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”.
THE BIRTHDAY POEMS has been released on CD with 24-page libretto and is also available on these digital platforms: Apple Music | Amazon | Bandcamp | Spotify | Soundcloud | YouTube. A limited number of autographed CDs are also available.