Just back from the Scottish fleadh

Just back from the Scottish fleadh in Motherwell. What an amazing amount of talent from our young musicians. Hosted by Taylor High School (surely the ugliest high school ever built – closer to a nuclear bunker than a school), there were hundreds of young people playing amazing tunes. I really enjoyed just entering the place. As you walked through the doors the music just hits you and as we walked the corridors to my son Charlie’s whistle competition, the quality of the musicianship in some of youngsters was breathtaking. The Ceoltas in Glasgow must be providing the majority of Scotland’s best young musicians. St Rochs school on a Tuesday night (where we go) is home to the Irish Ministrels branch. There are at least 120 young people from the age 5 to 20 there every Tuesday all playing the music. They all enjoy it but the thing I’ve noticed over the years of knowing these guys is that the kids all listen to traditional music. So many of the young folks I’ve taught over the years don’t listen to the music in their spare time which completely misses the point of playing traditional music. You’ll never be any good if you don’t listen it. You’ll never understand the nuances of what makes a great reel, song etc.

At St Rochs all the tutors are volunteers and they all work very hard for the kids. The main man is Frank McArdle. What a guy! He has given his life to teaching the kids music (and maths) for 30+ years. But more than that he has created and nurtured a generation of great musicians and invested in them a love and understanding of music. On a Tuesday night many of his original students are back with their own children and it all starts again with Frank leading the way. He needs an Award!

On another note Tinto Summer School is nearly full which is fantastic. If you would like more information check out www.tintosummerschool.com.

I heard an amazing piece of music yesterday by Arvo part. It was his setting of the Robert Burns poem My heart’s in the highlands. Check it out http://www.footstompin.com/public/forum?threadid=478930

Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 35

Listen to the Foot Stompin’ Free Scottish Music Podcast No 35.

Oringinal Transatlantic Sessions

Oringinal Transatlantic Sessions

Hi Folks,

We’ve had a busy few weeks with our Distil project. We had our annual residential weekend in New Lanark with tutors Ken Hyder, Stephen Deasley and Carina Normanssen and had a great time. You can read more at the link. On that weekend I also managed to video top Scottish fiddler Lauren MacColl and you can see the videos of her playing at Foot Stompin’ YouTube channel. You can hear and watch lots of amazing Scottish players.

Yesterday – also with Distil we hosted a Writing for Film workshop in Stirling Tolbooth. This is a project we’ve started to give Scottish traditional musicians the opportunity to learn from film composer Jim Sutherland. The musicians learn as they go and the process ends with them writing music to a film that is shown as part of the Scots Trad Music Awards weekend on November 28th. The workshop yesterday looked at the group trying to write a score to a Tom and Jerry movie. It wasn’t easy and the thought that came out of the lesson was the as writer you have to find the personality of the character(s) to make a good score. I’m looking forward to the next one in May.

I enjoyed making the podcast today. The first CD featured lots of musicians including Aly Bain and Jay Unger. The opening track (which I’m on!) has so much energy to it – I wish I remembered more about it! It was great to be on this TV show with so many amazing musicians. One of the things I do remember about it was beating virtuoso fiddler Marc O’Connor at snooker…

The Original Transatlantic Sessions Volume One (audio CD) by Compilation

Track – Far from Home


I think Jim Malcolm has one of the best voices in Scottish music. He is also one of the hardest working musicians. This is his first CD for a couple of years and I love the opening track Balley of Strathmore. This song by Andy M Stewart takes me right back to my childhood and listening to Silly Wizard. I remember the LP ‘So Many Partings’ so well and sitting to learn all the tunes from Phil and Johnny Cunningham.

The First Cold Day by Jim Malcolm

Track – The Valley of Strathmore


It good to see Alyth finally releasing a new CD. Her debut An Iomall was ground breaking in its arrangements and production. Alyth has been touring with the Chieftains lately and worth getting along to hear.

People Like Me by Alyth McCormack

Track – Nuair Bha Mi Og


I’ve known for Rachel Hair for a long time and it is great to see her moving to the top. Her harp playing is very distinctive and I like the sound she is making with her band. When I taught for the Edinburgh Feis on a Wednesday night – seems so long ago – we all used to go for pizza on the final night of term. There was often 10-15 of us in the restaurant trying to get discounts with (the kids) Young Scot cards and deciding whether to have the ice cream factory or not. Great days!

The Lucky Smile by Rachel Hair

Track – Back Home


I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’ll never forget my appearance on stage with Runrig to induct them into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. It was the simply the best experience ever. I’ve never had a crowd cheer like that, it was like a drug. In my next like I’m going to be a rock ‘n’ roll star!

10 – The Long Journey, Isles FM by Compilation

Track – Faieas Air an airigh – Runrig


I play this band often as I think they’re great. I love the rawness of their sound. I heard them last at Celtic Connections at the Old Fruitmarket. They were rocking with some interesting dancing on the stage. They’re about to have a major lineup change and looking forward to hearing their next sound.

Magnificent Seven by Blazin’ Fiddles

Track – Miss Johnstone