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Monday, February 23rd 2009 : "Fiddler at the Phil"
I'd never met musician Chris Stout before the launch of RED BONES at the Lit and Phil last Thursday, though I knew of him of course. He grew up on Fair Isle a few years after I worked at the observatory and I went to his parents' wedding party. Then a Shetlander's description of his playing had provided inspiration for Roddy Sinclair, the young musician in WHITE NIGHTS. 'That Chris Stout is such a show-off,' she'd said. 'The way he leaps about all over the stage!' But I wasn't quite sure how we'd work together. He's a big name in traditional music and I know nothing about it at all.
In the end it was a great evening. It helped that Chris looked just like his grandfather who was skipper of the mail boat the Good Shepherd when I worked on the Isle and that Steve, my son-in-law, had done the sound for him when he toured the west coast of Scotland with the band Lindisfarne ten years ago. Chris was happy to play as people arrived and I loved the thought of the audience walking up the grand stairs from Newcastle's Westgate Road to the sound of Shetland fiddle music. RED BONES is set in the island of Whalsay and Chris had learned some traditional tunes from an elderly Whalsay man. He had stories of the trows - the little malevolent men who haunt the islands and who also get a mention in the book.
The Knott Room at the library was packed with friends and members of Newcastle Libraries reading groups, Lit and Phil members and librarians from all over the north east. Julie, my editor and Sara, my agent had made the trek from London. It must have been a nightmare for Kay's volunteers to manage the numbers, especially as my guests carried on chatting and drinking long after the staff wanted to be home. So as ever I'm very grateful to her and to them.
As for Chris, I'd love to work with him again. Thursday was just an informal chat, but I think we could put together a more structured programme of music, stories and readings that would give a real flavour of Shetland. Watch this space!
Posted by Ann at 10:45 AM GMT