Alastair McDonald at Edinburgh FC / EFC
Born in Glasgow in 1941, Alastair emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of eight & while growing up there in the outback, developed an interest in "home made" entertainment. Four years later he returned to Scotland just in time to be excited by the emerging pop scene & in particular skiffle music, a fusion of American folk song and jazz, spearheaded by Lonnie Donegan. With a variety of local groups, Alastair played in hospitals, old folks' homes, churches, ceilidhs & even back court concerts for political campaigns. For many of his young years he was a leading tenor banjo player in the jazz scene of the period (winner of the award for best banjo player Elgin Jazz Festival 1962!).
As the years passed, Alastair`s musical horizons extended and in 1973 he was invited to co-host a new TV show of Scottish music entitled "Songs of Scotland" in the company of baritone Peter Morrison. After only a few screenings, the viewing public responded so positively that the series continued year upon year, taking Alastair`s music into variety shows, pantomimes and plays throughout Scotland and the world.
Alastair`s commitment has always been to entertain, but he has fought to do so on terms he believes to be valuable. "Give them what they want ..." is a maxim he finds quite unacceptable and he strives instead to offer what he considers to be wholesome, helpful, uplifting, cautionary, loving and entertaining - "Filling time for an audience and not just passing it!", he says.
Since 1970 Alastair has been a professional performer and has built a successful career not only at home in Scotland but in America, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Thailand, East Africa and the Arab Emirates. Never one to be easily pigeon-holed he is probably best known as "... the folk singing jazz banjo-player from Scotland..." except for those areas in which he's known as "...the Scottish jazz banjo-playing folk singer!"
Alastair's radio & TV credits are too numerous to list. Likewise his record & tape releases, but even without these, the fact that he was invited twice within the space of three years to front a coast to coast touring show across Canada and the United States (except in Hawaii & Alaska) speaks for itself. His concert programme varies from a Scottish historical ballad to a humorous music hall ditty, from a Gaelic lament to a hand clapping American negro gospel song. This is not versatility merely for its own sake, but a genuine desire to share some of the very best at an entertaining and contextual level.
In his book, "One Singer - One Song", writer, singer and storyteller Ewan McVicar describes Alastair as having "...sung with the Scottish Radio Orchestra, played banjo in countless jazz bands, accompanied traditional Gaelic singers and performed as a pantomime dame ...". Ewan goes on to muse that perhaps it's that very versatility that brings him under fire from self appointed purists that seem to have difficulty doing one thing well. Interesting thought, Ewan!
Having enjoyed over the years the company and respect of established figures like Josh McRae, Dominic Behan, Morris Blythman, Matt McGinn, Billy Connelly, Hamish Imlach, The Stewarts of Blair et al, Alastair continues to perform mainly in Scotland, although through the '90s he made frequent appearances at jazz festivals in Denmark where his banjo and vocals have been received enthusiastically by Danes blissfully undiverted by dancing centipedes or Glencoe massacres (!). Speaking of which, it seems Alastair has the rare ability of lifting a song directly from the written page and into the hearts and minds of the listening public, as the repertoires of more than a few of his fellow performers will reveal.
Ukrainian Community Centre (View)
14 Royal Terrace
Edinburgh EH7 5AB
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