who are these personalities that inspired this album? Track by track, Queen and Connelly shall unveil why this story is so captivating and motivating. What we can say for now is that this track is brilliant and a delightful surprise. It has us eager to hear more from this duo, willing to learn as the reveal these highly relevant personalities in Scotland’s recent history.”
The video is an amazing creation by Sons of the Silent Age collaborator, MATT WALKER, and photographer DERICK SMITH. It was filmed at GMan Tavern in Chicago and the handcrafted glasses which Chris sports in the video were provided by State Optical Co.
What are you waiting for? Grab a pint or a wee dram, start the video or song, and raise your glass tae the poets! Slainte!
Chris’s new album, THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, will be released on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Jnana Records. The album draws on Chris’s Scottish origins and interest in Scottish literary history by presenting a fictionalized account of the romance between STELLA CARTWRIGHT and GEORGE MACKAY BROWN, and their friendship with STANLEY ROGER GREEN.
The album is performed by Chris Connelly and singer Monica Queen and features Levon Henry, Dave Eggar, Blake Collins, and Phil Faconti. Long-time collaborator Chris Bruce has produced the album.
One year ago we said goodbye to Bill Rieflin. Since then, with your support, the CC community has raised nearly $1,200 for the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute, which provided care and support for Bill. Today we have another opportunity to raise more funds, to further support their good work.
Back in September, on what would have been Bill’s 60th birthday, Chris and Jessica Gallo released an arrangement of Bill’s song Prayer, from the album Largo.
Largo is long out of print — but Chris has managed to find six copies of the CD and some promo photos to make available to fans as a fundraiser. Here’s how you can get one of these items and support the cancer institute:
Silent auction: Three copies of the CD are up for auction to the highest bidders. Winners in the US and Canada will have the option to make their donation directly to the foundation in order to qualify for a tax deduction.
Raffle: The other three copies of the CD will be raffled off — “tickets” are just $5 each.
Bandcamp: The promo photo sheets (see photo below) will sell for $10 on Friday, April 2nd (the next Bandcamp Friday). Look for them around 7 AM CDT!
Auction bids must be received by 12:01 AM CDT on April 1st, 2021. Raffle tickets will be available through April 1st, 2021 with the raffle taking place on April 2nd. Winners/buyers will be notified on April 2nd by email; they will have the option to have their CDs or promo photos autographed (alas, by Chris only). Our aim is to share the love (or Largo) as widely as possible, so we’ll only accept the highest bid from each bidder, and regardless of how many raffle chances purchased, you can only win one copy of the CD. Use the buttons below to bid or buy your raffle ticket!
Update: The silent auction has now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted a bid!
Update: Raffle tickets are no longer available. Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket!
If you wish to make your own tax-deductible donation, please visit the Virginia Mason Foundation Donate Page and select “Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute” from the Designation drop-down. After clicking the button, complete your personal and payment details, and indicate that the gift is in memory of Bill Rieflin in the Tribute section.