PAST ARTICLES FROM THE OLD WEBSITE.
The 2008 Questions and Answers Session with Donnie
Where does Donnie and the band see themselves in 5 years time from now?
It is so hard to answer this type of question especially when I have never had a ‘plan’ at any time in my life. That is not to say that you do not set out to achieve things but they are kind of organic and tend to emerge out of life’s changing circumstance. Undoubtedly there are so many things we would all like to do and to see happen and clearly in that, I would include, to have the opportunity to take the music to the many people and places which we have as yet been unable to do. I would not and however nor never have projected 5years on.
Would they consider playing in out-laying villages than in towns??
I would be very happy to appear in out-laying villages and towns but as you can imagine it is dependent on promoters being happy with the viability of any event. I certainly have always enjoyed the differences between larger scale and small-scale or more intimate events-each has its own attraction.
What is Your favourite TV programme That You Watch Most Days??
I don’t have any programme which I watch, ’most days’ as such but generally I love natural history and documentary programmes in the main.
What Is Your Favourite Drink Tea Or Coffee??
Pretty much a coffee person.
Living on a beautiful island like Skye, I wondered where Donnie holidayed as a youngster and where he likes to holiday now.
I spent my last summer holiday with my family at a friend’s villa in the beautiful Le Marche region in Italy. I absolutely loved the landscape, particularly from a painter’s point of view and I took lots of photographs for reference. I currently have 3 large canvasses ready and awaiting for my attention! The climate was beautiful and it was just so good to be able spend the days swimming in the pool, exploring the surrounding villages and towns and in the evenings to sit out in the balmy warmth talking and relaxing over wine and great food. The region has an amazing and very graphic agricultural landscape, with beautiful rolling hills, steep-sided fields lined with olive trees and vineyards and in the distance the amazing spires of the churches perched high above the hilltop towns. Could get used to this you know.
If you had to spend 6 months alone on a deserted Island and could only take 5 items with you, what would they be?
Axe, knife, fishing tackle, a good long book, guitar and art material-sorry that’s 6 but it has to cover the practical and the aesthetic.
Since I have a great interest in this subject (!!!): What was the strangest classroom incident you had to deal with when you were teaching?
Being in a brand new art room with a particularly ‘challenging’ class when the top blew off a hot water tap and nobody, janitor, architects office or the site engineer knew where the stop cock was located. As they all searched for the architectural plans, the ceiling became sodden and fell in I remember a particular table of pupils simply sat there as the water cascaded over and around them. Luckily nobody was scalded.
What tips would you offer (apart from "run!") to a trainee teacher - PLEASE?!
Teaching is a fantastic and creative profession and an incredibly important job. We can all remember those teachers who impacted on our own lives and perhaps inspired us to do the things we did. As a teacher it is an immense privilege and hugely satisfying when you know that
you have helped make that connection in someone’s life and maybe helped fire their imagination and aspirations-I still remember clearly many of my former pupils and indeed meet many of them around the country and in particular I remember with great satisfaction the pleasure in seeing someone discover their talents and their growing passion for the subject(art).I always detected two distinct type of teacher, those who were passionate about their subject and those who were passionate about their subject but who actually liked young people-there lies the answer.
What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?
I love lemon sorbet which I suppose is not strictly speaking ice-cream.
We attended a highly enjoyable concert at the Platform in Morecambe, Lancashire last summer. You mentioned that it was your first appearance in England for a decade. You appeared to be very pleased at the reception that you received from the crowd that night and indeed commented on the good numbers of attendees. You mentioned your intention to return to England for further concerts in the future if possible. Have you any plans to do so ?
I do have plans to do so and will continue to take the opportunities as they arise. I would particularly like to take the show I am planning for Celtic Connections and Eden Court Theatre, south during 2008.
As a Skye man born and bred, you clearly have a great affinity with the island and its people. In all your travels, have you ever come across anywhere else in the world that has affected you in a similar way?
No , I suppose so much of your sense of yourself is tied up with the place in which you spent the important formative years of your life. For me that was an experience which I think was at the watershed moment in the traditional life of the Highlands and Islands, a time when Gaelic language and culture was still very much embedded in the day to day life of the community and in many ways my grandparents generation and to a lesser extent my parents generation lived lives that were deeply imbued with the values and traditions of a very old cultural heritage. I was not aware of it at the time but it was a wonderful window from which to view the world and I think gave me a very distinct set of values and a deep rooted sense of belonging to something which was very tied to the physical landscape and the sense of place, a kind of balance with the natural world if you like .I always felt that when you set yourself in the vastness of the landscape it gave your life a true sense of scale a real measure. People find that in their own ways in different places and different cultures but perhaps the closest I felt to it was in some ways during the period of time I spent high in the Himalayas, with a Sherpa friend Ngima Tendi Sherpa. We climbed up onto Gokyo peak at about 20,000 feet and during that great journey on foot of about160 miles which took about a month I spent a lot of time living with the Sherpa people and I felt so much at home amongst them, really because their lives and values reminded me so much of my childhood and the crafting communities of my grandparents generation where I spent a great deal of my time. Their daily lives were so similar ,the sounds ,the smells of their fires, their love of potatoes and their religious observances(Buddhist),their own minority language, their storytelling, their tough lives, their humility, humour and sense of community and of course this immense and magnificent mountain landscape.
As a brand new fan in the US, I' know I've got 30 years to catch up on, but from what I've read in the Runrig history was that the band was performing for a year before Mr. Munro joined. How did he know that was the group that would be the right fit for him? Did he always know he'd be a singer? How do you talk an established group into first let you join and second to become their lead singer?
Well firstly I knew the group members very well individually having shared my school life with Calum from the age of about nine years of age. Rory who was 4 years ahead of us in school had played with a band called the Skyevers and Blair Douglas had been on the class immediately below me and Calum. Therefore, to a large extent, we grew up together. During my secondary school years I had begun to perform in public as part of a duo and actually performed a lot around the island particularly during the summer actually before the band was formed. When Runrig did form and began playing as a dance band they would often ask me to perform solo during the break in their set and it was clear to them that they needed someone to come in on vocals and it just kind of happened in that way. So in a sense there was never any sense of joining up with an ‘established band’ as things were very much in their infancy.
Thank you for sharing your lovely songs and voice...........I would just would like to ask if you ever receive songs written by other people Donnie.....I love to write poetry about Scotland and areas that I love......... Arisaig......... Mallaig and Skye ...I find the landscape is inspiring and it seems to speak to me .... and then I just write to the words down........ when I am listening to your songs they are very spiritual and visual...and there is a connection that reaches the heart....
I often receive songs from other people and always happy to listen to them. If there is anything that is suitable then of course I would be happy to sing them. I became very used to working with other peoples writing, having worked so closely with Calum and Rory over so many years.
I know Donnie isn't only a musician and his other projects take much of his time.
Nevertheless I would like to ask him ,whether there are any plans for concerts in Germany in the nearer future.
Yes, we are working on that at the moment
Did you ever consider to sing a German Folk song or maybe take a Folk song from another Country and translate it into English or even better Gaelic? Or sing it in its original language?
I think translations can be difficult as very often there is a very strong connection between melody and the actual sound and character of the language-you know certain word sounds in themselves have musical character and don’t often survive translation. However, I always thought that the RR song Alba would have translated well into German because of the melodic structures.
How do you manage all your business? So much work, so many projects but you never seem to be stressed. What's your secret?
Glide like the Swan and paddle like the Duck-no I think if you enjoy all these parts of your life that is what matters-each part refreshes the other-in reality people are never only one thing-it just so happens that we start to think of people by what they do rather than what they are .
What is your favourite colour?
If you would have to leave beautiful Skye forever - where would you go?
Wherever my family would feel most happy.
Did you watch the Rugby World Championship and what did you think when Scotland drop out that early in the tournament?
(I felt blue) No, but I do enjoy watching internationals and enjoyed performing the World Cup song, Down Under with the squad.
What do you think has the Scottish Rugby team to do/to change to play better in the future and get world champion?
Not really knowledgeable enough to comment.
Is Scotland going to the football European Championship next year? And if so and they would ask you to come along would you do it?
We now know the answer to your question but if they had qualified and they had asked me along then certainly - yes
Do you like Snooker?
Played it as a student - in the student Aberdeen University Union - badly
Do you think Scotland will ever be a free nation on its own again? Any chances for that? If not, why?
Yes of course if the Scottish people want that to happen-at present support for independence is consistently around 23-25%
As Labour Party seem to stand for the United Kingdom why do think everything should remain as it is now?
I feel that the UK is already a very small country and has, since the Union of Parliaments, and before that the Union of Crowns has evolved with so much social ,economic, political, cultural, artistic, institutional and familial integration it seems an incredibly unnecessary and to me retrogressive step to fragment it all down to lesser parts. I believe that devolution is indeed a process and not an end and that undoubtedly there will be further calls for more devolved powers which may eventually lead to something more akin to a federal structure but I don’t see the disintegration of the UK. Robert Louise Stevenson said ‘the a nation has no reality other than on the map’ and more recently Gavin McCrone described nationhood as a ‘state of mind’ and I think I go along with that to the extent that ultimately they are historical constructs. When you read the historical context of the Union on both sides of the argument you find a pretty unsavoury collection of self interested agendas being presented most of them taking little account of the ordinary people of Scotland .If I had been alive at the time I may have wanted to have driven a harder bargain and the retention of the Scottish Parliament would have been at the heart of the debate. However one cannot deny that following on from the Union, Scotland developed into the modern nation which spawned the greatest period in our cultural and educational history with the flowering of the genius that was ‘the Scottish Enlightenment’
Donnie, I know you ran for a political seat representing Skye and Lochalsh a few years ago and wondered if you are planning to do this again. What drew you to the desire to get into politics and is that something you are still interested in and will continue to be interested in? And if you did get into a seat would this interrupt your singing career?
I must put it on record that I have no great interest in politics for its own sake and in fact I detest the vacuous nature of the self-fulfilling political animal and the Machiavellian struggles that go own at all levels of political life to protect little power bases for people. However, I can not separate the fact that were it not for the struggles of the Labour movement in this country throughout our history, the workers movements, the co-operative movements, the trade union movement, the land league movement and the individual men and women who fought to establish the rights and protections which we now all enjoy and often take for granted- we quite simply would not be where we are today. For that reason I have been a life-long member and supporter of the Labour movement and I work within it to effect the changes I believe in and to fight for the issues which I believe in and are broadly held within the framework of social justice and equal rights. No matter what party you may feel support for you will always find issues and policies with which you disagree and if so you have to use your voice and influence to try and change these things.
You did a walk on Everest for charity a few years ago which sounded like an amazing experience. What's your one "want to visit but haven't yet" place and also where would you recommend people visit as "5 places you must see before you die".
Iceland, the Arctic Circle and go horse riding in Montana
Donnie, when you are shopping for clothes is it a pleasure or a pain?
Does living so close to the sea make you more aware of the efforts we all need to make to tackle climate change?
Buying clothes can be great fun but if you lack time can just be a pain. On global warming I certainly think that we must be very much aware of our interaction with nature. The scientific case appears strong although I accept also that climate change is naturally cyclical and through the history of the planet there have been many natural catastrophic events due to natural climate change, so in the greater context it is perhaps less certain how much we cam ultimately affect the major natural trends .In relation to Skye it is interesting to note that north Skye is on a geological uplift which means that we are actually rising up out of the sea at a rate of about 2cm per year.
I would like to ask - if you weren't a singer and performer, what would you be? Also what is your favourite season of the year, if you have one?
A professional artist - a painter which is really my great passion - I love spring and the sense of newness - however I really love all the seasons
One more question.... when are you going to sing Down Under and Flower of Scotland again... in concert.. I love those songs....
I will have to think about it as they were done for such specific reasons.
just moved to Canada, any plans coming over to Alberta? PLEASE!! do you have any pets?
Would love to - really enjoyed playing their in the past - no pets currently - did have a lovely cat called Flora and in my childhood was lucky enough to have had a pet monkey. I have loved horse riding all my life and perhaps at some time would like to have on of my own
Do you or did you ever suffer from stage fright?
The only question I would ask , although I'm not sure of it's relevance is , do you have any expectations, high or otherwise , regarding GME in the suburban areas of Scotland , as we seem to be at a standstill in my area , much to my disappointment.
I think GME will continue to grow
Do you have a garden, and if you do what plants do you like to grow in it?
I have a 2 Acre woodland garden which thankfully my wife Teresa loves to tend, She does all the real gardening, planting etc and I restrict my activities to labouring jobs, grass-cutting etc. - I do love gardens
Waiting for the signing of CDs after the Wickham concert, a man approached me and my friend. He had noticed that we were singing along, and he thought we knew everything about Donnie. Well I don't, yet. He hadn't noticed the lyrics very much, but he felt that the songs had a religious tone / feeling, so the thought that Donnie must be a religious man!! My question now: Are you??, And thank you, Yes we had a wonderful trip to Cornwall
Yes I am on that journey like everyone else but have often found that ‘doubt is that necessary road down which I travel in search of truth’- I have yet to meet anyone who is not deeply interested in the mystery of being-whether they describe themselves as religious or not. I certainly do not subscribe to any single religion although I was brought up in the reformed Christian tradition-I do however have a deep distrust of fundamentalists and literalists of any faith - I detest intolerance and judgemental-ism
What are you reading this year? The last few years Donnie has mentioned some great books.
The God Delusion, Dawkins - the Scottish Enlightenment, Arthur Herman - Life of Leonardo da Vinci - Dwellys Dictionary (frequently)
When you write songs, do they start off as poems (they definitely sound poetic!) or are they always intended as melodies? If you write them as poems, do you have a collection that never got round to being set to music?
I have written some poems - not very well - I am more comfortable with songs for some reason
Donnie, I have noticed that many of your fans have a sound working knowledge of music - so perhaps "fans" as in fanatics is the wrong term - rather "appreciators"! I am also aware that you are not, praise God, a person to blow his own trumpet. My question is therefore meant to encourage just that on this one occasion! Please come clean and tell us which acclaimed musicians have expressed an admiration for your musical talent.
Various singers over the years and most recently Nicola Benedetti who told me that she loved my voice - (which was very nice to hear) she was apparently subjected to lots of RR on her daily journeys to school so my voice became the soundtrack to that wee part of her life. She told me this when we performed together in Edinburgh Castle 2005
Donnie, although I know you are really busy with quite a lot of jobs, did you ever consider teaching the Gaelic language and culture to people who are seriously interested in that?
As for myself I would say this would be great and a huge advance making people aware of the loss they might have.
I am no where near being knowledgeable enough in the language to teach anyone and despite having been brought up a native speaker I have so much to learn myself.
What advice would you give to someone like myself who would like to become a professional musician? I have written ten songs, enough for a first album, but I really do not know where to start. I am not so good at performing live, I get really bad stage-fright and my hands shake and I can't play a note!! But I am OK with recording. I do not have an agent or a manager, I am just a housewife, I have played guitar since I was 13, but I am not able to read music. My son is very brilliant on keyboard, and my husband plays the pipes. DH and me used to busk together a bit. Any advice you can offer would be treasured.
Just keep doing it and doing it honestly
Could you please ask Donnie if he has thought much about the content of his next cd, and does he have any songs penned for it yet? Does he have any idea when it might be available?
I have thought a bit about ideas and have a hankering for something very acoustic - song writing is a process for me – sometimes things happen quickly other times you labour over things but always I think there is no point in writing until you have something you really want to say. I can’t remember who said ‘all music should be judged against the utter perfection of silence - so I suppose it a case of don’t make a noise unless its good -its all a bit daunting when you think about it that way.
The 2009 Questions and Answers Session with Donnie
My question for Donnie... when he is up there on stage is there ever a moment when he wonders what's the next line or how does the next verse start???
When you are touring regularly the songs are simply there, just stored in sequence as you need them. Sometimes if you try and recall them out of sequence they just won’t come which is quite disconcerting! However by the time you reach the point they are there just ready. I suppose it is just the brain’s way of storing information. When you are doing shows in a less concentrated way I would simply have lyrics on hand as a prompt if required.
I should like to know if the plans you wrote about in your recent mail to me, to really come over to Germany perhaps next year again, have already evolved further?
As I have said previously I would love to come across to Germany to do a nice series of shows but unfortunately up until this point we have not secured a German promoter to take on a tour. We keep trying but of course it must be under the right conditions. Hopefully we will achieve this in 2010.
Donnie, have you ever thought about going to Germany for a holiday and if so, what would you like to see / visit?
I like the south of Germany very much and would enjoy a visit to Frieburgh, Heidleberg and that beautiful area at any time.
Do you have any plans to play in London or the South of England next year?
We are discussing the idea currently.
I noticed a distinct *American/Canadian* theme to your Heart of America CD. I know about your travels across the country and wondered if you have any plans to come back here, maybe do some more concerts, or visit some other areas? Just like Scotland, the USA has a huge variety in scenery in the different parts of the country, and what most did you enjoy about being in the USA?
I would love to come over to do some shows and would be open to offers. I have also promised myself a visit and a riding holiday to Montana one of these days.
Ever thought of doing a Christmas CD... that would be awesome!
Not as such but I have to confess that I was always intrigued at the prospect of having a great Christmas single. I think we did have an amazing song with Runrig, This Time of Year, produced by Calum and Malcolm, but it just did not pick up the airplay required at that time to chart a single – it was a great end of year song and of course a great song in its own right.
I am still attached to what will happen to the Gaelic language and culture. Are there any news, as I know that you care about and try hard to keep the Gaelic alive.
The Gaelic language, like so many other minority languages around the world, will struggle to survive but it will all come down to the desire for people to use it. Government policy, Gaelic language acts, Gaelic medium education, music, the arts ,drama, literature will all play their part but ultimately languages survive because people use them, not as time pieces preserved in ice but as vibrant living languages and when they do survive it is often very much against the odds. When I was in Nepal I noted that the Sherpa people retained their own language at a level of about 100,000 speakers. That appears to be about the viable critical; mass required to stabilise the language base. Interest in Gaelic is growing, the number of learners is growing, the number of children at all levels of Gaelic medium is growing but Gaelic is still undoubtedly still on the ‘critical list’. The future of the language will be dependent on increasing that critical mass, creating a language of opportunity and redressing the negative impact of over 100 years of institutional discrimination and cultural vandalism.
The obvious question: Are there any plans for a new CD? Any new songs in store for us?
Always thinking of ideas for songs and have started on the road to some new material – the An Turas project has been an absorbing one and I feel so many people have yet to see that show – especially in Europe and in England so I would hope to be able to still perform that show to some new audiences and let it filter out of my thinking over time. It is important to write songs when you genuinely have something special that you want or need to say so in some ways it is a natural process.
And slightly less obvious: Fans often discuss their favourite songs. Which are your favourites and which do you enjoy most playing live? Why?
Difficult to say but Heart of America has been an important song for me as it in itself became part of a journey into the An Turas Project – but live performance is so much about interaction so I enjoy all of the songs for different reasons.
In addition, what do you think makes a song a good song, e.g. lyrics, melody, guitar riffs?
All these things can matter but for me it is usually about simplicity, accessibility and that you just really mean it.
Well, questions regarding touring Germany again have already been asked. Also regarding a new CD and new songs. Have you ever thought of doing a CD with sacred music and maybe doing a tour through churches?
Churches are of course amazing places to hear music but no I haven’t thought of performing in one. Of course for many people all music in essence has a sense of the sacred.
Unless I’m much mistaken you trained to be a teacher before you decided to become a full time musician. Now being a teacher myself, I’d like to know what were your reasons to choose this profession and what age group did you teach? Do you think you would have made a good teacher and enjoyed teaching? Why (not)?
Well I did in fact teach art and design for about 5 years and I enjoyed my time teaching very much. I hope that I was a good teacher, I certainly tried very hard to stimulate and inspire interest in my subject and had the pleasure of working with some very talented young people. Teaching is an incredibly creative job and so hugely important – we can all remember when we were inspired by someone to see the possibilities in our own lives and it is so important for teachers to realise the immensely important position they occupy. Good luck with your teaching career.
Donnie what's your recommended reading for us this year?
Reading is such a highly personal thing and sadly my reading this year has been at far less a level than I would have liked – mainly been reading factual material most recently a biography on the life of Robert Cunningham Graham – ‘Don Roberto’ – an utterly fascinating and unique Scot who was the subject of a recent radio programme which I presented for BBC.
Hi Donnie. I remember watching a programme a few years ago where you were being interviewed whilst walking on Skye. Do you still find time to go walking and where is your favourite place to walk apart from Skye?
Once again – not enough; last time I was in the Cuillins was almost a year ago but yes I got out up to the Storr a few times recently.
Out of all the old Runrig songs what ones would you like to sing and why? Where is your favourite venue for a concert and why?
There are so many Runrig songs that I enjoy singing – they are really important parts of my own life – and I revisit them about once a year and it is great to hear them again fresh – Tharais air nan Gleann, Road and the River, Dancing Floor, Flower of the West, Dream Fields with Màiri Brennan, Chi Min Geamhraidh with Karen Matheson, Ubhal as Aìrde, Precious Years, Every River – oh there are so many!
Donnie have you ever considered recording a Gospel album? I love the power you give to the song The Mighty Atlantic (and many others).
Hearts of Olden Glory is the closest I have come to gospel but no I have never thought of doing gospel songs specifically.
My question is... During your last concerts with Runrig, and you saw the first few rows were very emotional (I was one!) how did you manage to get through the rest of the show without getting emotional yourself?
It was a sense of just allowing the songs to carry me through that amazing shared experience – the emotion came through the performance and the songs.
Another question for Donnie: Apart from all the recommendations you can find in the ordinary travelling guides, what else might be worthwhile visiting in Edinburgh?
The Scottish Gallery in Dundas St and the Talbot Rice Centre in Edinburgh University.
Have you heard of the boy who lived on Skye who could see angels? Our friends in Arran told us about him. Did you know him?
No I have not heard of any such person – sorry.
I would like to ask: Do you go to the cinema, and if so, what type of films would you go to see?
I love the cinema; my favourite films are The Prime Miss Jean Brodie, Kes, Room with a View and epics like Gandhi and Ben Hur and a very beautiful French Film Angel. I love French films particularly, they are always so quirky, edgy, flawed and beautiful.
As Donnie's been on TV more than once, I would like to know if he has any more appearances planned in future, and if so what?
I have just finished the Radio series, ’In the Footsteps’ which I enjoyed very much and I will look at the possibility of being involved in other interesting programmes. I do love radio as a medium.
As you have performed before a Scotland football game before how long do you think it will take before Scotland qualify for the euros or the world cup finals?
Like all Scottish football fans I live in hope.
Just a wee question to ask you – will you be putting Glasgow Joe out as a single or on the next album ?
That is something that I have not yet decided
Hi Donnie will you be playing Rothes Halls in Fife again?
Yes hopefully next year
Just another wee quickie will you ever do a 1 off Runrig reunion (Fingers Crossed)
I have noticed that from time to time you mentioned horseback riding in Montana being one of your unfulfilled ambitions. Being a rider myself I would like to know what horses and horseback riding mean to you?
I grew up greatly influenced by my grandfather who worked with horses all his life and I started riding when I was very young – I love going out on horseback and I find it just the best way to see the countryside and of course there is little to beat the thrill of galloping along a beautiful stretch of land. I just love horses, always have done.
I also would like to hear your opinion about the plans to expand Portree harbour for large cruise liners and yachts?
There is a great deal could be done to develop the pier area of the village and of course it all comes down to a matter of scale and being sympathetic to the landscape and the fabric of the village and in particular the original Telford design – in principle I would favour a sensitive well considered re-development.
My sister, Porthos, is currently studying at the UHI (Orkney College). I understand that it has recently achieved full university status. How do you think this recognition will impact upon the young people of the Highlands and Islands? And what impact will it have if it makes this part of Scotland accessible to more international students?
UHI has not yet been awarded University Title but has been given Degree Awarding Powers which is a major step along the way to full title. We are all hopeful that this will be granted through the Privy Council in 2010/11. It is perhaps the most significant development in the history of the Highlands and Islands and can have a major impact on the socio-cultural and economic development of the Highlands
Two more questions to Donnie: Do you know any German singers or bands?
Die Toten Hosen? With whom I played at many festival gigs – I loved their name’, in translation ‘The Dead Trousers’.
How long will you proceed with the An Turas tour and do you already have any idea what will come afterwards?
Not sure – just when it feels right.
Donnie, if you met the Dalai Lama, what would you like to discuss with him?
The situation in Tibet, and his philosophy
Would it be possible to produce a live record on DVD of one of your concerts in Scotland, and to release this in Germany? It would be a kind act of friendship for all the fans patiently waiting here… ?
I will try to appear in person.
Did you have a “dream job”, as little boys often have (such as locomotive driver, fireman, etc.), or was it already in early times you intended to put out certain messages into the world, as you finally (and fortunately!) did as artist and singer/song writer?
From my earliest age my passion was really for the visual arts and that remains with me today and I think of myself very much as a 'painter', music is my life-long travelling companion or the 'habit of a lifetime' instilled into my early life through the influence of my mother who was a singer.
How does the Munro family celebrate Christmas?
We love Christmas, it has always been a very special time in our lives and we deeply value that wonderful feeling of just being together. It is something which I have particularly enjoyed since having my own children as it really is such a magical time for children. In my own childhood whilst we celebrated Christmas it was really New Year that had the greater sense of celebration - a very old Scottish thing of course.
You are involved with the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O Riches and the Faclair na Gàidhlig projects. What stage are these projects in at the moment and what is the next step? What is your role regarding these projects? Are there any new projects in the pipeline that you might get involved with and that you can tell us about?
I have been Chairman of the Tobar an Dualchais (Kist o Riches) project almost since its inception and was part of the original steering group which saw the successful bid to HLF. This is an amazing project now employing about 35 people throughout Scotland, with its management base at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and will eventually digitise, conserve and make available on-line about 12,000 hours of sound archive material in Scottish Gaelic and Scots from the archives of The School of Scottish Studies, the National Trust's Canna Collection and the BBC. This has been a collaborative project which will create an immensely rich and now accessible resource for learning, research and pleasure on a world-wide scale. The project has also resulted in the establishment of a digitisation centre in South Uist now working commercially and employing about 5 staff in an area of fragile economic activity. The first phase of the project is due to come to an end in late 2010 but it is widely recognised that there is a great deal of work yet to be done in this important field and it is further hoped that Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches will have a major role to play in the development of a National Scottish Sound Archive.I am currently involved in developing collaborative initiatives between SMO and the RSAMD in Glasgow and in particular looking at extending our partnership into the new areas of drama, dance, film, etc all very exciting developments. Furthermore I am involved with the development of plans for the new village at Kilbeg and new initiatives within SMO including the planning for an international music conference of Gaelic and Scots Song taking place at SMO in June 2010.
The 2010 Questions and Answers Session with Donnie
(1) If you could have a garage full of all your dream cars (or if you already have them), what would they be?
I do love cars in relation to their design features and functionality – therefore my favourite cars tend to be BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Saab, Alfa Romeo although I have to say when in the US I did enjoy some of their vehicles also. My two favourite cars in my own possession have been a beautiful silver and chrome VW Beetle Sports 1302S which I really loved, a wonderful old Mercedes 200 (again with beautiful chrome and leather finishes) and a BMW Tourer 325i Sports. My first car was a little Mini which I remember was particularly good in the snow and the first car I remember in the family was a wonderful old Bradford by Jowett which my dad had when I was very young.
(2) Do you have a favourite story from your early days in the business (music or teaching) you like to tell?
I did love turning up at the Top of the Pops Studios in London to record the show to discover that we were on with Diana Ross, who of course had been an enormous international star during my childhood and early teenage years. In your mind of course there is this huge sense of separation between your life and what you perceive to be that of such an international icon. I was therefore intrigued to discover on our arrival that her personal assistant was a girl from our home village of Portree who had been in Malcolm Jones’s class in school and in fact also shared my family name. The world is such a small place and the connections just one remove away.
(3) What projects are you currently working on, and what do you envision for the future?
I am working on a number of projects on the educational arts and cultural side of things and in particular trying to keep the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O Riches running beyond its initial funded 5 year programme as there is so much important work for the project to yet undertake – it has been one of the most important projects I have been involved in, as Chair of the Project Board from the outset. I am also working on a pan-Irish –Scottish language and economic development EU Funded initiative which again, if it comes off, will be of great significance in developing greater links between the Scottish and Irish Gaidhealtachd. We are developing new programmes in Gaelic Drama and strengthening the position of the arts in the wider development of the language and the culture.
On a musical front I am working on ideas for a new album release and working on some acoustic track ideas currently.
(4) Do you have a "secret" passion?
Yes of course but if I share it will no longer be secret. The great loves of my life are my wife and children, my friends, painting, music and the arts, discussion, debate and philosophy and horses.
(5) When will you come back to Germany?
Very soon I hope
(6) Will there ever be a re-union with Runrig, maybe for a single concert?
Anything is possible – it would be nice to revisit some of the very early material in an un-plugged acoustic setting with the original line up-that would be an interesting project to look at as a starting point.
(7) Is there a new CD in work? Or, maybe a live DVD?
CD and looking at a special release
(8) We would like to see your paintings would it be possible to send some photos to Richard?
Currently hoping to work on a series of paintings and once they are complete I will certainly try and post them up.
(9) I also love to hear the music of John Denver. Have you ever sung a song by John Denver? I think John Denver loved nature just like you.
Yes have sung John Denver songs live with Runrig in the early Dance Band days but not since.
(10) I am a great fan from Runrig and from you. Is it possible to come to the Netherlands for a gig.
Yes I would love to perform in the Netherlands and would be very happy to respond to any requests from promoters in Holland.
(11) In 2012 Runrig is celebrating its 40th year of the band. Is it planned that you are involved in any of the celebrations?
I have not discussed anything with RR regarding 40 year celebrations.
(12) Did you get to see on Donovan on his recent comeback tour?
No did not see Donovan’s tour but we did meet up in London a few years back when I did the cover of Catch the Wind.
(12a) I am from the Midlands area near Worcester. Obvious question, has Donnie am plans to do some gigs down here in the new year.
I would like to tour in England again as soon as possible.
(13) Did you think that the Sunday night gig in Inverbervie during the summer was the strangest gig you've ever played? A chap dressed as an Indian, lots of hippy types and a country gent or two thrown in.
Yes Inverbervie was a very interesting event quite singular but the people were really lovely and we were very well treated. Sometimes these off-beat events can be great fun and yes I had a very long and interesting chat to the North American Indian from Aberdeen whose parentage interestingly went back to the Wild Bill Hickock Wild West Show which toured the UK.
(14) I have a question for Donnie - you might think it is a silly question - but I have always wondered if he has a dog. My family are great dog lovers, especially border collies, and for some reason I have always imagined Donnie might have one.
Do not have any dogs just a great little cat called Mollie who has just delivered 3 kittens to the household. We did have various animals on the family croft including a mad Irish Setter called Ruby, a West Highland Terrier called Queenie and the usual array of croft animals, cattle, sheep, goats, hens etc.
(15) 'Garden Boy' is my most moving song, a real tearjerker - What is Donnies; is there any song that still can bring a tear to his eyes'?
There are many songs particularly those which I associate with my childhood or special people and places which will always move me. There are times when I listen to the beauty of the human voice particularly in classical performances where I just find the beauty deeply moving. There are however so many great songs. I find classical music very powerful and up-lifting and there is just something about the human voice performing in such a way that seems to elevate things beyond where we are.
(16) Does Donnie like dancing, not necessarily Strictly sort, just good old fashioned village hall stuff such as an Eightsome Reel? (or both?)
Yes love dancing – all sorts.
(17) We are all asked what are our 5 fav songs what to date are Donnies?
Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Sound of Silence, Gracelands, Breisleach, Tharais air a Ghleann, With God on Our Side(Aaron Neville)
(17) Do you ever fear that, despite the best efforts of people such as yourself, the Gaelic language is in danger of dying out?
Gaelic language, like all minority languages is in a constant struggle for survival. Many minority languages simply disappear year on year and in the longer term it is extremely hard to predict the outcomes for any language as the world is constantly changing. However it is quite remarkable that Gaelic has survived against all the odds and now hopefully with enlightened educational policy and secure status within the context of the Gaelic Language Act and the European Charter on Minority languages the political context is much stronger and therefore enhances the chances of Gaelic remaining a vibrant ‘living language’ of Scotland. Language and culture largely defines us and how we experience and describe the world we live in and if we lose all that then we lose something utterly unique and precious.
(18) Which one was the first record you ever bought, and which one was the latest (CD, DVD, mp3 download - or even vinyl)?
Didn’t get into record buying very early – more involved in actual performance and listened mostly to music on the radio – one of the first albums was Breakaway by Gallagher and Lyle and the most recent one was Mumford and Sons.
(19) When did you paint a picture last?
Too long ago – about 2 years (ridiculous I know).
(20) What do you do in order to stay fit and healthy?
I walk and cycle and try and eat a reasonably healthy diet – but in truth the honest answer would be not nearly enough.
(21) As your first language is Gaelic, did you talk to your children in Gaelic when they were learning to talk, and do they speak Gaelic now?
When my children were born we were living in Edinburgh and without access to Gaelic medium education at the time – as a consequence my eldest children had less contact with the language than my younger two, who both went through Gaelic medium education, with my youngest child currently in Primary School Gaelic Medium. It is difficult in a non-Gaelic environment with only one parent as a speaker of the language to maintain any level of continuity, which is why Gaelic Medium education is such an important development and has made a huge difference to attitudes since its introduction.
(22) Would you ever consider singing Darkest Winter at a future Gig??
Darkest Winter is a great song and yes of course like all other material with which I have been connected over many years I would consider looking at it again at some point.
(23) Where is your favourite venue??
Very hard to say but certainly The Royal Albert Hall in London was pretty amazing.
(24) What is your all time favourite track??
Probably Bridge Over Troubled Water.
(25) If Donnie could become involved in present day TV (eg on BBC ALBA) what sort of programme /series would he choose to be part of?
Probably something on the arts.
(26) When do you plan to release a new CD?
Will release an album as soon as possible and currently in discussions with the record company on that.
(27) As there was already the question, if Darkest Winter might be played in one of your solo concerts, I wonder if we might get the chance to listen to songs like Every River or Going Home again? And as Christmas is coming nearer, do you listen to or maybe sing Christmas songs at home and if so, the "old-fashioned" ones like Silent night... or the modern ones?
Always happy to look at great songs especially the ones that ‘sing themselves’.
(28) If you could travel back in time, which period would you visit? Why?
Paris at the end of the 1800s beginning of the 1900s – think it would have been a really exciting place with all that fantastic painting happening – also would love to have been a part of the 1950s 1960s New York art scene with all these amazing artists like Willem de Kooning, Ashile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock etc.
(29) Does Donnie have any plans to play some live shows in Australia??
I would love to come to play in Australia perhaps in the Gaelic Theatre in Sydney or at one of the numerous music festivals and vine-yard festivals which take place there. I would particularly like to go at present, as my daughter, Sarah Anne, is a senior producer with ABC Radio in Melbourne. So if you know any promoters who would be interested just let me know.
(30) Is there any song by any artist you wished you had written that song yourself?
Bridge over Troubled Water and The Sound of Silence.
(31) What are your thoughts on how the digital age has changed the way music is recorded and bought. Is the technology to "make changes digitally to a voice to improve it" recordings a good or bad thing? Do you think the modern way of downloading songs off the internet has meant a whole generation is missing out on being able to go into a music shop and physically come out with the album in their hands?
The digital age has revolutionised the whole music industry and made everything so much more accessible. I have to say that I have not got in to downloading as I still feel a desire to have a precious piece of work in my hands – I therefore still very much stay with the CD. Whilst advanced IT has also acted as an enabler it has probably resulted in too many people producing too much music and too easily – as a result just about anyone can get an album out there but I am note sure if the journey from source to outcome is really as long as it should be or as meaningful as we might look for or always of the quality that we might want to experience. I think downloading has failed to compensate the creators – the artists and musicians for the downturn in CD sales and the demise of the retail market – so from the artists’ point of view downloading has probably had a really adverse effect on the sustainability of career.
(32) Do you play any other instruments other that the guitar?
I play a number of instruments very badly but have only really played guitar in any serious way. I would love to play an instrument really well – particularly fiddle – and although I sing constantly and habitually your voice is so much a part of your person it is hard to sing for your own pleasure – whereas I love the idea of being able to sit down and play a great set of tunes – and just to be able to enjoy that experience for yourself. However, whenever I speak to instrumentalists, they always say they would really love to be singers so perhaps we all just look for the things which we don’t have.
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