Scotland's Top Musicians Share Christmas Song and Story

Kerry Dexter's picture

It's become a cherished part of the festive season in Scotland: for the last fourteen years, Phil Cunningham's Christmas Songbook has brought together some of the country's top musicians in a festive celebration series of concerts that has toured across Scotland in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Phil Cunningham. From Scotland's Top Musicians Share Christmas Song and Story

This year, that way of bringing holiday cheer wasn't to be. But that didn't stop Cunningham and musical pals John McCusker, Ian Carr, Kris Drever, Eddi Reader, Kevin McGuire, and Karen Matheson.

In a large venue with all safety procedures observed, the musicians got together to make music for several hours -- all the more joyous because it is rare for musicians to have the opportunity to play together in these times.

Scotland's Top Musicians Share Christmas Song and Story

From this session, two one-hour concerts have been edited. They comprise seasonal songs new and familiar, great musical collaboration, good stories, and lively chat.

Phil's Cunningham's Christmas Songbook Volume 1 will be premiered on Saturday 19th December at 7pm GMT. Phil Cunningham's Christmas Songbook Volume 2 will be premiered on Wednesday 23rd December at 7pm GMT.

Each concert is different; you can buy tickets to one or both, and once they have premiered, watch your choices as many times as you like right up until the 27th December. Tickets are available to buy here

Scotland's Top Musicians Share Christmas Song and Story

About the artists:

Phil Cunningham is known as much for his dry wit as his creative musicianship. He's also well known as a presenter on radio and television. In concert and on record, you will often find him in partnership with Shetland fiddler Aly Bain.

Karen Matheson is the lead singer and a founding member of the top band Capercaillie, who are as known for work with world artists as for their straight-on respect for Scotland's traditional music. Capercaillie's most recent album is At the Heart of It All. Matheson has a solo album, Still Time, set for release in February.

Kris Drever is a creative guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is known for his work as part of the trio Lau, and has worked with artists including Eamonn Coyne and Cathie Ryan and been part of the Lost Words: Spell Songs project as well. His recent solo album is called Where the World is Thin.

Eddi Reader has lent her distinctive voice to to folk song, pop song, classic self-penned songs, and songs of Robert Burns. Numerous awards and eight solo albums decorate a career spanning more than three decades; a sure sense of musical identity and creativity mark all her work. Reader's recent solo album is called Cavalier.  

John McCusker, whose main instrument is the fiddle, is in demand as a player, producer, and music director. He's collaborated with artists including Mark Knopfler, Battlefield Band, Roddy Woomble, and Heidi Talbot. In 2021, John  is set to release a Best of album featuring tracks from across his career.

Ian Carr has forged a path creating a unique approach to Scottish traditional music on the guitar. He's worked on his own musical projects including Swåp and Timber, and has collaborated with piper Kathryn Tickell, among others.

Kevin McGuire is in demand as a double bassist who has worked with folk artists including Karine Polwart and Kate Rusby.


As these artists join together to celebrate the festive season, you can expect good fellowship, good stories, and of course, top class music.

"Although we're sad not to be in your company this year, we are delighted to have been able to put these two concerts together and we hope you will enjoy singing along in the comfort of your own home," Phil Cunningham says. "We will be thinking of you and raising a glass to you wherever you are in the world! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and here's to a better New Year!"



Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road.


All photos copyright photographer Sean Purser and courtesy of Sean Purser and of Innes Campbell Communications