Tag Archives: accordian

Gordon Connell Enters Traditional Music Hall of Fame

FOR only a small island with a population of not much more than 700, Tiree has produced an inordinate number of accordionists, not least those playing in such well-known west coast bands as Skipinnish, Skerryvore and Gunna Sound, as well as in up-and-coming young outfits such as Trail West and Dùn Mòr.

Much of the credit for this must go to local resident Gordon Connell, a self-taught piano-accordionist whose enthusiasm for the music and dedication as a teacher has inspired some 100 accordionists on the island which has been his home since 1962.

Voted Music Tutor of the Year in the 2010 Scots Trad Music Awards, Gordon first arrived on the island to take up a post as history and later modern studies teacher at Cornaigmore School – now Tiree High School – and by 1970 he was teaching accordion there. Described as “a natural teacher”, he taught initially by ear, although the arrival of a music teacher on the school’s staff in the mid-1970s enabled his pupils to read music, making it easier for Gordon to teach them – although he describes his own music-reading skills as “still pretty basic”. His teaching may have been on a voluntary basis, but his impact on the island’s young musicians has been huge. On a BBC Alba documentary about the accordion, Beò air a’ Bhogsa – “Outside the Box”, a few years ago, one of his students, Ian Smith, the accordionist of Trail West and a finalist in the 2014 Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition, commented: “I don’t think anyone could match what Gordon did – an immense amount of work as a tutor.” “Gordon is quite different to any other music tutor I’ve ever had,” says Daniel Gillespie, accordionist with the now internationally renowned west-coast folk-rockers Skerryvore. “It’s unbelievable how natural teaching is to him and how much patience he has. Gordon would be first to say that he’s not a world-class accordion player but he is a world-class teacher. And he’s never taken a penny for his teaching.”

Yet Gordon didn’t actually take up the accordion until he arrived on the island. Born in 1940, he grew up in the village of Blairmore, nine miles outside Dunoon. He attended Strone Primary School & Dunoon Grammar school, then went on to gain a degree at Glasgow University before doing his teacher-training year at Jordanhill Collage. Rather than music, his main interests while growing up were golf and football, and he still maintains an enthusiastic interest in the latter sport. He recalls, however, listening to the Saturday evening Scottish country dance music programme on the radio. It wasn’t until he arrived in Tiree, however, that he took up the box, and in hindsight describes his initial efforts as “rather painful to listen to”. With perseverance, however, his playing improved and by 1970 was teaching the instrument as a leisure activity at the school. Gordon was also a regular at local dances and functions, taking to the stage with band members Murray Omand and the late Stewart Langley. The band entertained Tiree for many years and earlier this year Gordon and Murray took to the stage once again to play at The Tiree Associations very succesful event – Tiree Memories. Many people commented that the music on the night took them right back to the ‘good ole days’ of dancing to Gordon and Murray’s music in the old hall in Crossapol and other venues throughout the island.

The island’s accordion scene started to really take off around 1990, says Gordon, who credits the fact that students were starting to compete at the National Mòd and also that Tiree started its own annual Fèis.He retired from his teaching job at the school in 1996, but was persuaded to carry on teaching accordion by the enthusiasm of his pupils. “What still motivates me is the great response I get from my students,” he says. “At present I have a really keen group at various stages; they’re all fantastic people and are a pleasure to teach.”

Tiree, he adds, is “a small and friendly community. Most of my former students still keep in touch – many of them I count as friends.” So far as his own playing is concerned, he declares simply that “teaching youngsters who are about to overtake you is motivation enough for me to keep practising and trying to learn new tunes – I wouldn’t really class myself as a player. “I guess the most satisfying thing for me is seeing my students progress – some to form their own bands – at least four of them are making a living from their music and a couple of others are bandleaders with day jobs, but extremely competent just the same.”

Congratulations to Eilidh Macfadyen

Mod Winner

Photo © Graham Hood http://grahamhoodphotography.com

At this year’s National Mòd in Dunoon, the U-19 Accordion Competition was won by Eilidh MacFadyen of Caolis, with Ruaridh Morrison, who has strong Tiree connections, a close second.

Eilidh was a student at Tiree High School and is presently in her second year of studying Music and Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye. She now has a Gold to add to the Silver she won in Stornoway last year. She has also shown her ability to teach accordion – at Feis Thiriodh 2011 and 2012.

She would like to return to her roots some time in the future and maybe replace the ‘old codger’ who teaches accordion here at present.

Ruaridh is in 6th year at Oban High School and a really promising player. Both Eilidh and Ruaridh were praised by adjudicator Ian Mair for their ‘pipey’ interpretation of their respective March, Strathspey and Reel sets. We wish them every success in their musical careers.

Gordon Connell

Mod Success for Tiree’s Talented Youth

mod participantsTiree once again led the field in the under 19 accordion competition ( March, Strathspey and Reel of own choice) at the National Mod in Stornoway.

Pictured are Ian Smith (right) and Eilidh MacFadyen who won Gold and Silver respectively. Also pictured is Jack MacRobbie who has attended Tiree Feis regularly over the years and scored highly on the day.

All are accomplished musicians who are pupils of Gordon Connell , no stranger to success in tutoring young players. Ian has now commenced study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow , Eilidh is at Sabhal Mor in Skye and Jack attends Lews Castle College in Benbecula – all following further study in music.

Nach iad a rinn math!

Joyce MacInnes (Tiree High School Music Club)

 

Triumph For Na Tirisdich At The Trads

Gordon Connell

Despite the appalling wintry conditions on the mainland, a number of Tiree residents made the journey to Perth Concert Hall to be at the 2010 MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards on Saturday 4th December.

This was the eighth annual award which was set up to celebrate all forms of traditional music in Scotland.

Gordon Connell was winner of the Music Tutor of the year Award sponsored by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music initiative. Skipinnish Ceilidh House in Oban, which is run by Angus MacPhail and Andrew Stevenson, won venue of the Year Award sponsored by Coda Music.

Congratulations to Gordon, Angus and Andrew on their success.

Skerryvore Rock China

skerryvore_china

And named Argyll’s Award Winning Entrepeneurs

Celtic Rock group Skerryvore made their furthest venture yet , travelling to the Far East to perform in Beijing, China.

The band were performing at the International Routes Event that was held in Beijing from the 12th to 15th September, attracting over 4,500 people from all over the world. The band also managed to fit in two other performances at music venue Ginko and went down a storm with locals and tourists alike.

Piper Martin Gillespie said “Beijing was an incredible experience for all of us, however, coming from Tiree which has a population of around 700 to then being in a city with a population of 14 million really did take my breath away. The locals were really friendly, and we received a fantastic reception at all three of our performances. We met the head of the Beijing Caledonian Society regarding performing at one of their annual events so hope to return to China again in the near future.”

Upon their return to Scotland, Skerryvore were then announced winners of the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) Young Entrepeneur of the Year for Argyll & Bute and received their award at a ceremony at the A & B Council headquarters in Lochgilphead. The band now go through to the National Final with the chance of winning Young Business of the Year for Scotland and £2,000 towards their company. PSYBT regional manager Mags Watson said “They have demonstrated ambition and enthusiasm for taking good ideas and transforming them into a successful, thriving business. We wish them every success in the future.”

Skerryvore’s second album, On the Road, released in 2007 was re-pressed within a week of its release. They are currently working on a new album.