It’s been some time since my last up-date for various reasons; it’s been a busy Summer but the main problem was that my website had been hacked and it took me a considerable time to sort it out. Therefore due to it having been an extremely busy Summer there’s a bucket load of stuff to tell you about, so this is likely to be a very long blog.
The last event in May was a guest spot at the wonderful Portsoy Folk Festival on the picturesque Banffshire coast. Along with my wife Shona and traditional North-East singer’s Joe Aitken and Geordie Murison we performed at the Friday night concert in the town hall which also featured the Emily Smith band. It was a great concert with a wonderful sell out audience. The following day I led an enthusiastic group of fiddlers in a fiddle workshop, covering things like bowing techniques, the character of Scottish fiddle music and the teaching of a couple of tunes by ear. A good weekend.
The fortnightly music sessions began once again at the Coilacriech Inn near Ballater, beginning on Thursday the 11th of June and finishing on Thursday the 3rd of September. These sessions are always popular with the musicians and with the locals and visitors alike and as well as being well supported by local artists, we saw visiting musicians and singers from England, Ireland, the USA and all over Scotland. The Coilacriech Inn must be in the running for having the most picturesque location in Scotland, overlooking the river Dee and the Deeside hills. On the subject of music sessions, the Aberdeen Arms session in Tarland is more popular than ever with superb contributions from regulars and visitors alike and just like “Coilies” we’ve had people from all over the world dropping in by for a tune or to listen, including my friend Mike MacNintch from up-State New York who had been attending the World pipe band championships in Glasgow with the Catamount pipe band from Vermont.
On Friday the 12th of June I headed to the Keith Folk Festival where I was a guest for the weekend. As well as performing at concerts throughout the weekend I adjudicated at the fiddle competitions where there were some great performances. Highlight of the weekend for me was the set I performed with Shetland fiddler Brian Gear at the bowling club concert on the Saturday night; I consider Brian to be one of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians and one of the nicest chaps you could meet.
On Saturday the 20th of June I had the first orchestral performance of my “Hielan Symphony” at the Deeside theatre in Aboyne and performed by the Deeside Orchestra. There had been a couple of rehearsals prior to the event and the concert itself was without the finest performance of the work by the orchestra. Earlier in the day I was interviewed on a part of an old drove road near Tillyhermack farm by BBC radio Scotland reporter Claire Whyte and that interview was aired on “Out of Doors” with Mark Stephen a few weeks later. The first half of the evening was a performance of mainly my own compositions accompanied by my wife Shona on keyboard and after a short interval the orchestral performance took place to great audience acclaim. It was a momentous evening for me having such an ambitious musical work performed and I hope to have it recorded in the future.
I’d a few interesting run-ins with the media this summer starting with a visit to Tarland by well known actress Dame Penelope Keith who was filming a new series of her popular channel 4 series “Hidden Villages”. After an interview on Tarland and Deeside’s musical tradition the production team filmed a session in the Aberdeen Arms featuring local musicians and the music of the Tarland Minstrel “Peter Milne”. It was a very interesting experience and I was very impressed by Dame Penelope who was absolutely lovely. It should be airing in September or October. Funnily enough, BBC Scotland’s gardening show was filming an episode of it’s Summer road show around Tarland at the same time with Jim McColl and the team taking gardening questions from the audience in the MacRobert Hall; a few “weel kent” faces were in the audience and it was great to see the local district featured on TV. My own recording of “The Beauty of Cromar Before me” was featured in the broadcast and although the programme has already been aired it can still be seen on the BBC iplayer.
On Friday the 3rd I gave a small private performance with Shona at the lovely wee Migvie Kirk which is about 4 miles from Tarland. It’s always a pleasure to perform here as the acoustics are stunning but one of the guests was Aberdeen’s most famous daughter “Annie Lennox” of the Eurythmics, the Tourists and a stellar career which has seen her win 8 Brit Awards and an Oscar for best song in the final “Lord of the Rings” movie. She was absolutely lovely and fascinating to speak to about music and she even gave us a rendition of the song “The Bonny Lass o’ Fyvie”; she should record an album of Scottish folk songs. After finishing at Migvie it was into the car and an overnight drive down to Cairnryan for an early ferry to Ireland to take part in the “Willie Clancy Music Week” in County Clare on Ireland’s West Coast. It’s an amazing and almost overwhelming week of predominantly Irish traditional music in Irish piping legend Willie Clancy’s home town of Miltown Malbay. Willie died in 1973 and the festival began shortly after and after a handful of quite festivals it’s never looked back in is arguably Ireland’s premier traditional music event. Although there are concerts, “Willie Week” is predominantly a music school for traditional musicians and as an example of how busy it is, there were 400 students in the fiddle classes with 30 tutors.
On returning from Ireland it was off to the Stonehaven Folk Festival for a concert of North-East artists in the town hall which also featured Jonny Hardie, Fraser Fifield, Shona Donaldson and the North-East Folk Collective. The audience were treated to a superb night of music and song followed by a ceilidh dance. Next day I led a fiddle workshop on the North-East fiddle tradition for about 15 fiddle players. Later that day I headed to Braemar for a one off event for the Braemar Highland Junior Games, where I performed with local cover band “Bingo Wings” when they supported Scottish legends of rock, “Big Country”. The local band did wonderfully well and received a superb reception from the audience, and I have to say I really enjoyed the gig. Big Country have been around since the early 80’s and have sold millions of records and I’ve been a fan of them since I was about 15 so it was great to hear hits like “Look Away”, “Fields of Fire” and “In a Big Country” live in Deeside.
Along with guitarist and singer Alastair MacDougall I’ve been performing in the restaurant at the Deeside Inn on a weekly basis. It’s a very laid back affair and a very enjoyable way a spend a couple of hours and I think this will continue till the end of October at least.
On Friday the 31st of July I held a free concert at the “Burn o’ Vat” view point, featuring piper Matt Milne, Alastair MacDougall and fiddler Maurice Duncan of Oban who was judging at the Aboyne Games fiddle championship the next day. I held this event a couple years ago and it’s a very special evening in a stunning location overlooking Loch Kinord. Although not as sunny an evening as last time, it was a lovely night to perform out of doors and we must’ve had an audience of around 50 people. Saturday the 1st of August was the Aboyne Highland Games and this year saw the biggest entry in the fiddle classes and an overall excellent standard of performance. This years senior champion and “Chieftain’s Fiddler” was George Davidson of Tarves who has won it three times in a row; well done George.
There’s a new film version of Compton Mackenzie’s classic book “Whisky Galore” in production at the moment with filming taking place in Portsoy’s 17th Century harbour. I was involved in advising on music for the wedding scene and along with accordionist Fergie MacDonald and whistle player Jamie Fairlie performed during a very long shoot. Luckily the outdoor shot had lovely weather and during the day I met and talked to many of the excellent cast which included Eddie Izzard, James Cosmo, Gregor Fisher, John Sessions, Iain Robertson and Kevin Guthrie; lovely folk all and a very interesting day.
Near the end of the month I performed a couple times at the beautiful Invercauld House near Braemar and I was one of the stewards for the senior piping classes at the Lonach Gathering in Strathdon. A unique event in the Games calendar and well worth trying to catch if you haven’t been before.
On the 23rd of August I was a guest at the Innerleithen Folk Festival in the Scottish Borders and we were blessed by some stunning weather, great hospitality, a great concert and beautiful scenery in what is often an overlooked part of Scotland. Shona and I were joined by Mike MacNintch on the Scottish small pipes before he headed back to the States the next day.
Sadly on Friday the 28th of August, along with Shona and Barbara Anderson I played before the funeral service of local SNP councillor Joanna Strathdee who was a Universally respected and loved Huntly citizen. A packed church heard some brilliant eulogies from friends and colleagues. She’ll be a much missed member of the community.
Finally, to check out from this massive blog, I’ve posted quite a few photos and videos to my Flickr site which will give a good illustration of wht the summer’s been like for me – andersonpaul463