Sunday 27th October 1pm. The Salutation Hotel had a capacity crowd of 280 eager to hear one of the biggest arrays of accordion talent ever assembled in Scotland. The brains behind this: Leonard Brown.
The first former champion was Jimmy Cassidy (1967). Jimmy is not just a ‘Scottish’ player, but won many classical competitions in the 1960s. His great talents are not limited to accordion: he is also a gifted pianist and arranger and played piano and keyboards for many years in the north-east of England club circuit. He played a varied mix of Scottish and Continental pieces, including a tribute to his mentor, Bill Wilke MBE, who ran the festival for an amazing 60 years.
Next on stage was the 1974 champion, Jim Lindsay. Jim is one of the most imaginative and creative bandleaders on the Scottish scene: there are always new and interesting ideas, played with great taste, in any of his performances. A highlight was his performance of the famous Skaters’ Waltz by Waldteufel.
The performers being in chronological order, James Coutts (1992), was next. James, always note perfect, played some great traditional sets, finishing off with a set of reels composed by Scott Skinner and Ronnie Cooper. The fourth champion was the ebullient Michael Philip (2000). Michael is perhaps the most prolific composer of the present time, and he played many of his compositions with great style. He introduced Margaret Robertson on fiddle and Nicol McLaren on harmony accordion to play with him. The overall sound was fantastic.
Tracklist - click titles in RED to hear audio samples
The penultimate champion of the afternoon was Liam Stewart (2003 and 2013). Liam is a conservatoire-educated pianist, in addition to being achampion accordionist, and so is expert in many different styles of music.
Highlights were a transcendental performance/arrangement of Memories of Willie Snaith by the late Jimmy Shand and some jazz/swing pieces including Lullaby of Birdland.
We now had a surprise guest duo: Myles and April Macaulay from Glasgow, aged 11 and 9, respectively. Myles on accordion and April on fiddle. Their playing of Irish airs, jigs and reels brought the house down and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. We will surely hear much more from them in the future.
The final champion on stage was the man himself: Leonard. (2012), introduced by Nicol McLaren. At the present time Leonard does tremendous work to promote our music and the capacity crowd of 280 said it all. Leonard played in his usual superb style, with some current Scottish “hit” tunes and a fabulous performance of Orange Blossom Special. To finish off the afternoon there was a “stramash” with the champions, all immaculately presented in dinner suits, playing together.
Special thanks have to be given to the accompanying musicians: Callum Wallace on drums with Jimmy Cassidy, Malcolm Ross on drums with the other champions, and Graham Berry on piano accompanying all six champions.
Thanks are also due to the Michael Philip family, for dealing with tickets and raffle, and to the Sally which, as ever, was a great venue. A magnificent afternoon came to an end just before 5pm, with all 280 still present and many giving thanks to Leonard for his fantastic work.
Foreword by Peter Bruce
Accordion Champions Showcase Event Sunday 27 October 2019