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Issue 84 - The Music and the Land

Scotland Magazine Issue 84
December 2015


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The Music and the Land

Shona McMillan meets up with the legendary accordion player Freeland Barbour

The month of October saw the launch in Edinburgh of a remarkable body of work. The Music and the Land – The music of Freeland Barbour, celebrates more than 400 original compositions by this most respected and admired of musicians.

One of Scotland's leading traditional performers, Freeland has produced this legacy project to include the many stories behind his tunes. Set against an equally rich collection of photographs, the music and photographs convey the beauty of Scotland’s landscape in all of its seasons.

In two beautiful volumes, 370 colour photographs weave their magic to complement the informative and entertaining stories which bring to life the full sheet notation of over 440 original compositions written by Freeland Barbour.

The Music and the Land takes us on a journey reflecting his personal musical influences and experiences with such well known Scottish bands as Silly Wizard, The Wallochmor Ceilidh Band, The Ghillies and The Occasionals.

Freeland’s musical influence extends far beyond just the traditional music scene. Owner of Castle Sound Studios, in the small East Lothian village of Pencaitland, he has worked with his team to build an international reputation. Within the Victorian building which once housed Pencaitland primary school, Castlesound has produced all fields of music, from pop (Bay City Rollers) and rock (Simple Minds, Mark Knopfler, Blue Nile) to folk (Julie Fowlis), jazz (Martin Taylor), classical, film scores (Brave), brass and pipe bands, and radio drama.

Today, with top sound engineer Stuart Hamilton managing the daily business of running the studios, Freeland has been able to realise his long held ambition to produce
The Music and the Land.

As rich as the music which they illustrate, the photographs are produced by Skye photographer Cailean MacLean with additional contributions from Shetland ornithologist Bobby Tulloch, visual artist Robin Gillanders, Scottish photographer Shona McMillan, Freeland, his family members and friends.

Each chapter is introduced by well known names in show business including Robbie Shepherd, Phil Cunningham, Dougie MacLean, Rab Noakes, Martin Carthy, Fergie MacDonald and so on. At the launch in Edinburgh's Queen’s Hall, the line up of musicians was equally impressive. From the opening of the concert, Gary West entering the hall playing the pipes, the scene was set for a great night of Scottish music and story telling.

As compere, story teller and poet Billy Kay introduced each act. Skye photographer Cailean MacLean gave a reading in English and Gaelic. Musical performances were given by concertina player Simon Thoumire, pianist Jane Gardner, ceilidh band The Ocassionals, and fellow accordion player Phil Cunningham. A beautiful and emotional set was also performed by Freeland accompanied by his daughter Sarah on the piano.

For many years a teacher of music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Freeland sees
The Music and the Land as building on his long held commitment to pass music on to the next generation. Yet, for those who may just be more interested in an entertaining journey through Scotland's landscape and heritage, The Music and the Land provides all that and more in a visual feast for the eyes.

The images serve to illustrate Scotland's many contours, from the hills to arable land, from moorland to windswept beaches, in sunshine and shadow. Without doubt, this labour of love, developed over so many years, will offer reward for all who discover it for generations to come – Scotland at its best.

Accompanying the two volumes is also a free compilation CD, the music perfectly performed in line with such a high calibre project. Published by Birlinn Ltd, The Music and the Land is available (£60.00) from all good bookshops and at or In addition, there is a piping book available.