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John McCusker Blog - Part 1

Mike Harding | 13:34 UK time, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

John McCusker writes:

The last few weeks have found me stuck at my computer with my partner Heidi in the other room at her laptop...both of us booking flights, rehearsal rooms, vans and loads of other stuff, trying to organise the logistics for a tour that will take 14 people on the road for a project called 'Under One Sky'...in our spare time we've been doing gigs and recording as well!

Under One Sky started when Eddie Barcan from Cambridge Folk Festival was asked by the PRS Foundation to put together a group of 12 musicians from Scotland and England, to create an hour long piece of music that would celebrate two British festivals. He chose the brilliant Celtic Connections in Glasgow to partner the fantastic Cambridge Folk Festival and asked me to put the band together and write the music, I was really chuffed to be asked and it's been the highlight of my musical career.

Sometimes when I do interviews they ask, "if you could choose any musicians in
the world who would be in your perfect band?". I got the opportunity to ask my
favourite musicians and singers to come and play and write with me in Under One Sky and I was totally delighted when they all said yes. It's been a brilliant
journey from the very first day with myself, Ian Carr and Andy Cutting in a
room sharing ideas and swapping tunes to visiting all the musicians in their
houses or catching a few hours in hotel rooms writing, teaching tunes and
giving over melodies for the songwriters to take away and put their magic words
to them, to all 12 of us in a rehearsal room in Glasgow not sure what was going
to happen! When we performed the piece in Glasgow at Celtic Connections for the first time I was really proud of what we had created and felt lucky to be up on a stage with all these brilliant folks.

After getting to perform the piece again at Cambridge Folk Festival last year I knew I wanted to make a record of the music and I had to try and put this magical team back together and do a tour. With the help of the Scottish Arts Council, Navigator Records and lots of folk's hard work... we've got a big van and we're going on the road!

I was going to mention all my friends in Under One Sky but the brilliant John
Tams
wrote a piece for the record and put it better than I ever could....

"Graham Coxon, sitting cross-legged on the floor tuning his Martin, graciously
waiting his turn; the sublime Ian Carr, carefully placing time where time has
never been before; James Mackintosh, putting just the right pressure on his
panoply of percussion; Ewen Vernal, breaking hearts with his editorial instinct
of choice; Emma Reid, working like a jeweller in her detail; Ian MacDonald,
guru, shamen, the piper of all pipers  - and in an envelope of peace the
singular Andy Cutting quietly about his indelible role; Julie Fowlis, the voice
of an angel singing in the language of angels moving easily between whistle and
Gaelic song; gentle Jim Causley of the most beautiful Devonian baritone voice; Roddy Woomble, stalking like a feral cat delivering serial wonder - and me! What the hell was I doing here in this box of brilliance?

"In the midst of this with a wink of an eye or a gentle nod from his fiddle stood
the reason we were all there - John McCusker.

"The unity the space engendered under John's gentle guidance proved the point. There is only one sky and we all live under it."

John Tams, October 2008

We start our tour in 2 weeks time and I can't wait. Better get back to my computer!

John McCusker

Hear a track from Under One Sky on The Mike Harding Show this week.

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