Dance Music


Calum spent his early life on the windswept little island of Tiree in the Hebrides of Scotland. At age eight, after moving to Glasgow, he started taking violin lessons from Mr John Johnston, the headmaster of his primary school. Calum’s gaelic speaking parents grew up with a great love of the gaelic music, dance and song of the Islands. A few of his aunts and uncles were good gaelic singers and a cousin, Hugh Kennedy was an annual piping judge at the Tobermory Games, so Calum was given every encouragement to play the traditional music of his family. An old fiddler next door in Glasgow, Willie Kemp, gave Calum his first half-size fiddle and started teaching him reels and strathspeys. Willie Kemp was a country fiddler who played the fiddle in the crook of his arm and he passed on a lot of tunes to Calum, many of which he still plays. In the winters in Glasgow, Calum would be taken by his parents to the Highlander’s Institute for concerts and dances and in the summers he’d be back home on the island doing the same thing.
In high school, Calum got involved in his first Scottish Country Dance band, called The Glen Allan Band named after the school, Allan Glen's, and made his first BBC broadcast at age 13, playing fiddle tunes.. In his college years the fiddle would go with him on sailing trips to the Inner Hebrides, where he would occasionally get to play with Pibroch MacKenzie and Bobby McLeod on the island of Mull.
In 1966, as a young engineer, Calum packed his fiddle and headed for the US. After a while he arrived in the Pacific Northwest and started working for Boeing. He was soon playing his traditional music around town including dance music for the Scottish Country Dancers.
In the 1980’s Calum joined up with local Scottish harper, Sile Harriss and they arranged, performed and taught music for Scottish fiddle and harp. Their sensitive and expressive original arrangements for fiddle and harp took them to teaching engagements at the Scottish Harp Society’s Summer Schools at Oberlin College. Around the same time, Calum started competing in Scottish fiddling competitions across the United States which led to him being runner up in the 1988 US National Scottish Fiddling Competition. He returned as a judge on five occasions and has coached several National Champions.
Playing for dancing and teaching fiddle became important parts of his musical activities and led to the formation of his first Scottish Country Dance Band, Skerryvore. His dance music now takes him all over the US and Canada with his band The Music of Spey, also featuring Andy Imbrie, piano, and the bass and cello player, Ralph Gordon. Calum also plays dances with Muriel Johnstone who is unarguably Scotland’s premier Scottish traditional pianist and a prolific composer, and with Lisa Scott, a very fine piano player from Portland.
A few years ago Calum found that his job at Boeing was interfering with his expanding musical career, so he “gave up Boeing for bowing” and took early retirement. In 2003 Calum and Muriel produced a CD of Scottish traditional music aptly called “It’s about Time” The CD contains both traditional tunes from the Scottish repertoire and a few original compositions by Muriel and Calum.
Today Calum is highly sought after as a performer and as a teacher. His musical expression ranges from the excitement and vigour of hard driving reels, jigs and strathspeys to the plaintive and sensitive treatment of the gaelic airs and laments. He teaches fiddle throughout the US, Canada and in Scotland and Japan at such places as the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes at Port Townsend, Washington, The Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina and at the Mastery of Scottish Arts Winter School in Washington State.
Having lived in the US for over 35 years, his Scottish fiddling style has been influenced over the years by Cape Breton , Old Time, Appalachian and other North American fiddle styles, many of which are variants of the Scottish tunes brought over in centuries past, but he still plays the old pipe reels and jigs that he brought over with him from Scotland
Calum lives in Edmonds, Washington with his wife Edna.