News | Duncan Chisholm | Scottish fiddle player

The Scotsman, Sun 5 February 2017. 
Success of Celtic Connections Festival 2017. 

Well over 100,000 people have flocked to shows at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival – for the tenth year in a row.  Organisers have revealed more than 80 per cent of performances at the 18 day festival were completely sold out. There were 176 full houses – 69 more than last year over the course of the event – which features 2375 performers from more than 50 countries.

Singer-songwriters Karine Polwart, Martha Wainwright and Laura Marling, fiddler Duncan Chisholm, accordionist Martin Green and a tribute to the late Shooglenifty musician Angus Grant were among the hottest tickets, as attendances soared over 110,000……. to read on click here.


The Herald, 5***** review of ‘Ballantyne’, performed at An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis on Sat 27 August 2016. 

IF THE Wee Frees have long been thought of as a dour lot who shun music in their worship, the world premiere of Ballantyne in Stornoway this weekend should give the lie to that.

For what Hollywood composer Craig Armstrong and his collaborator, Lewis musician and church elder Calum Martin, have created is a mind-blowing composition based around the beautifully harmonic tradition of Gaelic Psalm singing.  ……. to read on click here (The Herald).


The Herald, 5***** review of ‘Just for Gordon’ performed at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow.  Jan 2016

From pipe band to solo pipers, here including his brother, Iain, and from Scottish folk groups to the wider world, Duncan exerted an influence and left an indelible impression. It was great to hear stories from those who beat a path to Edradour in search of Duncan tunes and wisdom, and worth turning up just to catch sometime bandmate, fiddler Duncan Chisholm caress and pass on The Sleeping Tune to Susana Seivane, playing her native Galician bagpipe, the gaita, both capturing the soulfulness that Duncan exuded….  to read on click here.

MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards Dec 2015:  Live Review
Folk Radio UK

Of course, Na Trads just wouldn’t be the same without live music and the celebrations included a string of performances from the very best in the business, as exemplified by Aly BainPhil Cunningham & Violet Tulloch. Skye based electronic/trad fusion band Niteworks opened the proceedings, closely followed by Peatbog Faeries, who also closed the show. The lads performed two typically lively and engaging sets. Innovative clarsach player Catriona MacKay joined fiddler Chris Stout (fresh from bringing Hirda, Shetland’s first ever opera to the stage), and newcomers Dosca thrilled the audience with their unique blend of jazz and folk.

If, however, I was asked to choose the most memorable performance of the evening it would have to be when Duncan Chisholm took to the stage with an ensemble that included Greg LawsonSu-a LeeJarlath Hendersonand Innes Watson in some utterly enthralling selections from Duncan’s Strathglass Trilogy…… to read the full live review and winners please visit Folk Radio UK website.


The Guardian ****   10 June 2015
Songlines Encounters Festival, Kings Place, London. 

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat and Duncan Chisholm review:  exhilarating cross-cultural collaboration.

The Iranian sisters’ performance was gently powerful, while Chisholm showcased his exquisite fiddle playing.  Read the full review here.


The Arts Desk ***** 5 stars
Songlines Encounters Festival, Kings Place, London

Duncan Chisholm collaboration with Vahdat Sisters.

The fifth Songlines Encounters Festival at Kings Place brought together artists from around the world, offerering a powerful cultural kick-back against all manner of extremist positions. The opening Thursday featured young Portuguese Fado singer Gisela João, with Cypriot trio Monsieur Doumani, and the closing Saturday paired the Shikor Bangladesh All Stars with the Anglo-Bangladeshi Afrobeat Latin grooves of Lokkhi Terra.

But it was Friday night’s coupling of Iranian singers Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat with Highlands fiddler Duncan Chisholm that showed how striking and creative these Encounters can be……   read the full article by clicking here.


The Herald (Review) *****  5 Stars
13 Feb 2015     Tour:  The Gathering
Venue:  The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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.   Read the full review by clicking here.


The Telegraph (Review) ****  11 Feb 2014
Album:  Duncan Chisholm – 

Live at Celtic Connections 

New albums from Scottish folk musicians – including Emily Smith, Fiona Hunter, Duncan Chisholm and Eddi Reader – are bursting with joy and talent…… read the full review by clicking here.

by Martin Chilton, Culture Editor online.


the Strad Magazine (Review)
Album:  Duncan Chisholm – 
Live at Celtic Connections

the Strad – provide essential reading for the string music world.  Read their review of Duncan’s latest release ‘Live at Celtic Connections’ in their February 2014 issue by clicking here.


Celtic Connections Opening Concert, Glasgow – The Scotsman (Review)       Star rating: * * * * * 

It’s been said about previous Celtic Connections first nights, but this really was the festival in a nutshell – as far as that’s remotely possible for a single concert, however lavish, when you’re talking about an 18-day event comprising hundreds of gigs, by artists from dozens of countries, spanning myriad musical styles.

Proceedings began with a graceful link back to the inaugural show back in 1994, as fiddler Duncan Chisholm – who headlined with Wolfstone on that occasion – led his own quartet in a typically choice selection of spine-tingling airs and fiendishly catchy dance tunes, meanwhile highlighting Celtic Connections’ Scottish traditional bedrock, as did Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, with a mouthwatering foretaste of her forthcoming new album. This year’s Commonwealth strand, ahead of the Games, was flagged up both by redoubtable Quebecois visitors the Yves Lambert Trio, and a stirringly soulful, funky contribution from Malawi’s Peter Mawanga and the Amaravi Movement, whose guitar-led, marimba-patterned sound was at once hypnotically smooth and full of vibrant textures, interwoven with richly expressive male/female vocals.

Even amidst this diverse musical cornucopia, there was no mistaking the most thrilling section of the programme, which saw violinist Nicola Benedetti join forces with half a dozen or so leading folkies – including Fowlis, Chisholm, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham – for a spellbinding encounter between classical and trad, in which Benedetti achieved moments of truly exquisite symbiosis, most of all in a brilliant cadenza slotted between two Scott Skinner tuns, and a sublime slow duet with Bain.
by Sue Wilson.


‘Live at Celtic Connections’ (Review) 
The Arts Desk **** 
“It’s a gorgeous set that has a cinematic widescreen clarity, with a sense of place, landscape and history roving through its tunes.”  Read on by clicking here.  Review by Tim Cumming.

fRoots (Review)
Issue:  Jan / Feb 2014  

Chisholm is a Scottish traditional fiddle player, famous for his work with Wolfstone and The Julie Fowlis Band, and for his trilogy of solo albums Farrar, Canaich and Affric which are musical portraits of the three glens of Strathglass where Chisholm’s family roots run seven centuries deep.  The glens are beautiful but desolate places as a result of the clearances of the Highland Gaelic people that took place in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  This Live album completes Chisholm’s Strathglass project.  In his own words:  “The Strathglass Suite is based on my last three albums – making an orchestral arrangement around a core traditional band of six.  The project required a fitting conclusion, where those cinematic episodes I had imagined could really come to life.”  Accompanying on this album are Jarlath Henderson (uilleann pipes/whistles), Matheu Watson (guitar), Allan Henderson (piano/fiddle), Ross Hamilton (bass), Martin O’Neill (bodhran).  The fifteen-strong string and brass ensemble are led by violinist Greg Lawson.

This album brims with love for the depopulated valleys where Chisholm grew up, and from which so many people were cleared and shipped to another continent.  The soul of this music is akin to Klezmer, which also expresses the pain of expulsion and exile.  Chisholm’s fiddle hits the same heartstrings as a slow nigun or doina played by Isaac Stern or Itzhak Perlman.  Like Klezmer, this music does more than evoke a traditional rural culture:  it also speaks of that culture’s catastrophic collision with history.  Even the dance tunes are tinged with sadness.  Like the Klezmorim, Chisholm is a master of the slow air, and he draws every drop of emotion out of each soulful note.  Chisholm is keenly aware that the violin is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice, and in all his music he tries to mimic the human voice as much as he can.  His fiddle’s long, sustained notes tremble and shudder like a human voice sobbing with emotion.  Try, for instance, Caoineadh Johnny Sheain Jeaic / Nuair Bhios Mi Leam Fhin.  The fiddle is so powerfully empathetic, it is difficult to listen without weeping.

Paul Matheson.   for fRoots Magazine click here.


The Sunday Herald   (Review)

Duncan Chisholm

Live At Celtic Connections


Chisholm’s Strathglass Trilogy has just gained the perfect fourth instalment. Drawn from the three albums the Inverness-based fiddler recorded to capture the Highland landscape that his paternal line has called home for 700 years, the music on this superb recording brings his fiddle and band together with perfectly weighted string and brass arrangements that let his instrument sing with heartfelt longing, atmosphere and joy. So much of Chisholm’s own life, as well as his ancestors’, is bound up in these airs and dance tunes, and it is all communicated by a musician completely at the top of his game: the opening Unknown Air keening its yearning melody; the birth of his first son producing elation you can almost touch; and the parting Mallai Chroch Shli combining gorgeously measured windswept beauty on fiddle and wildly exciting piping from Jarlath Henderson. If you were at the concert, it will all come back to you in euphoric waves; if you weren’t, this will emphatically take you there.

Rob Adams


The Guardian. **** Review
New album – Live at Celtic Connections

The title does this album scant justice. Yes, Scottish fiddle player Duncan Chisholm was at Celtic Connections this year, but it was a very special event. Joined by five of Scotland’s finest players and a string and brass ensemble, he gave the first performance of The Strathglass Suite, an ambitious instrumental work comprised of pieces from the three-album Strathglass Trilogy he has taken six years to make. Chisholm is best known for his role with folk-rockers Wolfstone and the Julie Fowlis band, but has emerged as a major solo artist with this epic tribute to the area of the Highlands where his family have lived for 700 years. This is cinematic music, with elegant, haunting airs matched against jaunty, rousing pieces, his delicate fiddle work joined by fiddle, bass, guitar and uilleann pipes.  Robin Denselow.


Scottish Album of the Year Award 2013 –
Longlist of nomations includes ‘Affric’

Duncan is delighted to hear that his latest release, Affric has been included within the longlist for the Scottish Music Industry Association’s  ‘Scottish Album of the Year Award’.  The 20 albums on the list represent a dazzling range of genres and musical styles highlighting, once again, the extraordinary depth of talent being produced in Scotland.  Open to Scottish artists who released albums in 2012, the longlist is the product of a rigorous and thorough nomination process, with submissions received by 100 specially-invited nominators from the Scottish and UK music industries as well as elsewhere in the arts and media.

A four-week promotion of the music / artists included within the longlist will follow, allowing the public to stream every one of the twenty longlisted titles.  Be sure to visit the SAY Award website here to download their app or read about and listen to the wealth of Scottish music that has been included within the longlist.  Congratulations to all those artists on the list.  It is wonderful to be part of a national arts prize which strives to focus attention on the Scottish music scene and in particular, on the fact that it has become one of the most vibrant, influential and well respected in the world.  Enjoy the music….


The Scotsman, 5* Review.  
The Strathglass Suite at The Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.  Jan 2013

It’s created arguably Celtic Connections’ most stunning venue yet – and one with a useful 600 capacity, albeit that this long-since sold-out show could reportedly have filled it twice over.  Read on…

Northings Review, The Strathglass Suite at The Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.  Jan 2013

SOLD out for months, tonight the Strathglass Suite is the hottest ticket in rainy Glasgow; extra rows of seating have been squeezed in wherever possible and people are crowding on the balconies above.  Read on…

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards comes to Celtic Connections

Read about the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards coming to Glasgow – to be hosted by Celtic Connections, and the wealth of talent and fantastic music involved via the

Affric – fRoots Review

On the quiet, Wolfstone founder member Duncan Chisholm has always been one of the finer and more expressive Scottish fiddlers, with a delicate touch and rare sensitivity when required.  His solo album Affric marks the end of a six year project, being the final part of The Strathglass Trilogy, a musical representation of the highland glens that form the ancestral lands of the ancient Chisholm clan.

Affric – Songlines Review ****

Final part of Caledonian concept-album trilogy.
Chisholm was born and raised near Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands.  He learned under the late, great fiddler player, composer and instrument maker Donald Riddell, is a regular player with Julie Fowlis and has his own band, Wolfstone.  Affric is the third and final part of his epic Strathglass Trilogy, six years in the making, following the previous volumes Farrar and Canaich.

Affric is Duncan’s musical homage to the ancient Chisholm clan lands north-west of Loch Ness.  Glen Affric is home to ancient Caledonian pine woods, lochs, moorlands and mountains, and it’s easy to see them all moving through the mind’s eye as the 11 beautiful conceived instrumental tracks take us through a suite that begins with a traditional air, the kind of tune that Chisholm’s pure tone and expressive feel raises to the sublime.  Self-penned tunes mix with pieces by Phil Cunningham, Rory Campbell and others, and there’s an excerpt from the poet Neil Munro’s ‘To Exiles’ read by piper Allan MacDonald.  Other guests include Patsy Reid on fiddle and viola, Tony Byrne and Ross Hamilton on guitars – driving the evocative, beautiful ‘The Flooded Meadow’ – plus accordion, uillean pipes and Phil Cunningham’s piano.  There’s a lot of musical variation throughout, with contrasting textures, tones and atmospheres, whether it be the guitar-driven otherworldliness of ‘The Erchless Scout‘, the lyrical warmth of ‘The House in Rose Valley‘ or the unadorned beauty and epic landscape of ‘Unknown Air‘.  Beautifully recorded and presented, Affric represents some of the finest instrumental music from Scotland’s new generation of players.      by Tim Cumming.


Affric – included in Songlines Magazine’s Best Albums of 2012

Covering music from traditional and popular to contemporary and fusion, Songlines features artists from all around the globe.  Duncan is delighted that Affric has been included within their Best Albums of 2012.  Read all about why Songlines have hand picked an eclectic mix of music to be included within their ten Best of 2012, in the Jan / Feb 2013 issue of the magazine which will be available on general purchase on 7 December 2012.  Affric will also be featured within the Songlines podcast for that issue.