Above: Loch Affric © Trees for Life
Duncan Chisholm is one of Scotland’s most recognised and accomplished fiddle players and composers. His award-winning and highly acclaimed music includes Live at Celtic Connections and The Strathglass Trilogy. Duncan’s musical career has taken him throughout the UK, USA and Europe.
Have you travelled anywhere recently that you have particularly enjoyed?
I enjoy travel wherever it may take me and for many contrasting reasons. This week I am in the Shetland Isles, last month I was in the United Arab Emirates and two weeks before that I was in Bilbao in the Basque Country. These are of course incredibly diverse places, but all glowing with their own individual beauty.
The music, the art, the buildings, the tastes and smells, the history – and of course the people – of a particular area make life as a travelling musician all the more fulfilling. When all of these things come together, a location seems to make sense in human terms. For me, when you hear the local music you begin to understand what lies at the heart of a place. Continuous travel is the best education anyone could have.
What is the most inspiring thing you have ever seen or experienced on your travels?
I am always inspired by human endeavour or human kindness and I experience that daily, whether it be casting your eyes upon La Sagrada Familia for the first time or a stranger bringing you a cup of tea… it is all inspirational in a way.
For natural beauty, Yosemite Park in California would take some beating.
And your most unusual or disastrous travel experience?
I was locked up and deported from Kazakhstan a few years ago for having a page missing in my passport (all very above board and my passport/ visa had been approved by their Embassy prior to travel). While I was in the holding cell, I thought I best try to convince the guards that I was a travelling musician and played them a few tunes. They ended up taking selfies with me. Despite all the music and cheer they still deported me.
Tell us about a place that is special to you.
Aviles in Asturias is a beautiful town and I have many friends there. If I ever felt like living anywhere outside Scotland it would be top of my list.
“CONTINUOUS TRAVEL IS THE BEST EDUCATION ANYONE COULD HAVE”
For the last couple of years you’ve competed in the Highland Cross Duathlon – can you tell us a bit more about this event?
This is a fantastic duathlon event which raises lots of money for various social and medical charities throughout the Highland region of Scotland. It is a 20 mile walk or run from Kintail to Glen Affric followed by a 30 mile cycle to Beauly. Basically the challenge is to cross Scotland, west to east, within a few hours. I love taking part in this event – it is a challenge but one I have very much enjoyed, as you go through some of the most stunning countryside in Scotland… and on occasion the sun shines on your back.
Which destination is top of your travel wish list?
There are a few. I have yet to make it to Sicily and I have had a desire to visit for many years. Also Havana would be high up on my list – I would like to see Cuba before it changes too much. From what I imagine it was like in Hemingway’s time … maybe too late already. Also I would like to travel in South America to Tierra del Fuego.
If you could go anywhere in the world, what would you buy to bring back home with you?
I was in Maine a few years ago and got to play a violin made by Santo Serafino, an acclaimed Italian violin maker from the 18th Century. It was without doubt the finest instrument I have ever played. If I had the chance I’d be on the first plane to Maine tomorrow.
Besides clothes and a passport, if you could only take three items on your travels, what would they be?
Fiddle, ipod and sunnies.
Do you have any tips for travelling responsibly?
Smile… always smile.
Duncan has live concerts planned throughout 2015 – including Priddy Folk Festival, Somerset, England on 11 July and Party at the Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland on 9 August. He will touring in the USA in October. For tour dates and to buy music visit www.duncanchisholm.com.
See our world music feature for a review of Affric.
Green Adventures June 2015
Buy Duncan’s CDs from Amazon
I particularly love the music of Asturias which, like Scotland’s music, was repressed for many years through political conflict and came bursting alive after the Franco years with positivity and purpose. Aviles is a town full of beautiful architecture, whether it be modern or from the 13th Century. The food is glorious and the local cider is perfect.