Published: 19/06/2014 00:10 - Updated: 16/06/2014 09:48

Ambassador's role beckons for fiddle maestro Duncan

Written byJohn Ross

HebCelt Hall of Fame inductee Duncan Chishom is now an ambassador for the Isle of Lewis Festival.
HebCelt Hall of Fame inductee Duncan Chishom is now an ambassador for the Isle of Lewis Festival.

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed fiddler Duncan Chisholm has added a new string to his bow this year by picking up another accolade and a new title.

To the many job descriptions Chisholm can apply to his work — band member, solo artist, accompanist and composer — he can now add that of ambassador.

This year the popular musician was invited into the Hebridean Celtic Festival’s Hall of Fame in recognition of his long association with the award-winning event and his wider contribution to Scottish traditional music.

Chisholm appeared at the first HebCelt in 1996 and has returned to the stage in Stornoway in the island of Lewis five times since. He will be back again next month when the 19th HebCelt is held from 16th to 19th July and has agreed to act as an ambassador for the event.

"HebCelt is a fantastic festival which I have always been happy to promote on my travels around the world. The only difference now is I’ll be doing it in a more official capacity," he said of his new status.

"The people of Lewis really embrace the festival and even the journey to Lewis is filled with music and meeting old friends. It’s much more than just a music festival; it’s a gathering of like-minded souls.

"HebCelt has been part of the music scene in the north of Scotland for nearly 20 years now. It has been wonderful to watch this festival grow; always with such a great line up of new and emerging talent, as well as world famous performers.

"Great festival programming, coupled with the beautiful grounds of Lews Castle and the draw of heading out to a Hebridean Island, are all factors which have led to this award-winning festival being a firm diary fixture to old and new audiences from far and wide."

Chisholm, who made his name with bands such as Wolfstone and was nominated in the Musician of the Year category in the 2013 Radio 2 Folk Awards, is a much sought-after as a performer and, increasingly, composer.

He regularly accompanies fellow HebCelt ambassador Julie Fowlis on stage and has recently completed a sell-out tour of his own music, throughout Scotland and England.

At HebCelt 2014, Chisholm will be performing with his own five-piece band comprising the talents of Jarlath Henderson, Tony Byrne, Davie Dunsmuir, Ross Hamilton and Martin O’Neill.

"It’s very exciting taking my full band to HebCelt," he said.

"We will be playing music from my solo albums, but a beefed up, more rocky version of what I do, honed for this festival audience."

Chisholm has a considerable back catalogue to choose from, with six solo albums and a number of compositions, including the acclaimed Strathglass Trilogy.

"When I am composing, my inspiration usually comes from focussing on a subject matter, whether that be for a commissioned piece of music, working on melodies with and for other artists or, for one of my own albums", he said.

"There is nothing better than after, what can often be quite a solitary writing experience, bringing full life and colour to music by presenting it live on stage with a full band of such talented friends."

In the meantime, he will be using every opportunity to put his ambassador role into play. He has already endorsed HebCelt’s annual One Step Further contest which gives a coveted stage slot to emerging talent. This year the competition was won by Inverness-based band Hò-rò.

"Giving a platform to young performers is vitally important to our artistic community. Having the aspiration and opportunity to perform on a big stage and to get that positive audience feedback will always drive musicians to practise and become better.

"It’s another reason why HebCelt is special as you have new talent playing alongside established and, in some cases, legendary, acts. It’s what people want and, with the Hebridean landscape, you have a perfect mix."

The 2014 HebCelt will be headlined by Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro. Rachel Sermanni, Cara Dillon, Cajun band Magnolia Sisters from the US, and Canadian outfit Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys will also be among nearly 40 acts featuring in the event’s biggest ever programme.

This year the festival has become part of the Green Arts Initiative, run by Creative Carbon Scotland and Festivals Edinburgh.

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