Back to work…

I’ve been away on holiday for a few days in Tarbert, Loch Fyne. It really is a beautiful part of the Scotland. Many of beaches in the area are splendid with the top one we visited on the Island of Gigha, the first Scottish island to be bought by its community. The sand was white and the water very blue – great for paddling!


Before going on holiday Dave Francis and I were at the Distil England Showcase in Loughborough. The event was excellent and all the composers wrote fine pieces for the musicians. It was a long day for many of the folk musicians who must have been tired before the performance but you never have noticed it. The audience were very receptive and cheered loudly at the end. Check out to read about the musicians and composers. Dave and I were doing a bit of collective back slapping at the end as we realised that over the two showcases (Scottish one was in Stirling last October) we have 'commissioned' 14 new works from traditional musicians – not something that happens every day. Thanks to our funders PRS Foundation, Scottish Arts Council, Arts Council of England.


Since getting back from holiday I’ve had an interesting meeting with the BBC re possible televising of the Scots Trad Music Awards and I also visited the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) to schedule a Distil Extra Improvising Day for February 28th, 2008. This will be for the students of the Traditional Music Course. Free improvising is a great method for musicians to try out new ideas and learn about your instrument. I find it revitalising and very worthwhile although many people find listening to it very hard as it is extreme. My latest free impro CD is called Free_C, you can read about it at Foot Stompin’ or download it for free at


I’m currently writing this in a mingin hotel in Bristolshire. I’m playing in Thornbury tonight with Cascade which as usual will be great fun. Seemingly it is a beautiful village (so says the taxi driver). Pity I’ve got to come back here later…


Now I'm back and the gig was fantastic, one of our best yet. It's a great bunch of guys to play with – always interesting. Next stop Swansea University on Saturday.

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Long road to Inverness

Our Cascade gig in Aberdeen was interesting. I felt we all played well but I don't know if the audience quite knew what to make of it. The music can be far out at times and maybe more suited to jazz venues. Our hotel was also an experience! You had to walk for miles to get to your room. Once I walked the long walk and found the key didn't fit in the door – I had the wrong key from reception and had to go back down again.

The next day's drive from Aberdeen to Inverness was longer than I expected and I ended up late for my meeting with Highland 2007 – the roadworks at Culloden being the last straw. It was a fruitful meeting and things are looking good for the Scots Trad Music Awards on December 1st. Top influential band Shooglenifty have now confirmed their appearance which is very exciting. They'll be first on after the interval. I'll post the complete lineup soon. Also today I started to confirm the lineup for the Distil Showcase ( which takes place on October 26th in Stirling Tolbooth. If last years event is anything to go by it will be a fab event. I'll post more details soon.

Tonight I went to the Cultural Hustings at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. This was excellent. I feel the arts sector in Scotland is being recognised when newspapers (The Scotsman tonight) are enableing this type of event. The MC Joyce McMillan was a very informed and kept the whole thing running very smoothly. There were no massive surprises however I was very impressed with Colin Fox (Scottish Socialist Party) who I had never heard speak before. He made many relevant points and showed a great sense of humour. The Scottish election is building nicely and I'm looking forward to perusing many manifesto's in the next few weeks.

We're going on holiday next week to Loch Fine so I'll post when I get back.

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Relaxing Weekend

I'm just finishing a holiday weekend and spent the day getting my accounts in order. On Tuesday I drive to the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen to play in the Rootin Aboot festival with multi-cultural band Cascade ( I have a lot of fun with this band as it is quite a departure from a traditional music gig. The instruments featured are tabla, sitar, sax, fiddle and concertina which make some interesting combined sounds.

On Wednesday morning I head over to Inverness for a couple of Hands Up for Trad meetings about the Scots Trad Music Awards. The awards are coming together now. The big opening act this year will be the Unusual Suspects who will perform with a base of Highland musicians to celebrate Highland 2007. We'll also have Kathleen MacInness an Sylvia Barnes booked with the Kintyre Schools Pipe Band coming all the way up from Campbelltown.

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Holiday day

Not much to report. Had a nice day in the garden. Managed to uproot 5 tree roots from next to the fence. We went down to the local farm and checked out the day old lambs – the noise the made was amazing.

Re work – I had a discussion on next Saturday's Distil England Showcase in Loughborough Town Hall (see for more details). I also talked to Maeve MacKinnon on her imminent release on Foot Stompin' Records ( I finished off the night writing some bagpipe concerto. I've found this project to be quite a challenge mainly due to the lack of notes on the chanter (even though the Garvie Scottish smallpipes are chromatic giving me a max 14 notes). I've tried to write outwith the normal bagpipe style for the first and third movements while the middle section is based on a pibroch idea. I would be interested to know if anyone out there has written an extented piece for bagpipe and ensemble. Have a good weekend.

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Starting Entry Blog

A quick blog to test. Today has been a lovely sunny day. We took a trip up to Lamington Kirk to see what was inside and found a beautiful church with lots of interesting old features. The interest for me was that Robert Burns wrote an epigram entitled 'In Lamington Kirk'

"As cauld a wind as ever blew,
A cauld Kirk, and in't but few,
As cauld a minister's ever spak —
Ye'se a' be the or I come back!"

and we wanted to try and find it. We never but good fun all the same.

Also today I've been looking at budgets for the forthcoming Scots Trad Music Awards in Dec 2007 (Fort William) and writing some more of my Garvie Bagpipe Concerto. Clare and the boys are on their way home so I might try some weeding until then…


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