Tag Archives: Phil Cunningham

Artist Profiles: Relativity


Relativity was a groundbreaking Celtic super group that played traditional Irish and Scottish music with a new edge” as well as original tunes.

It tied together the talents of some of the best Irish and Scottish contemporary folk musicians, featuring members from The Bothy Band (Micheal O Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill) and Silly Wizard (Johnny and Phil Cunningham).

Several members of the band went on to create another band called Nightnoise which became very popular.


Johnny Cunningham – fiddle
Micheal O Domhnaill – guitar
Phil Cunningham – accordion, keyboards
Triona Ni Dhomhnaill – vocals, keyboards


Relativity (Green Linnet, 1985)
Gathering Pace (Green Linnet, 1987)


Artist Profiles: Phil Cunningham

Phil Cunningham – Photo by Annie Tuite

Accordionist Phil Cunningham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1960. His musical career began with accordion lessons at the age of three and violin a few years later. His initial training was in classical music with a deep interest and love of the traditional music of his homeland developing simultaneously. In 1976 he joined his brother Johnny Cunningham in the highly acclaimed Scottish band Silly Wizard and was a full-time member until 1983. Phil contributed many of his own compositions to their mostly traditional repertoire adding to the musical heritage of Scotland and keeping the tradition alive.

Phil left Silly Wizard in 1983 to pursue a solo career as he found himself in demand as a composer and performer for television, radio, film and stage. Between 1985 and 1987 he toured and recorded with supergroup Relativity with his brother Johnny and Irish brother and sister Michael and Triona O’Domnaill.

Phil and fiddler Aly Bain formed one of the most celebrated acts on the Scottish traditional scene. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988 and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well received that they have been touring Scotland annually ever since in addition to frequent performances in Europe and North America.

Phil has produced albums for many popular traditional artists including Dolores Keane and Altan. In 1990 he wrote the music for Bill Bryden’s spectacular theater productions “The Ship” (1990) and “The Big Picnic” (1994). He has worked as music director and composer for various BBC Scotland series and also wrote The Highlands &Islands Suite, an orchestral work which was performed at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He has also toured with Bonnie Raitt and Kepa Junkera in addition to running CAP recording studios with his partner Donna.

In 2002 Phil was awarded the MBE for services to Scottish Music and was voted Best Instrumentalist in the inaugural Scottish Traditional Music Awards in 2003.

His compositions are covered by musicians the world over and he continues to write and add to his prolific repertoire. His proudest moments have been the premiers of his two orchestral suites for Symphony orchestra and Celtic instruments. His piece Ceilidh was written for and performed by acclaimed Scots percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.


Caledonia’s Hardy Sons, with Silly Wizard (1978)
So Many Partings, with Silly Wizard (1980)
Against the Storm, with Johnny Cunningham (1980)
Wild and Beautiful, with Silly Wizard (1981)
Kiss the Tears Away, with Silly Wizard (1983)
Airs and Graces (Green Linnet 1984)
A Glint of Silver, with Silly Wizard (1986)
Relativity, with Relativity (1986)
Gathering Pace with Relativity (1987)
Live Wizardry, with Silly Wizard (1988)
Palomino Waltz (Green Linnet, 1989)
Fire in the Glen (Shanachie, 1989)
Somebody, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 1991)
The Wishing Well, with Connie Dover (1994)
The Pearl, with Aly Bain (1996)
If Ever I Return, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 1997)
The Ruby, with Aly Bain (Green Linnet, 1998)
The Border of Heaven, with Connie Dover (Taylor Park Music, 2000)
Another Gem, with Aly Bain (Compass, 2001)
Spring The Summer Long, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2003)
Best of Aly and Phil, with Aly Bain (2004)
Roads Not Travelled, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2006)
Portrait, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2010)
Mark the Hard Earth, with Kris Drever (2010)
Five and Twenty, with Aly Bain (Whirlie Records, 2012)


Celtic Connections Opening Concert to Feature Nicola Benedetti and Friends

Nicola Benedetti - Photo by Rhys Frampton/Universal Music
Nicola Benedetti – Photo by Rhys Frampton/Universal Music
The Celtic Connections music festival will open with a special concert by award-winning classical violinist Nicola Benedetti, together with leading Scottish artists Julie Fowlis, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham. The concert will take place on Thursday, January 16th at 7:30 pm and the musician will reveal material from Nicola Benedetti’s upcoming Scottish-themed album.

Accordionist and composer Phil Cunningham also team ups with former La Bottine Souriante accordionist Yves Lambert’s trio, along with Malawi’s Peter Mawanga & The Amaravi Movement.

Boston-based quintet Joy Kills Sorrow will perform neo-stringband music, while Scotland’s Duncan Chisholm – present with Wolfstone on that landmark inaugural night – will perform with Jarlath Henderson, Tony Byrne and Ali Hutton.

About Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti is one of the leading classical violinists of her generation. Born in Scotland of Italian heritage, Nicola began violin lessons at the age of five with Brenda Smith. In 1997, she enrolled in the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she studied with Natasha Boyarskaya. Upon leaving, she continued her studies with Maciej Rakowski and then Pavel Vernikov, and continues to work with multiple admired teachers and performers. Nicola plays the Gariel Stradivarius (1717), courtesy of Jonathan Moulds.

She has performed with the world’s finest symphony orchestras and also plays chamber music, performing as a trio with cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk since 2008.

Nicola is deeply committed to music education and to developing young talent. She established her own education and outreach program titled The Benedetti Sessions. Launched in March 2013 at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, these sessions gave hundreds of aspiring young string players the opportunity to rehearse, undertake and observe master classes culminating in a performance alongside Nicola.

Nicola’s most recent recording, The Silver Violin, reached No. 30 in the UK pop charts simultaneously to topping the classical charts for months. Her past recordings include Fantasie, The Violin, Italia, Mendelssohn / Macmillan / Mozart, Nicola Benedetti plays Vaughan Williams & Tavener, and Tchaikovsky & Bruch: Violin Concertos.

Thu 16 January, 7:30pm
£24 (premium seats – limited availability), £21
Main Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall


Creative Scotland Appoints Renowned Celtic Musician Phil Cunningham to the Board

Phil Cunningham
Phil Cunningham

Phil Cunningham is the final appointee to the board of Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd. He will be a non-executive director for the company that is completing work to merge the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen into Creative Scotland – the new single national development body for arts and culture.

Minister for Culture Michael Russell said: “I welcome the appointment of Phil Cunningham, a highly respected musician, to the board of Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd. A world-renowned accordionist and promoter of traditional music worldwide, Phil Cunningham adds to the wealth of artistic experience on the board. I very much look forward to working with him.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting creators, giving access to creations, and involving everyone in creativity. I have been very clear that Creative Scotland must be a product of our cultural and artistic communities and we must have the right organizational structure to do that. I believe the board, chaired by Ewan Brown and including artists and creators currently involved in Scottish arts and culture, will firmly put creativity at the heart of everything it does.”

Chair of Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd Ewan Brown welcomed Phil Cunningham to the company’s board. “Phil Cunningham is a major musical and creative talent in Scotland,” said Brown. “As a practitioner, his experience is truly impressive and valuable, and I am delighted to welcome him to the Board at this important time, as we take forward the transition to the establishment of Creative Scotland as a champion of all the arts and creative industries.”

Phil Cunningham, MBE is a Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer, broadcaster and musical director. An innovative musician, and best known as an accordionist, he was a member of the influential bands Silly Wizard and Relativity. He joined Aly Bain on television show Aly Bain and Friends, a partnership that endures to this day. He is also involved in producing and collaborating with many world-renowned artists.

With his music being heard on major British and American television shows and films, Phil Cunningham is a great ambassador for traditional Scottish music worldwide. In 2008, he took up the position of Artistic Director of the traditional music course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD), and his academic honors include an honorary Doctorate of Music from the RSAMD, an honorary Doctorate from Stirling University and an honorary Degree from Glasgow Caledonian University.

Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd is the company, chaired by Ewan Brown, that will complete the work on transition, bringing together the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen to form Creative Scotland the statutory NDPB. Richard Holloway, Chris Masters, Peter Cabrelli, Sheena McDonald and Phil Cunningham have all been appointed as non-executive directors.

Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd has taken responsibility for all the practical implementation arrangements to establish Creative Scotland, including staffing, systems and processes. The Board meets on a monthly basis.

Creative Scotland the statutory NDPB is expected to be formally established in 2010.