Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 23rd December 2016

Sunday afternoon in Sandwick’s Carnegie Hall was a wonderful afternoon to get lost in music. 

My mind wandered everywhere and anywhere through two hours of enchanting musicianship at Davie Henderson’s Peerie Christmas Spree.

Chris Stout, Catriona McKay and the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc featuring Kevin Henderson were breathtakingly good. Davie Gardner was struggling with a sore throat so the poor man’s introductions were quite un-Gardner like. I am led to understand that Davie mercifully came at later on.

Chris and Catriona began proceedings in a beautifully decorated hall by playing a variety of compositions from around the globe. I particularly enjoyed the Brazilian piece they played, having learnt it at a music festival in Rio de Janeiro.

Chris told me afterwards about the challenge of learning and playing tunes with people from all backgrounds and one in the extraordinary world city that has utter poverty and ridiculous wealth within yards. He described the smiles and cheerfulness of Brazilian musicians leaving the stage after the main concert. Music breaks down barriers and does so effortlessly.

Catriona plays the harp with brilliance, verve and audacity. She creates great body for the melody of the fiddle and brings music alight with striking notes and extraordinary dexterity. The harp must be one of life’s more challenging instruments but Catriona is not only its master but creates a musical vision too. This takes some doing next to the front man that is Chris Stout.

He was in grand form and dominates a stage. He gives focus to a musical performance so not only does an audience sense the power of the music, but they witness a musician in love with his art. So follow that, Kevin, Olav (Norwegian) and Anders (Sweden). Follow it they did. Kevin’s playing is crisp, technically brilliant and a joy to appreciate. He makes playing the fiddle look effortless. What these three have created with the Bloc is musical depth.

One of Fiddlers’ Bids tunes that I most enjoy has the boys slowly but perfectly drawing their bows across the strings in perfect time. The Bloc take that to a new and different level as they use the different instruments – a viola as well as Ewen Thomson’s fiddle to create a richness and depth to a range of tunes from all parts of Scandinavia. I felt I had witnessed music of a very special musical variety.

Top marks for the local hall committee – unobtrusive table service with a smile. There were plenty of the very young at the concert too soaking up all that musical DNA. So much good will come of witnessing such brilliance. And as the old saying goes and with Christmas imminent, there are CDs available in all good shops and online.

I suppose I should have done the last Holyrood letter of the season on politics but after 2016 and all that has happened…exactly! So 2017 just has to be better. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year break.


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