Corran Raa are a quartet playing mostly self composed music in a traditional genre interspersed with some songs. Our music is dominated by harmony fiddles of Jenny and Janet, inventive accompaniment by Kath and Robbie and beautiful song arrrangements by Kath.
Our musical influences come mostly from the music traditions of Scotland, Shetland, Ireland and Scandinavia. Kath, Robbie and Jenny have always been prolific composers and manage to produce tunes from thin air, despite their hectic lifestyles. It has been known for the odd tune to be composed in the shower, as an arriving birthday boy is approaching or more suitably on a "snowed in" day. Having played these wonderful tunes privately and with friends for many years, we finally decided to establish ourselves as a band and so Corran Raa came to existance.
The name Corran Raa is stolen from the sand spit located 57°53'34.8"N 6°59'06.0"W on the island of Taransay where we have spent many summers together and first all sat in the same room to play tunes and drink whisky together into the wee small hours, as musicians do.
Encouragement from our audience in a very packed out Iona Library at our first gig, and their obvious disappointment at the lack of merchandising, spurred us into action with the first recording. We found a recording studio with the best view of Ben Nevis and in 2011 released our debut album, simply titled Corran Raa.
The tune writers showed no sign of slowing down and wrote some more good tunes for us to perform so we headed back to the studio in 2013 and recorded the second album, Daydreams and Departures (Released August 2014).
Some of our previous gigs have included:
Festivals: Shetland Festival, Ceol Cholasa (Colonsay), Fiddle Frenzy, Scots Fiddle Festival, Neil Gow Festival, Pitmedden Festival
Folk Clubs: Munich, Edinburgh, The Star, Melrose, Penicuik, Stonehaven, Dunfermline
Other Nice Venues: The Port Charlotte Hotel, Fiddler's Green (Pfaffenhofen), Zum Nix (Blaubeuern), Hatton Castle
Kath Bruce (Piano/ Vocal):
Born and brought up in Edinburgh, Kath learnt oboe and piano before developing an interest in traditional music in her teens, largely due to a Capercaillie tape and the Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin‘. At the age of 15 she began composing tunes with her distinctive style. She studied music at the University of Durham and later gained an MSc in Music Therapy from Queen Margaret University. It was during this training that Kath discovered her voice and started singing. Kath currently lives in Edinburgh and works across Scotland as a music therapist and freelance musician. Her warm accompaniments and jazzy overtones never fail to generate a feel good factor. Kaths compositions are by no means conventional and she has been known to write them in the most unconventional places.
Robbie Leask (Guitar/ Fiddle):
Robbie is from Lerwick in Shetland, with his family roots in Whiteness and the island of Unst. His first instrument was a guitar from Santa but his principal instrument while at school was cello. Music was always important in the Leask household - his father playing accordion - and was also to be the passport for his first trip from Shetland to attend the National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland. Following school, Robbie studied Chemical Engineering at Edinburgh University and during this time an interest in traditional music and finger style guitar was kindled. After graduation, returning to live and work in Shetland gave Robbie an opportunity to further acquaint himself with Shetland traditional music and musicians. Moving to Aberdeen to further his engineering career, he took fiddle lessons with West Coast fiddler Jean Ann Callender. Robbie believes learning the fiddle was key to opening up his own tune writing abilities.
Janet Lees (Fiddle):
Janet grew up in Glasgow in a large musical family. As well as getting all the hand-me-down clothes from her elder sisters, she also received a hand-me-down fiddle. Janet and her sister Alison spent more than the occasional school night frequenting the vibrant Glasgow session scene and soon became hooked on the music. In parallel, she continued to learn classical violin and percussion and played both instruments in a number of orchestras including the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. Janet studied at Durham University and currently works as an engineer in the renewable energy industry. Her fiddle style is a bit of a hybrid, being heavily influenced by the musicians she has met while living in Scotland and studying in North East England.
Jenny Smith (Fiddle):
Originally from London, Jenny grew up surrounded by traditional music and has been heavily influenced by the playing of her father, Denis, who played alongside the late Pat Shuldham-Shaw in the Countryside Players - but found herself taking only classical lessons in piano, violin and viola. She discovered Scottish music in earnest while a medical student in Manchester and found inspiration in the summer courses at the Gaelic college in Skye, finding it harder and harder to return home after her trips to Scotland. After qualifying she got a job in Scotland, at the first possible opportunity, where she has remained since. Living near Edinburgh with her children Jenny works as a very busy part-time GP. Over the years, Jenny has brought many people together through the social aspects of music. She has written many tunes - which are being played across Edinburgh and Scotland by musician friends. Jenny’s instinctive harmony playing has become a distinctive element of the Corran Raa sound.
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