white nights reviews

Catriona McKay & Chris Stout - white nights - REVIEWS

"...a gobsmakingly wonderful duo.” TAPLAS

“This really is a stunning album…truly inspired." FIDDLE ON

“glittering harp work...exceptional bow control” The STRAD

“clear and strong…always a startling freshness and spontaneity at work...virtuosic and physically engaging...” LIVE AT THE QUEEN'S HALL NOV 2010  ***** The Glasgow Herald

“...worth buying for its stunning opening track alone...” ***** The Scotsman

“…this music is breathtaking." fROOTS

” Extremely  powerful ” Living Tradition


the glasgow herald

Catriona McKay & Chris Stout: White Nights (McKay Stout Music)

Rob Adams

9 Aug 2010

Scottish harp and Shetland fiddle are a marriage made in heaven.

The “Scottish harp” and “Shetland fiddle” descriptions below Catriona McKay and Chris Stout’s names on the cover of the duo’s first album since 2005’s exceptional Laebrack seem like quaint understatements alongside the music that they play. McKay frequently sounds as if she’s playing not just the harp but a whole rhythm section of string and fretted instruments, and while Stout undoubtedly has the Shetland fiddling tradition in his soul, the restless quest for adventure that has seen him experimenting and collaborating with Brazilian, Scandinavian and even Singaporean musicians brings an immense richness of tone and expression to his playing. White Nights itself may well be a slight understatement. It doesn’t quite capture the sheer vigour and excitement of their live performances, but from the spare, soulful impressionism of the opening track Missing You, through superbly atmospheric reel, jig and hymn tunes, to the bracing exuberance of Edges & High Water, this is still wonderful music played by musicians who are at the top of their game.

Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Rob Adams, Herald

19 Nov 2010

They made an odd couple: Chris Stout, wrapped in his big scarf, jacket and bunnet, looking like a farmer who’d just come in from checking his beasts were ok and was now having a tune on his fiddle; and Catriona McKay, seated at her harp, all concert platform chic in her basque and high heels.

In a sense, though, their apparel presented the ideal metaphor for music that’s firmly rooted in the soil of the tradition and yet journeys far into the realms of high art.

It’s music that they’ve been developing over some fifteen years and the mutual understanding they’ve forged is as clear and as strong as the sound they make together. Yet whether they’re playing McKay’s stunning and near-glacial opening air, Missing You, with its raga-like tendencies and papery bow strokes, or rampaging through the flamenco-Balkan-bebop intricacies of their friend and sometime colleague, guitarist Graeme Stephen’s Turns, there’s always a startling freshness and spontaneity at work.

Shetland reels and Swedish waltzes aren’t so much gathered into sets as sent on an adventure, with changes of pace that are as likely to involve steep, brilliantly effective deceleration as exhilarating acceleration, and arrangements that find McKay becoming a surrogate rhythm guitarist and the pair dovetailing as a percussion section and merging in a neatly executed watch mechanism of fiddle and harp harmonics.

Their presentation is as down to earth and entertaining as their duets are virtuosic and almost physically engaging, although McKay set new standards for verbal concision with her “explanation” of the blistering encore: “three Irish reels”.

Star rating: *****

Review: Catriona McKay & Chris Stout, Queen's Hall

Published Date: 18 November 2010, 



Catriona McKay & Chris Stout, Queen's Hall

As a living tradition and one of our country's most valuable exports, the Scottish folk music scene is in great nick these days.

Two people partly responsible for this are Dundee harpist Catriona McKay and Shetland fiddler Chris Stout. Leaders of

their respective fields, their instrumental brilliance is undeniable, with the dynamic duo's spellbinding performance last night managing to enchant all who were put before them.

You see, McKay and Stout are former lovers, and having performed together these past 15 years, they bestow the sort of on-stage chemistry that goes way beyond anything you could concoct in a science lab. They finish each other's tunes like some old married couple finishes each other's sentences. They scratch, slap and stroke their instruments (no jokes, please) in perfect harmony, and for just two people they somehow sound as if an entire rhythm section is sitting alongside them.

The main focus here, however, was tunes from the twosome's latest album, the simply superb White Nights. Inspired, partly, by the changing seasons in the far north, close your eyes and you could imagine yourself sitting on some barren Shetland moor gazing at the Northern Lights.

With eyes wide open, McKay resembles a Celtic-themed burlesque dancer who just happens to possess the finesse of a Greek goddess. Stout, meanwhile, whose dress sense has a lot in common with Clegg from Last Of The Summer Wine, gives the impression he moonlights as a bookie at the greyhound track when he's not stripping horse hair off his bow.

As for any between tune chit-chat? Well, we learned that yoga has become a pre-show warm-up routine for at least one member of the pair. We also discovered that Shetland finally has a few trees higher than a fence post and then there was the speech about how Stout accidentally wrote a tune about his own character without actually knowing it.

Cheesy as it sounds, at the end of the day it truly is all about the music. Reviewers have already attributed a million different adjectives to describe their unique alliance, so here's another one: genius.

the scotsman

Album review: Catriona McKay & Chris Stout - White Nights

Published Date: 20 July 2010




THIS PAIR, harper and fiddler, have been sparking creatively off each other for years and this disc sees them at their collaborative best so far. It's worth buying for its stunning opening track alone, Missing You, a plangent, meditative lament which seems to hover somewhere between a numinous north and a sultry far east.

Elsewhere is heady, venturesome delight in the mercurial darting of Isflak or the cascading title track. There's a clear Nordic ring to Stout's fiddle (made in his native Fair Isle, after all), a gentle nod to Shetland's wee folk in Da Trow's Jig, and a decidedly Scandinavian accent to the headlong rush of Roddy Sinclair, with McKay's nimble and often fiercely syncopated harping urging on the pace and similarly putting an intense spin on Edges and High Water.

They push their instruments hard and far, but come home to touch base beautifully with the auld-farrant Scots melancholy of the closing air, Michaelswood.

Off-Center Views


McKay and Stout Serve Harp and Fiddle Splendor

* * * * *

Try slapping a genre on the latest harp/fiddle collaboration between Catriona McKay and Chris Stout. Go ahead—I dare you! The opening notes of Stout’s echoing and melancholy fiddle are a lament, but are played with the hand of a classical master, and McKay’s ambient harp can only be called an outpouring of spontaneous emotion. Then it’s off to Norway on “Isflak” in a set that starts off Scottish, has a gorgeous harp bridge from McKay, jumps into a lively dance tempo, slides into a jazzy interlude, and finishes with a flourish in which Stout’s rapid fingering is matched by McKay flying down the strings. Later we get “Edges & High Water,” in which you’ll hear a bit of everything: experimental soundscaping, free-form jazz, breathtaking harp runs, bounced bow passages that melt into soaring fiddle swoops, and lots of the “edges” promised in the title. McKay’s playing is a revelation. McKay has liberated the harp akin to what Natalie Haas has done for cello. McKay grabs gorgeous and soulful leads, as she does on the delicate “Eira,” but she also takes the instrument out of the drawing room and turns it into a funky percussive instrument, which we hear to great effect on “Roddy Sinclair.” The album is a superb mix of complex arrangements such as the title track, and quieter tunes like the slowed-down “Da Trow’s Jig,” and the bittersweet “A Home Under Every Tree,” which McKay composed for a silent Norwegian film about a runaway. This nine-track marvel ends with the fragile “Michaelswood,” in which fiddle and harp encounter each other with the delicacy of crystal goblets being wrapped for side-by-side storage. Here’s the only label you need: a stunning collaboration of brainy and beautiful music.


Album Review: Catriona McKay and Chris Stout - White Nights (Self Release)

Allan Wilkinson

Northern Sky

Initially creating a similar ambience to that which Adrian Johnston came up with for his wonderfully evocative soundtrack to Michael Winterbottom's film Jude in the early 1990s, the combined forces of Catriona McKay and Chris Stout, on Scottish harp and Shetland fiddle respectively, have likewise produced a musical landscape that is both ancient in feel yet timeless in execution. The two instruments in these hands weave seamlessly in and out of intricate and complex musical patterns creating one unifying soundscape inspired in part by the seasons, the past and present and reportedly reliability and risk.

This is original music inspired by the rich history of Celtic music north of the border as well as further a field such as Scandinavia with Catriona's Isflak. Composed by either musician individually or collectively as in Edges and High Water, the pieces demonstrate how fifteen years of performing together provides an informed understanding of each others playing. With just the one traditional piece included, Parting of Friends, which is incorporated here as part of Catriona's beautiful waltz Eira, the compositions share a common bond with the tradition.

Michealswood is a contemplation on remembrance, a piece of music composed by Chris to celebrate the memory of the founder member of Fiddler's Bid Michael Ferrie, taking the name from a specially planted forest in Shetland lovingly created by Michael's parents and brother. A fitting testament to absent friends and a gorgeous climax to White Nights.

The one fact that seems to momentarily escape you throughout this musical journey, is that you are listening to just the two instruments. The harp and fiddle have so much to offer in terms of depth and range, that anything else would be an intrusion apart from the silence between the tracks. Breathtakingly beautiful stuff.

Shetland Times

Wonderful Stout and McKay White Nights by Catriona McKay and Chris Stout. McKay Stout Music, distributed by Proper Distribution and Highlander Music.

The latest CD from the talented duo who are well known for their performances with Fiddlers’ Bid seems to encapsulate th6 endless nights of summer with its dream-like themes, yet touches on some darker moments too.

From the haunting opening phrase in the track Missing You it is clear that the CD is going to be something special, something out of the ordinary, and so it is, trance music rather than dance music.

Stout’s fiddle music and McKay’s playing of Scottish harp make a fantastic mixing of sound on this largely self-penned CD. The duo remain true to their roots, however, with the inclusion of jigs and reels, albeit in their own style.  Although the album starts in a sombre mood. This quickly gives way to something altogether more playful in Isflak, followed by the title track White Nights, composed by Stout, this title borrowed from crime writer Ann Cleeves’ book of the same name.

Cleeves work captured the giddiness of days without end, and the music, according to the album notes, was “inspired by the heightened excitement and energy/ felt when summer gifts Shetland with long days that merge into light nights”.

Stout further pays homage to Cleeves in his composition Roddy SincIair, named after the flamboyant fiddler featured in the book. Stout said: “I just shut my eyes, put myself in his shoes and played with as much gusto as I could.”

More exhilarating sounds come from Edges High Water, inspired by Shetland’s landscape.

Da Trow’s Jig reverts to a slower and lower pace and has unmistakable classical references, showcasing the duo’s wide-ranging talent. 

McKay’s composition A Home under Every Tree evokes a sense of peace and this is mirrored in the final track, MichaeIswood.  This wooded area was painted in memory Michael Ferrie, a talented musician and one of the founder members of Fiddlers’ Bid.

Ferrie’s parents started the labour of love. which is still continuing, a decade ago and Stout’s composition chimes with the calm acceptance to be found there.

The range of this album, with its influences ancient and modern, is highly impressive and the playing breathtaking.

It is hard to believe only two people are making the music – it sounds like many hands are involved - and it represents a tremendous step forward from their previous album. The duo are truly dynamic and the album, with all its contrasts. is carefully and thoughtfully put together. Only one criticism - it’s too short!

Rosalind Grffith


White Nights

Catriona McKay & Chris Stout

Two highly respected artists playing two instruments - Catriona, the Scottish Harp and Chris, the fiddle. The way they create such tension and mystery by themselves is phenomenal. With influences constantly switching between The Shetlands and Scandinavia it's cinematic in it's scope and execution. And apart from one small trad detour, all their own material.

If this is your thing, then buy it; if it isn't, then hear it and make up your mind again.

5 spiral stars

Scots get Cajun in Eclectica Burns Night


Nick Kimberley

The evening began with a set of duets from fiddler Chris Stout and Celtic harpist Catriona McKay. The violin is the all but universal instrument of joyous lamentation, and at times we might have been in the Cajun heartlands, or in the Romanian mountains.

There were detours to Ireland, Sweden and Norway, and Scotland itself brought its own musical diversity, with particular melodies originating on this or that tiny island.

Stout played with a gorgeously foggy sound, while McKay made the harp do the work of a rhythm section, a guitar, a banjo, a mournful drone. Theirs is a collaboration born of mutual respect and a shared sense of adventure.

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Catriona McKay 2020