I can’t believe it’s October. Summer has been an absolute whirlwind, and now I’ve hurtled through autumn and I’ve got my gloves and scarf back on. How on earth did that happen?!
October was a huge amount of fun, and perhaps a *tiny* bit exhausting, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I started the month in Germany teaching at a great place called Akademie Burg Fürsteneck, where I was teaching folk songs to a group of enthusiastic and lovely folk singers. I’ve been over to Fürsteneck for the last three years, and it’s been great to make some new friends (although perhaps not so great to become so deeply acquainted with the baggage handlers at Frankfurt airport and all the many trains I’ve aimed for and missed). The Irish Folk Weekend runs annually, there are classes in Irish Song (we cover a range of folk song), fiddle, accordion, group work, dancing, flute, bodhran and there might even be piano this coming year. Loads of fun and a lovely community of people who have made great friends over the years. There’s also the opportunity to stay up incredibly late drinking lovely German beer, eating snack boxes, playing tunes and singing songs.
It’s been the start of term at the Conservatoire, and among my usual guitar, ensemble and general teaching duties I’ve also been working up a new band of students to visit Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton. We put together a new show over the course of about 10 rehearsal days, then took it to Cape Breton and it was such an amazing experience. I’m hoping there’ll be some footage of the performances available sometime; the students did such a great job, had a host of standing ovations and I feel it was a pretty huge life-changing experience for them. The festival was (and always is) incredible, and this year along with the student band Ùr, I also performed a few shows with Kinnaris Quintet. There was also the small matter of playing a mini guitar summit with Tim Edey, JP Cormier and John Doyle. #nearlyfainted
While I was in Canada, I missed out on heading to the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, where I was nominated for Musician of the Year, and Kinnaris Quintet was up for the Horizon Award. We missed out on the prizes, but it was so amazing just to be nominated and the winners were all very well deserved. 🙂 I was pretty sad not to be there to celebrate with everyone, but it looked like a brilliant night was had by all!
I had a slightly crazy journey back from Canada via Dublin to Manchester, where I travelled overnight to Halifax to skip a huge storm, landing in Manchester at the same time my soundcheck started for a showcase gig with Ross Ainslie & Ali Hutton – for the English Folk EXPO. Luckily, all went to plan, I made it but I have to say I was pretty tired – the pipes woke me up. We played a really fun gig in Gorilla that evening, joined by the incredible Stevie Byrnes on kit, then I was whisked back to Glasgow for some serious sleep catch-up. Didn’t last long though, I headed to Belfast the next afternoon to perform at The Duncairn with Ryan Young (beautiful venue, and a lovely team). Check out the Irish folk trio ‘Alfi’, who we were sharing the bill with. They were very cool!
After a quick stint catching up at the Conservatoire, an evening of teaching at Glasgow Fiddle Workshop, and a gig with The Blas Collective in Bar Bloc I was off again, this time to Finland where Ryan Young and I were the only UK artists to be chosen to perform at WOMEX. This was an incredible opportunity, we got the chance to hang out with Team Scotland as part of the Horizons group and met musicians and industry folk from across the globe. It was my first trip to Finland too, and everyone was so welcoming and happy to be part of the showcase.
On return from Finland, my students, Emma Tomlinson and I performed the music we took to Celtic Colours in a jam-packed Bar Bloc, then I nipped down to Dumfries House to play some tunes with Finlay MacDonald for Prince Charles and his dinner guests. The next day I headed through to Edinburgh to play a lovely house concert with Laura-Beth Salter. It was great to catch up with her and hear about the crazy tour she just had in Germany with The Shee where the band grew by a whole 2 brand new tiny humans before they finished the tour. Jane-Ann and Douglas (SoundHouse) have been doing such great work promoting gigs in Edinburgh, do follow their work at Sound House, The Traverse Theatre and TradFest.
I also caught up with The BIT Collective to continue planning our event on 10th December to continue the discussion about gender equality in the Trad scene (come along – it’s in the CCA, there are panel discussions and workshops in the daytime and an evening ‘curated open mic’ gig).
Oh! Also, I spent a bit of time in Warwick with harmonica and box virtuoso Will Pound, Patsy Reid, John Parker, Jude Rees and Bohdan Piasecki putting together some new music for the forthcoming album and project ‘A Day Will Come’. Will has been collecting tunes from all the EU member states, and is creating an album shining a spotlight on the great music of the EU, the concept of togetherness and drawing on some of the experiences that residents of the UK have had during the b**x** process. It’s a really interesting project – the music is presented through the lens of the English folk tradition, where Will is firmly rooted, and I feel it shows that folk music of Europe is very closely connected to our own traditions. Bohdan Piasecki is a poet, and provides some hard-hitting truths and a really soulful and at times harrowing perspective through the spoken word he’s created from his own experiences and through interviews with EU nationals in his home town of Birmingham, and he will be performing both on the album and at the live shows.
So, fair to say it’s been a pretty hectic but amazing October!!
Next up, November’s got some exciting things happening in it too!