Friday, 27 June 2014

24th June 2014 - Kirriemuir

Three Bellies Brae, Kirriemuir
24th June 2014

Nigel Jelks has been hosting the Three Bellies Brae session for a number of years, and I've been meaning to drop in for ages. I finally made the trip this week, and I'm glad I did. I've played with Nigel before, and it's always great fun, so I was delighted to be welcomed with such warmth. The session was small - seven total on the night I was there - but the quality of music was high. It was mostly Scottish, which pleased me, but we had occasional forays into French Canadian, American and irish repertoires as well.

The three Bellies Braes is a thoroughly enjoyable session, and I hope to be returning there before too long.

Tunes (that I can remember): 

  • The Galway Hornpipe/The Rights of Man/Boys of Blue Hill
  • Wissahickon Drive (Liz Carroll)/Bill Powrie's (Ian Powrie)/Andy Renwick's Ferret (Gordon Duncan)
  • Stan Chapman's (Jerry Holland)/Stool of Repentance/Drummond Castle
  • Sophie's Waltz (Mike Moroney)/Hunt the Hare
  • Pays de Haut/St Antoine/St Joseph
  • The Claverhouse Reel (Jimmy Shand)
  • Wee Man At the Loom
  • Arthur Gillies
  • Wee Johnnie Armstrong
  • McKechnie's Farewell (John Somerville)
  • Jenny's Bawbee/Green Grow the Rashes o/Captain Byng/Loch Earn/
  • Brig o' Feugh/Deveron Side/Reel o' Corse (all Peter Milne)
  • Frank's Reel (John McCusker)
  • Duke of Perth/Lady MacKenzie of Coull
  • The Donegal Lass (Brian Finnegan)
  • The High Drive (Gordon Duncan)
  • The Brolum
  • Kirk's Hornpipe
  • The Falls of Lorna/Auchmountain's Bonnie Glen
  • Hurlock's Reel (Tom Anderson)
  • Geordie MacLeish (James Scott Skinner)
  • La Bastrangue
  • Jenny Dang the Weaver
  • Dovecot Park
  • Andy de Jarlis/Charlie Hunter/Price of a Pig
  • The Queen's Welcome to Invercauld (Skinner)/Barren Rocks of Aden
  • The Inverness Gathering

Thursday, 26 June 2014

21st June 2014 - Northants

Knuston Hall, Northamptonshire
21st June 2014

I was in Knuston Hall in Northants for the British BMG Federation Summer School, teaching "Celtic Mandolin" and generally making a nuisance of myself. It was a very good weekend of music, meeting people, music, eating, music and laughing. I was pleased to spend some time with one of my fellow tutors, Brazilian chore expert Gaio de Lima. As well as a superb mandolinist, he's a lovely guy, and we tentatively looked for some common threads between our respective genres. On the Saturday evening, after I'd spent too long talking with others, I created a session and we played music, sang songs and had a good time until 1pm - back on home ground! Philip from Dundalk, with his lovely Breedlove mandolin, played some Irish standards along with me (e.g. "Connachtman's Rambles") and in turns delighted us and wearied us with a 17-verse long rendition of the song "Drumsnot" by Brian O'Rourke (he told us he'd left three verses out - thanks, Phil!). 

After the six-and-a-half hour journey home on the Sunday, I was very tired, but the happy memories of the weekend sustained me, and I look forward to the next one!

18th June 2014 - Bankfoot

The Bankfoot Inn, Bankfoot, Perthshire
18th June 2014

A friend and fellow Crieff Community Band member Dave McLagen goes to a musical gathering on Wednesdays at the lovely Bankfoot Inn, a few miles from where he lives. I decided to pop in the other day and see what goes on. The event is hosted by Roy Henderson, who used to work in education in Edinburgh. He is welcoming and goes round the room, asking everyone present if they wish to perform something. Anything goes, and when I was there I heard Scottish ballads, English folksongs, French waltzes and some of regular Jim's wonderful John Denver renditions. I would categorise this as a singaround rather than a session, but it's none the worse for that. There's not a huge amount of room, so it can be a little awkward if you end up sitting with your back to people, but everyone seems to enjoy it. I even sang a song ("The Dundee Whaler") which is not that common an occurrence! When I left I was given a strong invitation to come back, and I may very well do that!

18th June 2014 - Loch Tummell

Sam's Place, Foss, Loch Tummell
18th June 2014

One of my main musical partners, guitarist Sam Gifford, told me that our old friend Tom Allsop was up from Northumbria, so I drove up to Sam's place on the banks of Loch Tummell and spent a few hours playing and talking mandolins and acoustic music. With Neil on Cittern, Sam on guitar and Tom and me on mandolins, we created some brilliant noises! Tom had brought some tasty instruments up, and I spent most of the time playing a wonderful Heiden mandolin while Tom played his rather nice Vanden. We challenged each other, accompanied each other, played some of the mighty tunes, and enjoyed ourself making music together in the beautiful sunshine. A lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

16th June 2014 - Glasgow

The Islay Inn, Glasgow
16th June 2014

Earlier in the evening I gathered all the classes at GFW into the performance space and we had a final stramash. The last meeting of the year, and in fact the last evening at our home for many years, Stow College. It was a fitting occasion, and the gathered company enjoyed a 45-strong ukulele ensemble playing a cracking arrangement of Kafoozalum; two small mixed instrument groups; a performance by the combined cello and accordion classes and a rousing rendition of We're No Awa Tae Bide Awa sung by one and all. Onto the future.

Then it was off to the regular Monday session at The Islay Inn. Ably led by Alan Jones (concertina/bouzouki) and Alan Shute (accordion), this session is well established and is enjoyed by its participants. The repertoire seems pretty well set in stone, which means that hopeful participants can learn all the tunes and join in when ready, and that's not a bad thing. Some sets went a little too fast for my liking, but the atmosphere is great: happy, friendly and full of fun.

15th June 2014 - Kippen

The Cross Keys, Kippen, Stirlingshire
15th June 2014

The village of Kippen lies about ten miles West of Stirling and once a fortnight a group of locals meet for a musical afternoon in the Cross Keys Inn. One of the regulars, mandolin players Robert Thomson, has been trying to get me to go along for ages, so I finally took the trip. Robert and his wife Joan (whistle) gave me a cup of tea in their home beforehand, and then we walked down to the main street to join the session.

It had been the weekend of the Kippen Fair, and there had also been a musical gathering in the area the day before, so it wasn't as busy as usual. However, a select group of us played tunes and had the odd song from Hairy Dave, and some crack was created. There were quite a few tunes which are almost exclusive to that group, and a visitor would be very unlikely to know them, but it is a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.


  • Farewell to Whisky (Niel Gow)/Flowers of Edinburgh
  • The Gentle Light That Wakes Me (Phil Cunningham)
  • Sans Nom
  • Spanish Ladies/London Bridge
  • Winster Galop/Jamie Allan/Salmon Tails Up the Water
  • Boys of Blue Hill/Harvest Home/The Trumpet Hornpipe
  • The Barrowburn Reel (Addie Harper)/Sally Gardens
  • The Famous Baravan (Gordon Duncan)/The Road to Banff (M Reavell)/Crabbit Shona (Angus Grant Jr)
  • Jean and Andy Leonard's Waltz/Miss Rowan Davies
  • The Redheugh Library Jig (Robin Dunn)/Paddy Carey
  • Da Peerie Hoose Ahint da Burn/Da Mirrie Boys of Greenland/Jack Broke da Prison Door/Donald Blue/Sleep Soond ida Moarnin/Da Bonnie Isle o Whalsay
  • The Old Horned Sheep
  • I Loe Nae a Laddie But Ane/Shandon Bells/The Rakes of Kildare/The Irish Washerwoman
  • Hamnataing
  • Quindaro Hornpipe/Up Downey (Declan Corey)
  • Unknown/Puddleglum's Misery (John Kirkpatrick)
  • Marnie Swanson of the Grey Coast (Andy Thorburn)
  • The Bear Dance Set
  • Squirrel In a Tree/Unknown/Fear a Bhois Fada Gun Phosadh
  • King of the Fairies/The Old Grey Cat/Stepping Stones/The Rochdale Coconut Dance
  • PM Jim Christie of Wick (Addie Harper)
  • The Snowy Path (Mark Kelly)/The Butterfly
  • Starry Nights o' Shetland/My Cape Breton Home (Jerry Holland)
  • The Banshee/The Tongadale Reel (Farquhar MacDonald)
  • Buttered Peas/Unknown/Unknown
  • [Obscure accordion tunes]/The Ballyoran Polka
  • The Spider/The Cup of Tea/The Cup of Tea
  • Flatwater Fran (Phil Cunningham)/Marnie Swanson of the Grey Coast (Andy Thorburn)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

8th June 2014 - Stirling

Riverside Music Project, Stirling
8th June 2014

The creator of the Riverside Music Project, Jo Miller, invited me to Stirling for their annual Big Tune - an afternoon of playing music, eating and socialising. My friend Tom Fernie turned up in Crieff and we drove down in convoy. I had hoped that more of the fellow Crieff Community Band members would make the journey, but it just wasn't the right time of year, I guess. We arrived as they were setting up and were given a very friendly welcome.

A big circle was populated by musicians of all ages and experience, and Jo led the first few tunes and as time went on more and more folk arrived. I felt privileged to be part of this musical gathering, and once again to experience the joy of playing music in a supportive, encouraging atmosphere. The more initiatives like the Riverside Music Project there are in the world, the better the world will be.


  • The Cockle Gatherers/O I Am a Poor Man
  • Off She Goes
  • Memories of Fr Angus MacDonnell/Braes of Dunvegan
  • The Chanter Song
  • Winster Galop/Jamie Allan/Salmon Tails Up the Water
  • The Dawning of the Day
  • The Hopeful Lover/Teribus/The High Road to Gairloch
  • Fires at Midnight (Wendy Stewart)
  • Miss Rowan Davies (Phil Cunningham)/Jean & Andy Leonard's Waltz
  • Balchraggan (John Somerville)
  • The Snipe (Donald Riddell)
  • Calum's Road (Donald Shaw)/The Hut On Staffin Island (Phil Cunningham)
  • The Galway Hornpipe/The Greencastle Hornpipe/Harvest Home
  • Boys of Blue Hill/The Trumpet Hornpipe
  • The Skye Boat Song
  • Morrison's Jig/Hunt the Hare
  • Ashokan Farewell (Jay Ungar)
  • Sans Nom/The Bear Dance
  • I See Mull
  • The King of the Fairies/The Old Grey Cat/Stepping Stones/The Rochdale Coconut Dance