The luthier as a musician

I came to making instruments through playing them, predominantly in traditional Celtic music. While it's not a prerequisite for a maker, I'm sure it helps! I thought a few biographical details might be of interest.

Brought up in Edinburgh, Scotland, it seems natural that I was exposed to a wide variety of music. Early piano lessons led to my first guitar - a virtually unplayable steel-strung Selmer. It was a small step from there to making my first mandolin (out of plywood!) when I was about 16 and to the fiddle shortly after. I bought my first bouzouki in 1973. University brought contact with the thriving Folk Revival of the early '70's and the sessions in the famed 'Sandy Bell's' pub. Neither did much to enhance my academic progress.

This was also the time of the huge growth in interest in Celtic music in Europe and many hours were spent on the motorways of Europe with the pioneer Scottish band Alba , touring in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Holland. On the demise of that band I spent some time playing in a duo with the fine Scots guitarist and singer Tony Cuffe, playing fiddle, bouzouki, dulcimer and harmonium.

Two years with the Scots band Crannachan followed, with Billy Ross who had just left Ossian, Peter McClements, a fine Scots fiddler and Jimmy Young, piper and flute-player extraordinaire. A part-time band, we played numerous clubs and festivals in Scotland, Cambridge Festival in England and Winterfolk in Holland, in addition to various radio and TV programmes. By now it was 1982 and the music took a back seat for a while.

Early '88 saw a call from Jimmy Young and an invitation to join the Scots band Rua , and the recording of the band's second album in Edinburgh. A tour of New Zealand took place in late '88/early '89; my return to New Zealand six months later and my marriage to Libby completed the jigsaw! Rua were based in New Zealand from 1989 and the music continued with many club and Festival appearances around NZ and Australia. Recording continued, too, with 3 NZ Folk Album of the Year Awards for work with Rua and Claddagh .

For the past nine years I have also performed regularly with Helen Webby, Principal Harpist of the Christchurch Symphony, appearing at many Festivals around NZ and featuring at the Australian National Folk Festival in 2004. In early 2008 we also toured successfully for Chamber Music New Zealand. Check out Webby/Stuart HERE or watch us HERE

As well as Helen, I also work regularly with a fine singer/songwriter from County Donegal, Mary Dunne. You can watch us HERE

But, for the moment, the building of instruments takes precedence, the international client list proving that New Zealand is not as far away as you might think!

Rua: Caves of the Sun, 1988, Celtic Music
Rua: The Commonwealth Suite, 1990, Ode Records
Rua: Live in the Cathedral, 1992, Ode Records
Rua: Homeland: The Rua Collection, 1993, Greentrax
Rua; Harbourlight, 1995, Ode Records
Rua: Ao-Tea-Roa, 1995, Greentrax
Claddagh: Continental Drift, 1992
Martin Curtis: The Daisy Patch, 1990, Gin & Raspberry Records
Martin Curtis: Save the Wilderness, 1995, Gin & Raspberry Records
CFAMC: Christchurch Acoustic, 1998
Jimmy Young: Pipeworks, 1999, Greentrax
Helen Webby & Davy Stuart: The Peacock's Dance, 2001
John Sutherland: Mealmarket Street
Tony Hillyard: Each Step on the Way
Mary Dunne: Over the Water, 2009
Helen Webby & Davy Stuart : The Golden Strand, 2009

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