14th August 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Stout collection with a beery flavour

The Chris Stout Collection, Volume 1.

I first became aware of Chris Stout as a competitor at Young Fiddler of the Year, a competition which he went on to win. Having chosen a career in music, he has developed as a player, touring the world with a number of different line-ups. This has exposed Chris to many varied styles of music, moulding him as a musician. In turn these influences are displayed in his compositions.

This first collection is a welcome addition to any musician’s library. The music reflects the changes in style and influences Chris has experienced over the years.

The cover is a very striking photograph of Chris in concert, with the back cover being a picture of his beloved Fair Isle. This picture runs through the book forming the lower half of each page.

There are 36 tunes in the publication, each with the now customary explanation of the title. Of these, all are by Chris with three tunes co-written with good musical friends Kevin Henderson, Fraser Fifield and Findlay MacDonald.

Chord symbols are included which Chris explains are merely “a way in” to the harmony structure. He also explains how some of the tunes have been composed naturally with no pre-meditation, some because they were asked for and some out of necessity.

Disappointingly there are no bowing indications. As this can change the feel of the tune it would have been nice to see how Chris preferred his tunes to sound.

All the typesetting is bold and clear, but not all tunes have an obvious tempo marking. Although the book is stapled, the weight and quality of the paper is such that there are no problems with the book staying open on a music stand.

In this era, where traditional music tends to be learned from books, Chris encourages listening (and CD sales) by listing the albums by himself and Fiddlers’ Bid. The compositions recorded on each is also listed. Hamnataing is the first tune in the book and has long been described as an anthem. The first ever compos­ition Da Ness Polka finishes the book.

Many of the tunes are in regular measures and time signatures. How­ever, in keeping with the ever changing folk scene, there are a number of tunes where the key and time are constantly moving. As Chris says, taking them to your local session may not be the best idea. These pieces of music are not so readily accessible.

Two of the compositions have been performed by Scottish Orchestras – Dynrost by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and DRIVE by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Harmonies are provided for The Laughing Cavalier and Fraser Fifield’s while The Laughing Cava­lier is also part of a bar/beer title trend to several tunes. The White Wife and The Grimbergen Blonde are favourite beers with Ali­ster’s Vintage Bar and Chris Stout’s Compliments to the Bon Accord Ale House providing the venue.

Fishing, one of Chris’s passions, comes through in several titles. The Trows o’ Truggles Water was named following a fishing trip with band member Maurice Henderson where fishing, drams and yarns led to the title and a reluctance to further discuss the trip.

Souch o’ da Laebrak describes the retreat of the surf while The Fisherman’s Prayer was inspired by the sentiment of the old traditional tune Auld Swarra which mourns the loss of a fisherman. Clubbi Shuns is a trout loch at the back of Ronas Hill and of course Hamnataing is a great fishing spot off the shore of Mousa.

All in all, Chris should be very proud of the quality and diversity of these tunes. It will be interesting to see where this musical journey goes in future publications.

Margaret Scollay