Congratulations to Peter Wood who has nominated in Musician of the Year sponsored by The University of the Highlands and Islands in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2020. Vote here! Vote now!
We asked Peter Wood the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
Peter Wood is so well integrated into the musical fabric of the Shetland community that many people probably assume he is a native of the islands, but of course, he isn’t. Peter hails from the tiny village of Crawfordjohn in South Lanarkshire.
By the age od 14 he was already a competent piper with the Biggar RBL Pipe Band. At that point he started lessons with a local accordion teacher, Jack Gray from Kirkfieldbank, who in turn had recently started the Lesmahagow Accordion & Fiddle Club, initially in the Craignethan Hotel. Jack was not a formally qualified teacher but he had played in dance bands all his life, playing some Scottish and much modern ballroom music, and he had the ability to teach practical technique, useful repertoire and most importantly how to play for dancing, entertain and make the hobby pay.
Peter absorbed musical knowledge like a sponge and it wasn’t long before he realised that listening to LPs and (at that time) cassette tapes and trying to emulate them would push on his playing ability. Already dabbling with ‘second box’ he also realised that playing the keyboard would expand both his knowledge and his scope so he bought one of the first generation Crumar electric keyboards and played along with those same LPs and cassettes. Although Biggar High School had, and still has, an excellent reputation, Peter liked nothing better than to give it a miss occasionally and practice for 10 hours a day. Quite frequently in fact. Chord structure intrigued him from early on – what exactly were Iain MacPhail and Brian Griffin playing in that arrangement? He wasn’t content until he had either worked it out or consulted Keith or others to find out.
Composing started early for Peter, his first being a jig in 1986 called Miss Emma Rayworth (currently Mrs Alan Gardiner of Elsrickle, South Lanarkshire) and good tunes have flowed from his pen ever since. Not just good tunes, but one of his titles will certainly go down in the history of Scottish Dance music. Dedicated to Lindsay Weir, we have “The Inside Oot Fish Eater”. The background is simple, but the images it conjures up to the uninitiated are the stuff of nightmares!
His progress in the band world was rapid. Initially playing second box to lead accordionist Keith Dickson and drummer Joe Taylor, from Abington, it wasn’t long before he was playing lead accordion himself at gigs. By the age of 17 he was being asked to play second box or keyboard with local and broadcasting bands and surprising, for example, Bill Black on a tour of Lewis by borrowing a set of pipes at a gig and wowing the locals. He did his first of two broadcasts with his own band in 1986 and moved to base himself in Carrbridge, in the Highlands, in 1988, entertaining in the hotels at all the local tourist hotspots such as Aviemore, Nethybridge, Newtonmore etc.
From there he moved to Shetland in 1996. For his first ten years there, Peter was co-owner (with Alex Johnston) and manager, of the retail music shop High Level Music. Concurrently he was also lead accordionist with Da Fustra Dance Band. For the last fifteen years, up to the present day, Peter has taught accordion in Shetland Schools for the Shetland Islands Council Education Department which involves travelling round the islands to up to twelve schools a week to pass on accordion tuition. For the last five years he has run his own band, The Peter Wood Shetland Dance Band, gaining national awards and releasing two CDs featuring many of his own compositions.
Peter has been a great supporter of Accordion & Fiddle Clubs over the years, firstly as a young player and later as a guest artiste. He is an inspirational bandleader in his own right and a wonderful band member to many others.
In his present day role as a teacher he supports the Traditional Music Competition scene to the full. Nothing, of course, means more to him than his wife, Karen and their family but I have no doubt that the entire Shetland community comes a close second.
Why are you involved in Scottish music?
I am involved in Scottish music as I have a passion for the traditions, culture and music of Scotland.
I enjoy performing and teaching in equal proportions, my burning ambition is to share our music through whatever and as many platforms available, I gain great satisfaction from passing on and educating pupils on playing our music with the aim of them passing the next generations.
Equally important is the listening audience as without their participation the music scene could not function, with this in mind I strive to present performances in a professional, humourist, engaging fashion to enhance the already wonderful music I am playing.
But as well as the music I love the social side of being a musician, having the privilege of meeting musicians and audience socially, travelling the world and the never ending road of learning about our music, there is always someone knows a bit more about our music and history, thankfully.
Any particular career highlights?
I have had many highlights in my fortunate career as a musician given the chance to tour the world as a teacher and performer the following are a few I will never forget.
One of my highlights was playing at a children’s orphanage near Dhaka in Bangladesh, there was around 500 children listening to us playing an outside concert, they were fine when I played the accordion but scattered and ran for their lives when I struck the pipes.
Touring South America with Iain MacPhail’s band was also an incredible experience, I learnt a lot about music and presentation from Iain.
Winning the grade 3 European Championships in Ballater with Coalburn I.O.R Pipe Band was also a great day as was the first time I competed at the World Championships in Glasgow with Scottish Gas Caledonia pipe band in grade 1 that was a real adrenalin rush.
Being nominated for the Trad awards for Scottish Dance Band in 2016 was a great thrill as was winning the CD of the year award from The National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs the same year.
Raising over £8000 for NHS Shetland endowment fund during the first lockdown by doing a series of online concerts was amazing, I was absolutely humbled by the generosity of people all over the world.
In my teaching career I have been lucky to secure the accordion instructor post for the last fifteen years teaching in Shetland schools for the local authority, festivals and workshops in Shetland and overseas.
I am never short of pride and admiration for students I have worked with over the years who have gone on to further their musical careers or just enjoyed their musical journeys.
Managing to record and upload a video or more daily to Facebook of me playing accordion tunes for 150 days during lockdown to keep folks spirits up, some of the videos were viewed over ten thousand times. This has led to some great friendships developed over the internet and was one of the inspirations for the two Martin MacLeod’s setting up the incredibly successful Facebook collaboration platform “Tunes in the Hoose” which has now had over two million views.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to hopefully get back to some kind of public performing as it is a real miss for now.
Get my new CD released as it is already recorded.
To continue developing alternate ways to teach and share our music using technology in these challenging times.
I am also continuing to develop our weekly live podcast “Scottish Sessions” on the Tartan Tunes Channel which broadcasts every Sunday night from 8-9.30 pm live on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch with my wife Karen and fellow co-host Ross Mcnaughton. The show features Ross and myself playing and hosting while Karen ghost moderates and puts the show together, the structure of the show is to make available another platform for musicians starting out or established to promote themselves and their musical projects to a worldwide audience in these uncertain times. Every week we bring on up to two guests to play music and have a light hearted interview about their backgrounds which the audience enjoy and engage with.
Though this show was inspired due to lockdown with folks isolating, it became evident that so many people have been in isolation before Covid 19 came along for various reasons like ill health.
This is a good argument to keep the show going on this new platform even when this virus is under control.
The MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards, Na Trads 2020, will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on 12th December 2020 at 9pm where the award winners will be announced along with specially recorded music performances. During the day on Saturday the 12th, you will be able to watch from 1pm til 9pm a day of live Scottish trad music including Kinnaris Quintet, Dallahan, Inyal, Paul McKenna Band, Ryan Young and Jenn Butterworth and many more here https://youtu.be/amByvVzxl5E. Keep up to date with all the latest information by joining the Hands Up for Trad newsletter at https://handsup.link/Newsletter or use the hashtags #natrads #HUFTonline.
If you would like to support Hands Up for Trad in their work with Scottish trad music and musicians please consider supporting our Patreon campaign. We have 3 tiers starting at $1 a month and everything helps support us in our work. Read more at www.patreon.com/handsupfortrad