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Duncan Chisholm of The Gathering headliners Wolfstone praises current traditional musicians and 'thankful' for 30-year career so far

By Margaret Chrystall

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The return of The Gathering to the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness on Saturday also sees Wolfstone back to top the line-up and play the city for the first time in a long time.

For how long, it is over to founder member Duncan Chisholm, the fiddle-player and composer who has gone on to have a successful solo career across the world after his early days in Wolfstone.

Wolfstone will be back live to play The Gathering in Inverness on Saturday.
Wolfstone will be back live to play The Gathering in Inverness on Saturday.

Like the rest of us, he is enjoying the chance to get out to see musicians performing again.

“We’ve been at Under Canvas a couple of times this summer and it is wonderful to hear live music again,” he said.

But Duncan was a high-profile presence in the first lockdown after Covid 19 changed everyone’s way of life.

His Covid Ceilidh became essential moments in each day to see what tune he - or one of the musicians he encouraged to take part - had chosen to play to the Twitter audience.

Wolfstone with Duncan Chisholm (right).
Wolfstone with Duncan Chisholm (right).

Duncan said: “The aim of Covid Ceilidh was really to encourage musicians from all around the world to upload an acoustic track a day or whenever they could. And it was really in a spirit of hope during that time when people were isolating, so that they could remain connected.

“And in particular it was to provide some light and positivity through music because the situation, as everyone knows, was overwhelming for many.

“My hope with Covid Ceilidh was that by creating an online community and sharing the music that we loved through Covid Ceilidh we could keep some focus on musicians and in the process reassure people through music – it’s a great healer, music. And it was a good focus for me too.

“In the first lockdown I did 126 days consecutively, a tune every day and then we came out of that first lockdown and l felt the time was right to maybe step back from that.

It’s been a true life journey which has taken me all around the world

“But unfortunately, of course, we went into the lockdowns after that and I started up Tune With A View which brought together a tune a day and a lovely view that celebrated the Highlands as we know them – and some great places that people didn’t know of.

“So it was a busy time for me which was great.

“The messages from around the world were incredible, we had people sending messages from Australia, New Zealand, China, really incredible, the response to the music. "You see the love of Highland music is truly worldwide.”

Duncan, not surprisingly, can tell you exactly how long it is since Wolfstone last played Inverness.

“I’m very much involved in my own solo career now and other musical projects and the other band members are as well.

“So we limit our touring to mainly festival opportunities and we haven’t played in Inverness for nine years I think!

“Hogmanay 2012 was the last time we played a home gig, so this one coming up is going to be really special for us.”

Duncan is looking forward to getting the chance to hear the rest of the music on the bill at The Gathering.

“There’s some amazing music there all day.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Glin, The Kinnaris Quintet, our old friends Skerryvore, the Peatbog Faeries who will be magnificent I’m sure.”

And with the perspective of an overview of how the traditional music scene has been developing since the days when he was a young traditional musician himself, he says: “I don’t think we have ever lived through a more exciting time for traditional music than now.

“The creative boundaries are forever being pushed and moulded into new sounds and fresh ideas.

“Young minds are exploring what’s possible – and I love being part of it all still

“I feel very privileged to be part of this wonderful creative community that thrives in Scotland.

“Our wonderful traditional music scene has never been stronger, so for me, the journey that started with Wolfstone 30 years ago, still continues – and I’m very thankful for that.

“It’s been a true life journey which has taken me all around the world on great adventures and I hope that won’t end!”

These days, younger musicians look at Wolfstone as one of the pioneer presences at the start of a huge blossoming of the traditional Scottish music scene as it branched out and stretched its wings and tested supposed boundaries.

Duncan said: “Wolfstone are very proud that some of the great musicians from the current trad scene come to me and say that Wolfstone were a big influence on them and that we inspired them at a certain time in their lives.

“That is a huge compliment.

“And it’s going to be really special to be back playing in Inverness.”

The Gathering has now sold out, as has the Tide Lines Unplugged night at Inverness cathedral with support from Katie Gregson-MacLeod on Sunday.

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