Duncan Chisholm: The Gathering, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Rob Adams


In Kin, his Herald Angel-winning Blas festival commission from 2007, Duncan Chisholm used location shots and film to illustrate the land that inspired his music. Not to denigrate the quality of that photography but Chisholm didn't need any such visual aids in this presentation by his dream band.

The Inverness-based fiddler has the ability, using subtle bow strokes in a similar way to an artist's brush strokes, to put a strong image, a real sense of place in the listener's mind. When he plays Craskie, from the second album in his Strathglass trilogy, Canaich, his soul-deep feeling for this spot that's part of his family's history is such that you're taken from concert hall seat to the great outdoors - and with luck you might manage this without a Kleenex.

What made these transportations so special was that Chisholm's beautiful playing - singing almost - of slow airs and that wonderful sense of joy he imparts in dance tunes, and even in the ones in compound time that come with advice not to try dancing, was couched in such empathetic arrangements. Whistle, uilleann pipes, guitar, cello, violins and piano all flew just slightly under the radar, supporting, colluding on melodies in the case of the superb Jarlath Henderson on whistle and pipes, colouring the background, bolstering the rhythm but always making Chisholm's fiddle the primary focus.

If the music generally did all the talking necessary, Chisholm also has a nice line in character-sharing and his graphic tale of Johnny Cunningham's explanation for remaining in exile was as mirthful as his rendering of his late hero's hymn-like Night in That Land was heart-stoppingly moving.