How was it performing at such a prestigious competition?
Delightful, of course! Naturally it was an honor to be chosen, and there was a real ambiance to it that I haven’t found in America—there’s the factor of bringing the music back to Scotland where it all began, but the venue itself was incredible. Perthshire was the birthplace of many of the Scottish fiddling greats, including Niel and Nathaniel Gow, and Robert Mackintosh, and Blair Castle (where the competition was) is where Niel worked for many years. His portrait hung on the wall right next to where I played. And it wasn’t just the setting of course—the event brought together eleven top-notch fiddlers, half a dozen premiere accompanists, and hundreds of appreciative audience members, and it was really satisfying to get to meet other lovers of Scottish music.
How do you think you did?
No performance is perfect, but overall I was very pleased with how Jeremy and I played.
The word through the grapevine is that your set was the most popular. How did the audience react?
The audience had been a little bit subdued throughout the competition (there was even a sign prohibiting foot-tapping) but they were pretty enthusiastic after we played. Fiddle music—folk music—is fundamentally music for everyone, not some elite sect of concert-goers, so I was really glad that our playing helped open them up. And I was thrilled to have many different people come talk to me after the competition and say how much they enjoyed the performance and that they’d never heard music like that before.
What was your favorite part of visiting Scotland?
So many things to choose from! I’d have to say it was meeting so many wonderful people, from those at the Glenfiddich to the six musicologists I got to have a conversation with to the dozens of people I got to talk to and play with at jam sessions.
What is your next goal as a musician?
I have some interesting composition projects coming up, but I think the most exciting challenge I have coming up soon is to help the BBE stage The Gentle Shepherd, Scotland’s first opera.
And where is the link to you performing on the BBC website?
This is a fun toy that a few of us discovered a while back. You can head to LearnGaelic to start speaking Scottish Gaelic (or Gàdhlig) with free, interactive, online lessons.
The intro lessons include audio and illustrations, starting with food, physical descriptions, and (of course) the weather. Over 100 words for rain, apparently. It’ll also help if you ever visit the Outer Hebrides and want to ask a native whether the forecast is for a drizzle or monsoon.
Once you get the basics down, the site has options for using and watching Gaelic and building up your grammar skills. Before you know it, balls will be talked through all in Gàdhlig, so get going with those lessons!