The Scotsman Sessions #172: Aidan O'Rourke

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, Aidan O’Rourke – fiddler, composer and one-third of Lau – plays two waltz compositions, the latter inspired by a short story by James Robertson

“A brilliantly mammoth task” is how Aidan O’Rourke, much-in-demand fiddle player and composer, describes his ambitious musical counterpart to author James Robertson’s arduous project to write a short story – each 365 words long – for every day of the year.

Despite Robertson’s admonition to “go easy on yourself,” O’Rourke, well-known as a third of the “power folk” trio Lau, went ahead, on a daily basis, and recorded tunes for 365 stories, largely with pianist and harmonium player Kit Downes, for an album sequence on Reveal Records, with a Best of 365 issued in December.

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Live performance may have evaporated during the past year, but O’Rourke has remained industrious. In August he hosted one of the Edinburgh International Festival’s “My Light Shines On” sessions from Leith Theatre and remotely recorded an EP, Folk Songs, with Lau colleagues Martin Green and Kris Drever. He also recorded his take on a movement from the Four Seasons for the Orchestra of the Swan’s Vivaldi project, composed the score for Iorram, a vivid compilation of archive footage for BBC Alba, and curated music for the recent online Burns and Beyond festival streamed from a virtually recreated Lucky Middlemass’s Cowgate howff.

For his Scotsman Session, he plays two waltz compositions, Waltz for Innes and I Met Him Only Once, the latter inspired by Robertson’s 365 tale about an ambivalent encounter with a poet. “It was always my immediate response that drew me to James’s short stories,” says O’Rourke. “There’s a kind of distilled emotion in each one that was really clear to me.”

At the beginning of 2020, he and Robertson launched a website, adding a new story and corresponding tune for every day until they finished on 31 December. “You can access every one with James or others reading them,” he explains. “It’s a free piece of public art forever.”

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