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Alistair Anderson

Concertina Player, Northumberland, North East England

(Not sure what you mean by below:)

Northumbrian Article – separate file
Living Tradition Article – just pic of cover then
The Living Tradition magazine did an extensive series of articles spread over three issues detailing Anderson's contribution as a musician, composer, educator and facilitator.

The Scotsman - 17 October 2008

Drawing on deep folk roots to nourish a generation

By Jim Gilchrist

He has made forays into the realms of jazz, string quartets and even Chinese music. Now Alistair Anderson, concertina virtuoso, Northumbrian piper and tireless champion of the region's folk music, is touching base with a new album, Islands (White Meadow Records - See RELEASES), a compendium of new material, traditional tunes and past compositions revisited.

He's also getting out to play a bit more, while remaining artistic director of the Folkworks music development agency, which he and Ros Rigby set up in 1988 and which has done much to bring traditional music to younger generations in the north of England. His co-musicians on the album include several former students of the traditional music degree course at Newcastle University, for which Folkworks was a catalyst, and of which he was head for four years.

"It's been about having fun – just good old tunes and really getting into them," he says of Islands, adding how much he relished playing with Emma Reid, the young fiddler who duets with him on several tracks to mettlesome effect, while a snappy accompanying band on other tracks includes graduates of the Newcastle University degree course now starting to make names for themselves, such as Border fiddler Shona Mooney and harpist Rachel Newton (both Mooney and Newton, incidentally, are members of the all-woman outfit The Shee, who have also emerged from the Newcastle scene, and have just released their debut, A Different Season). Other guests on the album include the English folk guitarist and bluesman Martin Simpson, with whom he toured recently.

Following the acclaimed On Cheviot Hills, which he recorded some years back with The Lindsays string quartet, Anderson collaborated with jazz trombonist Annie Whitehead, and a couple of resulting tunes crop up on this album.

His most recent and perhaps most improbable-sounding encounter was with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra – which he explains by pointing to the sheng, the Chinese instrument that is the ancient ancestor of all free-reed instruments, including the concertina.

In contrast, the new album sees him playing tunes he learned from, or composed in tribute to, Northumbrian tradition bearers including Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson, while his affection for his home ground emerges in a suite, The Farne Islands.

"It's just an exciting little mix of things that are happening. And I like to think I can still play a part in it all," he laughs, referring to his 60th birthday in March, which was celebrated by "Alistair Anderson's Diamond Dazzler" at the Sage Gateshead, with guests as diverse as Richard Thompson, clog dancers and members of the Northern Sinfonia reflecting the concertina player's wide-ranging musical travels.

And they have taken him a long way since he was a member of the High Level Ranters, ground-breaking exponents of Northumbrian music as far back as the late 1960s. He recently bumped into the band's accordionist and singer, Johnny Handle, at one of the regular gatherings of the degree course students in Newcastle's famous Bridge Inn, and noted how the music transcended any generation gap. He's hoping that some time soon a younger successor will take over at Folkworks, leaving him more time for playing.

"Some of these youngsters are really into growing their roots sufficiently deeply so they can branch out without the tree falling over," as he puts it. "The music is evolving all the time, but you really need to feel the sense and smell of it, and the more you've got a grip on those roots, the more you can branch out. Not all those branches will work, but that's always been the case."

In Anderson's case, the branches seem to have been pretty fruitful.