Strathspey and Surreal live Video from Celtic Connections

21 brilliant fiddlers perform 4 brand new pieces of music at Celtic Connections, conducted by Dave Milligan. Here is the LIVE video of the performance during January 2016. Hope you enjoy the video! The pieces are:

Disassembled by Jenn Austin
100 Days by Aidan O’Rourke
For A That Variation by Shona Mooney
Deil Amang the Fiddlers by Simon Thoumire

I wrote a blog on what my piece, “Disassembled” is all about here

The “Disassembled” whole score can be downloaded below (the piece is in 4 parts)

  1. Dramtime and The Swell in Ardtoe
  2. Disassembled
  3. Little Auk for Mum
  4. Lulu and the Girls of Rumster and Freckles

Little Auk for Mum

One of six tunes from my ‘Disassembled’ piece written for the Strathspey and Surreal, performed at Celtic Connections 2016.

The sheet music is available here Little Auk for Mum

I wrote a blog about what all the tunes were about here –…and-surreal-2/


The fiddlers!

The composers were (right to Left) Shona Mooney, Aidan O’Rourke, Simon Thoumire and myself. You can hear Simon’s piece here. The other pieces will be available soon too 🙂


The composers

photos by Louis DeCarlo


Strathspey and Surreal – Sat 23rd 1pm, concert hall


I’ve really enjoyed writing the music over the Christmas period. The piece is made up of 6 tunes (which sorted a few of my christmas presents). It opens with a tune called Dramtime, written for my Dad. Dramtime is 1pm, Granny Pam comes over and any family members kicking about join for a dram.

One of the ideas I had was to transfer a vamping piano accompaniment onto the fiddles. I recorded the parts into my laptop and from there jammed ideas until the tune came about.

What follows is a tune called “The Swell in Ardtoe”. The room in which dramtime happens looks over the water. It is normally flat calm, but a rare swell created perfect waves for surfing. My boyfriend, Mike Guest was straight out and in the water to surf and we all sat with our drams in the warmth watching excitedly…in the warmth.

Another idea was to take any other sounds of a typical Strathspey and reel, such as fiddle tuning, yapping, squeaking and build a piece from them. This tune is called disassembled. I promise it’s not that bad.

svalbard_0612_7798_700px1After I’d written a few reels I thought it was a good idea to not write another. This is a Waltz, I wrote for Mum. I called it Little Auk for Mum, as she’d been really hoping to see one of these little birds and the day I was due to print out the tunes, She saw one.

I decided to try writing a Strathspey, So I wrote one in E and called it Lulu and the Girls of Rumster. One dramtime, Granny Pam was telling us about the cows she had on Rumster farm. She was very fond of them and had names for them all, Lulu, Primrose, Rosemary, Mirabel – were a few.

It finishes with a reel in E, since after a strathspey its all ya want. So ended up writing another reel, I named it Freckles. Because it sounds happy and Mike Guest is a happy chappy.


We had our first rehearsal last week, and it was a great laugh. ShonaSimon and Aidan‘s and pieces are brilliant and all quite different so I think its going to be an entertaining afternoon! looking forward to saturday now!

The fiddlers are Shona Mooney, Mhairi Mackinnon, Laura Wilkie, Patsy Reid, Lori Watson, Kristen Harvey, Lauren MacColl, Chris Stout, Aidan O’Rourke, Catriona Price, Adam Sutherland, Innes Watson, Ross Couper, Jenna Reid and Rua MacMillan.

They also have six Students from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They are Ryan Young, Sally Simpson, Robbie MacKenzie, Bernadette Kellerman, Madeleine Stewart and Graham Rorie.

They’ll be conducted by Dave Milligan.

The four pieces are: (performance order)

  1. Disassembled (Jenn Austin)
  2. 100 Days (Aidan O’Rourke)
  3. For A That Variation (Shona Mooney)
  4. Deil Amang the Fiddlers (Simon Thoumire)

The concert is being videoed and recorded and will be made available on YouTube in due course.

Tickets are available here for the gig –  Sat, 1pm in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Main Auditorium


Strathspey and Surreal

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.51.33Currently working on music for “Strathspey and Surreal” a project thought up by Simon Thoumire and Aidan O’Rourke. New music written by Aidan, Simon, Shona Mooney and myself will be performed by 21 amazing fiddlers! on the 23rd of January at Celtic Connections – more info here

fiddlers are – Adam Sutherland, Innes Watson, Ross Couper, Jenna Reid, Rua Macmillan, Patsy Reid, Lori Watson, Kristan Harvey, Megan Henderson, Chris Stout, Jack Smedley, Mhairi Mackinnon and Laura Wilkie, plus top fiddle students Ryan Young, Sally Simpson, Robbie MacKenzie, Bernadette Kellermann, Madeleine Stewart and Graham Rorie.


Mumbai blog – final week

Laura was back in Scotland for her birthday so we decided to have a night for her in Mumbai before she left. We went to karaoke and Amogh picked up a cake on route, without her seeing. We put her name down for karaoke, we actually put her name down to sing 5 songs but the karaoke leader said just one at a time. It ended up being Shaggy – ‘it wasn’t me’. Which Laura wasn’t over the moon about. The leader knew all the rapping so he was rapping along.

We brought out the cake and in traditional indian style it was fed to Laura by everyone else- even folk we didn’t know picked up some and fed her and also sloped it on her face. Heehee.

I had my last session with Aashansh on wednesday. I had wanted to pick up cake but the cake shop wasn’t open so early. So the best I could do was chewits. We sang through our songs and activities and sat down in a circle and I gave everyone their chewits…… Then everyone pulled out a homemade card. One at a time they came and gave their card to me. They were so sweet and said thankyou. One wasn’t finished….it was card shape with a heart cut out, no writing, handed over to me with a little shoulder shrug. Loved it.

Have really loved seeing these kids every week. Full of fun, cheek and all so sweet too.

For the last 2 weeks at gateway school Rimi and I have been making up music for the kids to play during their performance of Romeo and Juliet. It’s the first time the school is doing something like this, combining movement class, music class with the play. Had so much fun jamming ideas with Rimi. she improvised vocal lines over the top of a simple piano riff that we played round and round. It felt so good! So calm – she has the most soothing voice.

Saturday I had my last session with Muktangan teachers. We were all surprised – it had crept up. I felt bad after as I hadn’t warn them it was the last one. But I did bring mrs guest’s homemade shortbread – which they loved and said was very tasty. And these ladies know good food! The ladies said that the activities we had done in our sessions together had been useful in their own music classes – they’d be trying them all out, which was cool to hear.

On the same day I had my last session with Dharavi art room. This time I was on a mission to bring cake. I shopped around, until a lady told me to go to ‘venus cake shop’. Found it, amazing – 280 rupees for a whole cake.

Amogh came to see the kids and also Katie and Geoff from the Scottish government – who happen to be in Mumbai – came along to see the project in action. I was expecting to do a session and then eat cake but when I walked in, all the kids were gathered and shouted surprise!! They put a crown on my head- made out of a cardboard cup and gave me a bouquet of flowers made from paper. They steered me over to stand in front of a paper banner saying farewell and all the kids sang you are my sunshine to me. My eyes were welling up!! Then we sat in a circle as cake came out, I got a dollop put on my nose and fed a slice.

They also gave me a beautiful homemade card (with pop up centre), a notebook and cool illustrated coasters, which the art room sell.

What a goodbye!

Rimi joined me for the last session at St Judes cancer rehabilitation unit on Sunday. I’d asked Rimi about getting a cake for them and she organised for cake to be delivered that is suitable for the kids to eat, as not everything is good for them whilst on treatment. Rimi thinks she will carry on the music sessions with them. I was helping Rimi learn the ukulele (as well as teach myself) since the start of the residency and she can now play songs and use the ukuleles that the centre has with the kids. We’re going to carry on sharing ideas/ song chords together over internet.

Rimi gave me indian breeks for my Kerala holiday 🙂 I’ve been wearing them everyday since. So comfy. We went for lunch. I’ve found a good friend in Rimi, I’m wondering how we can make music together…. Between Scotland and Mumbai.

Next day was my last day at Gateway school. I taught Rimi the piano parts to the Romeo and Juliet music we had created. There is sad tune, a happy/romantic tune and a transition melody. So she can teach the parts to the kids. We also recorded the piano accompaniment to the songs we did in class so that when it comes to the annual concert, the kids can perform with the piano recording.

This has been an incredible experience. I’m so grateful to LMN, Carol and Vicky for making it happen. I’ve learnt so much and gained really good experience. I’ve made amazing amazing friends and think my confidence has grown. Or perhaps I’ve just got a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Haha. I’m so excited now to return home to play music and see everyone and mike, who’s made my trip by being so supportive.

Okay enough ooey gooey stuff

I’m going to try and surf in Kerala with my bro !







Mumbai Blog 9 – Dharavi art room concert, Badmaash in a Rickshaw, one more week.

Dharavi Art Room music wallahs shone in their performance this saturday. We had trained hard…


sweated….stuck to a strict regime.


The kids came up with their plan of action – what songs to sing, actions to do, what to say. The kids choo choo’ed their way up to the stage singing the welcome train is coming! then into you are my sunshine, a couple of the kids played it on the keyboard. Then they sang baby shark, (which – in the middle of – one of the kids stopped and told their friend to sing more softly because they were yelling) then ah wumba way and finishing with Herman the Worm song. In class we were using my piano sack as a worm costume…. obviously. So we did this in the concert too. I love these kids.


Earlier this week I heard the best excuse to leave class – “I need to go and get my snails from my friend because he is leaving now”. Here he is, on returning with his snails safely in….a plastic bag.


With the concert confirmed only a week before it happened, not much advertisement could be done so we had a slight audience turning up issue. But our good friends who did turn up helped us shepherd in a few more folk and before we knew it, the room looked pretty full.

Badmaash in Bombay episode 5 – Rickshaw! This was a lot of fun. Our friend Amogh helped us film from another Rickshaw. We made a small circuit in Bandra and drove round and round with the 2 rickshaws….amogh’s rickshaw swerving loops round ours.


At gateway this week, Rimi and I have been thinking up musical parts for the kids to play to accompany their play, Romeo and Juliet.


here’s a turtle and a duck.


here’s a parrot


Welcome to the office. We are very busy.

It’s not sunk in yet, I have one week left of teaching and spending time with the kids. but I have thought carefully about one thing. There will be cake. let there be cake.

Mumbai blog 8: HOLI, Dharavi Art room and Women’s day

On tuesday (before Holi) I was teaching Mahesh piano. He is the music teacher for the ‘Mewsic’ centre in Dharavi slum. He is from Dharavi himself and is self taught on piano, guitar and probably other things too. He has an amazing ear and has created a curriculum for the kids from Dharavi to learn through. He doesn’t use notation but uses the note names and the Indian version of Do Re Mi, which is: Sa Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni. He wants to learn notation so we have been touching on that. His main idea though, is to get the kids excited about music and playing rather than reading music. Mahesh told me he is firstly a harmonium player and then taught me a raga on the harmonium! cool.

Wednesday was a busy day with Aashansh and then I went to Gateway school for special needs. I normally go to Gateway on a Friday but this week it was a holiday for Holi….

On thursday I planned all the weekend sessions since I knew there was going to be some partying…

Friday – Holi festival! woke up to Laura phoning at 10am. leave now! so got to hers and oiled up! This is so colour doesn’t stick. Wear white and put phone, purse in plastic bag.

We left for Amogh’s to meet the others. It was a bright sunny day. We gathered and had a rum – felt like christmas day having a drink so early! We threw Colour, had a massive water fight and continued to drink rum and dance under the Indian sun all day

ahhhhhh just had the most beautifully amazing happy time. Loved it!!!

The next day I had a session with the music teachers from Muktangan and a session with the Dharavi Art room kids, who fancied trying on the keyboard bag for size…and modelling…..

They are really quick learners and keen to learn the instruments. Aqui says someone has donated a guitar to the art room – which is cool! Hopefully the concert at end of March will raise good funds and the music sessions will keep going!


Sunday I did the session at St Judes cancer rehabilitation unit. We did the parachute swamp plus other activities at the beginning. Then we got the percussion instruments out. A lot of the kids are amazing drummers! It was pretty loud from the moment we got out the instruments -the poor nurses and other workers were putting their hands over their ears. heehee. But for the kids, whacking a drum must feel pretty good if they’ve been cooked up getting treatment.

Aqui from Dharavi Art room was hosting a session for the women of Dharavi for international Woman’s day. After watching a couple of videos about women empowerment we did an activity in partners. We had to find out facts about our partner, favourite colour, hobbies, etc and why it feels so good to be a women. We then had to stand up and tell the group the facts we had learned about our partner and shout GO WOMEN after. hehe.


I was having trouble making my brain work but it was a good activity to break the ice. We then sang a Hindi song – Aqui taught and I played the chords, then the ladies had a try of the instruments. They are so funny, joking all the time – I had no idea what they were saying and they had no idea what I was saying but dancing about playing an instrument is an universally funny thing.

We had a snack and Aqui played some music from her laptop and we all had a mini boogie before the ladies left. I realised I had engulf my food like usual and the other women had saved theirs… to take home. One thing they do here – absolutely everyone does – is share their food. Its really nice. Nobody ever seems greedy, even when some must be so hungry. I’d like to be more like this.

Last sunday we made a Badmaash in Bombay in a yoga class !