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Chris Stout and Catriona McKay with James Crabb

MONDAY 10–SATURDAY 15 APRIL 2023

‘The residency and performance at UKARIA will be incredibly special, as this will be the first time ever that we will have performed as a trio in public. The opportunity to have a residency beforehand will give us the necessary time to create new repertoire for the trio. We are absolutely thrilled that UKARIA will be the place where we will set off on our collaborative journey as a trio.’

– James Crabb

Rachel Bruerville, our Communications Coordinator, spoke with Chris and Catriona about the residency and the trio's debut performance.

How valuable has it been for the three of you to spend this focussed time together in residence at UKARIA, purely to make music, alongside the rush of touring life?

Chris: The first half of this trip to Australia was really, really intense. We had ten days of travelling, gigs all one after the other, and if it wasn’t a gig day it was a long drive with lifting heavy suitcases, carrying instruments in and out of cars – you become physically exhausted! So, having this time to be together, to create music in an unrushed way… that feeling of safety, in this beautiful environment, is absolutely incredible, and it has come at a really good time for us all. Socially as well, that’s been so important – building trust and friendship which then comes across on stage. That feeling – all the other stuff apart from the music – has been nurtured as well.

Catriona: I think having the chance to be here… there’s a sense of wellbeing. Sometimes when you’re out on the road touring, you’re kind of protecting yourself a little bit, and I think being here, because of that sense of wellbeing and fun, is such a joyous experience. And I think that’s what the UKARIA audience is really lucky to get, too – musicians in that zone. We certainly felt an amazing energy in the room at the concert.

At your debut trio performance on Saturday night at UKARIA, James described the two of you [Chris and Catriona] as having ’thirty years of telepathy’ between you. How did you initially connect with James and decide to bring him into your music making?

Catriona: There have been a few connections with James over the years, but it’s taken until now to actually get the time together. We met in Scotland in April last year – James was over visiting his family – and that was when we first met in person to actually sit down with our instruments. It was wintery weather, but we were still barbequing at the time! So, we were used to sitting outside playing in the cold, and poor James was not prepared with his winter layers, so we wrapped him up in wool… he looked great.

Chris: We are all similar-thinking musicians, and we’ve all had a similar road in the sense that we all have a formal training in classical music. There are variations of where we’ve ended up in our careers, of course, but we’ve all had that formal training, and we’ve all had a background in Scottish traditional music. So when you meet someone who thinks the same way… it’s what Catriona and I have based our whole lives’ work on so far. We compose in a way which doesn’t deny any of the components that we’ve been lucky enough to feed from, and James is the same in his music. So it’s unique to find kindred spirits in yourselves. James has had his own path, but his mind, the way he thinks, the way he plays music, is so similar. And that’s why I think it works so well with James – it wouldn’t just work with anybody.

It was so natural between the three of you, the communication in performance, and from an audience perspective, we didn’t feel any fear or anxiety about what might happen next – it just all happened!

Catriona: Exactly, and getting this time here together, you have a chance to build up that trust, and really that’s what music and humanity is about, that’s what we really want to connect to. So when you have the chance to communicate that wellbeing and trust on stage, that’s exactly what the audience gets. They understand that, and that’s life affirming.

Will you continue with this trio collaboration going forward?

Chris: Absolutely! I think it's just one of those 'life things' now. Just there. And that’s brilliant, because we know James on a much deeper level now, and the music sounds great, so we’ll always look forward to opportunities in the future when the stars align.

Catriona: We also worked hard to get some recordings this week, so at least people will have an idea of what the trio might sound like – how would you imagine how accordion, harp and violin might work? 

Chris: All we can do to prove that it does is get out there and play – a bit of a bizarre combination, but it works so well!

Images: James Crabb and Chris Stout in Glenshee, Scotland, April 2022; James Crabb, Catriona McKay, Ulrike Klein AO, and Chris Stout at UKARIA Cultural Centre after the trio's debut performance on Saturday 15 April 2023.