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Art Of Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw
Photo: Alexander Brattell
“Edinburgh was a bit like the situation in Baby, Let Me Follow You Down [Eric von Schmidt and Jim Rooney’s account of the Cambridge, Massachusetts folk years]. It was a definite scene through which everybody passed.” Yet, for him, Edinburgh back then is more than a rosy memory built on accretions of memories of good times. He can back his opinion up. “I got a really good tape recorder in about 1970 and that’s the point that I have audio-memories. I had one before and I made very bad recordings of Blackpool Folk Club. The new one was the Sony reel-to-reel portable with a built-in microphone but it also had a hand-held microphone. The track The Week Before Easter from June Tabor on Always was done on that. I recorded people because I wanted to hear them again. I wasn’t going to hear them any other way because there were no records. Or very few records.”

He continues, “In those days you didn’t ask anybody. You had the technology: you did it. I’d sit in the front row and record. I tended to play the first spot and get it over with. During the Edinburgh Festival, our shows started after the normal theatre-type shows stopped. We ran shows that ran from 10.30. We’d had a guest, say Martin Carthy, Jean Redpath or Cyril Tawney – mainly soloists at first. The Corries had a show in the cinema round the corner. Theirs was a commercial stage show; they would hire people. We’d get all their guests. When they’d done their spot for the Corries, they would come in and play for us before nipping back in for the curtain call at the end. Some people who played, we never knew who they were. It’s only by having the tapes I can check from the song, ‘Oh! That must have been so-and-so’. There were some amazing tapes like Barbara Dickson, Rab Noakes and Archie Fisher doing Band numbers in harmony – things like Tears Of Rage and Up On Cripple Creek. It gave people chances to try things out.”

After graduating, he stayed in Scotland, but moved up to the Highlands. “I was still nowhere at this point,” he says of his musical development, but he was in the process of formulating ideas and finding his own voice – as it turned out, the lost voice of the zither. Slightly glibly, he owns, “It was that Joni Mitchell thing. Why do you do what you do? Because I can’t play like Steve Stills. It’s aiming at something and missing and ending up doing something different.” Not getting into competition with the guitar maestros and finding affordable instruments were further incentives.

When his debut A Is For Andrew, Z Is For Zither appeared in 1974, zither combined the strangely strange and unfashionable. Maybe there was still a lingering hangover from the previous decade’s debates about appropriate accompaniment and authenticity too. The instrument was hardly popular in folk circles. After all, The Third Man theme carried no GB plates. (Incidentally, there is a live recording of Cronshaw playing Anton Karas’s famous piece, also recorded by Carthy as The Harry Lime Theme, in the company of an international band of zither-family instrumentalists that includes Abdullah Chhadeh, Mei Han, Michál Müller, Antál Rasz, Randy Raine-Reusch, Timo Väänänen and Pati on the live festival anthology, TFF Rudolstadt 2004.)

fRom fRoots 264, June 2005


This month’s issue  Subscribe!  Shop  Home  Come Write Me Down Basket/Checkout