Tinto Summer School, RCS Popular Music Short Course, Folkworks Junior Summer School

A couple of weeks ago I made my first visit to the Tinto Summer School – in the lovely surroundings of Wiston Lodge – teaching flute and whistle, and mixed instrument group alongside Dave Milligan. It was a totally brilliant week: a funny, inspirational and generous group of young people, great team of staff and tutors, fancy dress ceilidh, the infamous Room Tidy, sessions, assorted confectionery… We finished on the Friday with a sharing concert; you can listen to performances from all the groups here. Thanks to Hands Up For Trad and everyone involved for a great week!

I’ve also been tutoring on the inaugural Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Popular Music Short Course over the past few days, with Phil and Louis from AF and Graeme Smillie (of Olympic Swimmers and The Vaselines fame). We’ve been working on cover versions and brand new original songs, arrangement and accompaniment, delving into the songwriting process, plus plenty of discussion on career options, life as a musician, recording, show production and the wider music industry. Tomorrow I’m doing a vocal workshop which will hopefully cover some diverse ground and get everyone singing (and I’m going to sneak a Joe Heaney recording in too…)

Then in August it’s back to join the team on the Folkworks Junior Summer School. This’ll be my third year in a row and it’s always a joy. My fellow tutors this year are Jim Molyneux, Ruth Ball, David Wood and Miranda Rutter. There are still places left at the Youth Summer School: do not delay!

Alistair Anderson & Northlands

Over the past few months I’ve been spending a bit more time in Northumberland, rehearsing with a brand new band, Alistair Anderson & Northlands. Sophy Ball, Ian Stephenson, Alistair and I have been really enjoying putting together some songs and tunes with a North East of England flavour, and we’re playing our first ever concert this Thursday 16th July in Allendale Village Hall. We’ll also be appearing at Whitby Folk Week on Friday 28th August – more info on that one soon.

City To City Poetry

Last week I was involved in a brand new project with Highlight Arts and the British Council, as part of the Alchemy Festival in Glasgow and London.

Three poets from Lahore (Kishwar Naheed, Afshan Sajjad and Khalid Javaid Jan) and four from Glasgow (Jim Carruth, Vicki Husband, Kathrine Sowerby and Gerry Cambridge) workshopped and created new translations (or ‘transcreations’) of each other’s work. Meanwhile, Sara Kazmi and I were in the next room bringing together a musical collaboration using songs, text and tunes from our respective folk and lyrical traditions. We performed at the Mitchell Library and Southbank Centre, and had a wonderful time. I loved singing with Sara! Plans are afoot for a project reunion. Thanks to everyone involved for a great week, and fingers crossed it’s not too long until the next time.

ALCHEMY

March happenings

It’s been a busy old month. First up were Admiral Fallow’s three album preview shows in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. It felt great to play the new songs live and be touring again (even though it was only for three days this time around). Here‘s a lovely review of the Manchester gig.

Then I spent a week in Northumberland playing ten solo concerts in care homes and day centres for the Live Music Now scheme – lots of lovely moments, singing, percussion, foot tapping and dancing!

Live Music Now

I arrived back in Glasgow on 14th March, and rehearsals began in earnest the following day for The Glasgow New Music Expedition‘s first launch concert at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. With Richard Greer as Artistic Director and Jessica Cottis at the conducting helm, we premiered six new works by Scottish-based composers last Saturday night. Here‘s a positive and thoughtful piece from Ken Walton about the ensemble and its first outing.

It was then time to put the final touches to the setlist for my first solo headline gig in a while, which took place at The Music Hub, Penicuik. Organised by Burnt Out Records, a music label and promotions agency run by pupils from Penicuik High School, it was a really lovely night. The whole team did a great job. Special thanks to Sophie Burt, Holly Taylor and Caitlin Andrew for performing too!

2015 so far

Celtic Connections was a whirlwind this year! I’d six appearances in different guises: with Bella Hardy (Mitchell Theatre), Inge Thomson‘s Da Fishing Hands (Tron Theatre), in a duo with Fiona MacAskill (Art Club and festival club) and solo (Oran Mor and the Late Night Sessions).  It was great to be in the audience for the opening concert’s mighty orchestral realisation of Martyn Bennett‘s seminal album GritSam Sweeney‘s poignant Made In The Great War, the colourful Elizabethan SessionIan Carr & the Various Artists in joyful quirky mode and Siobhan Wilson’s graceful New Voices gig to close proceedings. And, as always, to catch up with pals at the festival club…

I’m back at Gran’s House Studio this weekend for the final two days of tracking my New Voices album, Woven, before it’s mixed by Iain Hutchison next week. It’s a really exciting time just now, pulling together artwork ideas, updating the release plan and generally faffing about on Pinterest making moodboards.

It’s also action stations at Admiral Fallow HQ as we prepare to release our third album. First single Evangeline streaming here.

There’s a couple more projects in the pipeline: a new band playing Northumbrian music (more on this later) and the first launch of contemporary classical chamber ensemble, the Glasgow New Music Expedition.

A couple of my good friends and favourite musicians are up to exciting things at the moment: Hannah James and her new project Jig Doll and Jennifer Austin‘s adventures in Mumbai…read, share, check back for updates on their beautiful work.

 

 

Hinge of the year

Happy New Year, everybody!

I’ve had a lovely few weeks. On 21st December I was part of a reunion concert at Sage Gateshead, led by Eliza Carthy and celebrating 25 years of the Folkworks Youth Summer School. It was a twelve piece band of former Summer School participants – some of whom I hadn’t seen for a good few years! We had a day and a half to put together a concert’s worth of material, showing a bit of what we’re all up to now and with a nod to some classic Summer School tunes and songs along the way. It was great to catch up and play music with everyone, and there was a real celebratory atmosphere.

Eliza Carthy Plus 10 concert (photo by Mark Savage)

Then there followed a blur of after eights, jaffa cakes and cheese.

Christmas

And yesterday the new year began with Scot:Lands, a multi-venue performance event happening throughout Edinburgh for its Hogmanay celebrations. I spent the day at the Assembly Roxy, looping a concert called Heart:Land with Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire, Withered Hand, Tommy Reilly, Andrew Mitchell and Alice Marra (The Hazey Janes) and some lad called Louis Abbott who I can’t seem to shake off.  A lovely way to start the year! Here’s an end-of-show photo, stolen from Roddy:

Heart:Land

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Gran’s House Studio with Fiona MacAskill and Mairearad Green for the second instalment of my New Voices album recording, with a few more days booked in for early February. Really looking forward to hearing the tunes coming together with the rhythm section parts laid down by Phil Hague, James Lindsay and Ali Hutton back in November. So stay tuned for more updates on Woven in the coming months..

Take care and all the best for a happy, healthy 2015 x