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Work & Play: a five-minute interview with our collaborators, soloists and other artists we have the pleasure of working with on life as a musician, on tour and at home.

Chris Stout with collaborative partner and supremely talented Scottish harpist Catriona McKay

We first worked with Fair Isle fiddler Chris Stout and Dundonian harpist Catriona McKay back in 2012, collaborating on Sally Beamish’s Seavaigers. A concerto for fiddle, Scottish harp (clàrsach, for those in the know) and string orchestra, it is an incredibly evocative piece depicting an adventure at sea, and all the hope, fear, anticipation and comradeship that comes with that.   We had such a good time making the recording and touring that it’s always been a delight to perform this piece again, so it’s with a particular excitement that we’re looking forward to our upcoming tour with Chris and Catriona (Court & Country, 13-16 March 2018) when we’ll also be performing a new work, Dealer In Hope.

Written by Chris, and arranged by Chris and Catriona, the pair taught us the piece in a series of workshops across 2017 – without a single note written down. This practice of playing and learning by ear is deeply rooted in traditional music; a way of getting past the fact that the music doesn’t always sound like it looks on the paper, and works best when it’s played and learnt through feeling and freedom, not a precise following of the notes. It’s not so deeply rooted in classical learning… which made for some really satisfying, challenging and fun sessions and, thankfully, a successful premiere performance of the piece from memory at this year’s Celtic Connections festival (read the Scotsman review here).

Ahead of Court & Country, we took five minutes with Chris to ask him a couple of questions about life as a musician.

What’s your favourite venue to play?

I played a concert in a cave, halfway up the side of a mountain in northern Norway a while back… That was fairly good!

What is/are your favourite piece(s) to play?

That’s difficult to answer. We always choose to perform music that we love. There’s a point in a musician’s relationship with a certain piece of music where you know it really well, yet there is still a strong sense of freshness and spontaneity. I guess my favourite music is always changing depending on mood, circumstance, location, etc. Just now, I’m getting a huge kick out of playing Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras Preludio No. 4. It’s beautiful music.

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

Very recently performing in a packed-out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with Scottish Ensemble, King Creosote, Mairtin O’Connor and Marcelo Preto. It was such a wonderful night. Sharing the stage with such incredible musicians is an honour, and performing our own music with the amazing sound that the Scottish Ensemble make is something to be treasured.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Its all a wonderful challenge. We choose to create, compose, arrange, record and perform almost all our music, as well as manage ourselves, and in most cases act as our own agent. We are emotionally, practically and physically engaged in every aspect of our music from its very conception. That’s a challenge. But the feeling of achievement is out of this world.

What are the best things about being on tour?

Eating out every night.

What are the worst things about being on tour?

Eating out every night.

What has been your favourite city/place to visit?

Istanbul. Incredible.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home from tour?

Turn on the telly.

How do you relax when you’re not working?

Cooking gives me so much pleasure. I miss it when I’m away but I can gather so much inspiration when I’m on the road. I’m never bored in the kitchen!

If you hadn’t become a musician, what do you think you’d be doing now?

Growing and rearing my own food.

Court and Country, with Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, calls at Inverness (13 March), Greenock (14 March), Dumfries (15 March) and Dundee (16 March).