Bellwether is an exciting new international folk trio. Collectively hailing from Orkney in Scotland, Somerset in England and Boston in the USA, their sound brings a fresh perspective to traditional music while simultaneously remaining entirely folkie. Stoking the embers sparked by pioneers of the previous generation’s folk revival Louise Bichan, Alex Cumming and Eric McDonald coalesce their talents to create a rich and savory feast of three part harmony and dynamic multi-instrumentalism. Crystal clear voices swirl above driving fiddle, sparky accordion and dynamic guitar lines, culminating in a tapestry that reaches from dulcit to all out raucous, and everywhere in between. Cumming’s strong piano playing is featured often, and creative arrangements are rounded out with the occasional sounds of banjo and mandolin, performed by Bichan and McDonald respectively.
This unlikely trio converged in Boston, and through a mutual desire to expand musical horizons, found common ground. For three trained musicians steeped in folk traditions, common ground is a license, and Bellwether took it. The thing most apparent in their music is a willingness to play together, to collaborate with each other. It's simply about being together playing music, and this carries over into their live performances, making it at home in almost any scenario; intimiate enough to feel at home at a house concert or at the local pub, yet big enough to fill a festival stage or a concert hall.
Louise has been playing the fiddle since the age of eight, taught in school by Douglas Montgomery (Saltfishforty, The Chair) and through fiddle classes at the Orkney Traditional Music Project (OTMP). She was encouraged to write music from a young age and was awarded the Ronnie Aim memorial prize in 2005 for one of her tunes. Many others appear in Orkney tunebooks and are played by a number of notable groups such as Saltfishforty, No Soond and Hadhrigaan. While in school, Louise toured with a number of local and student groups, making her mark early at a number of major festivals and events around Scotland. She won the Orkney Folk Festival Open Stage competition in 2008, along with pianist Jennifer Austin. This led to the formation of the band band Skalder, who went on to win the Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Open Stage in 2009 and release their first album later that year. Louise has played and recorded as a session musician, with various artists including the French Wives, Pronto Mama and Glasgow Indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian. In 2012 she appeared as a musician in the award-winning film God Help the Girl, written and directed by the band’s front-man Stuart Murdock, which was released in 2014. Over the next few years in Scotland, Louise would perform with a number of international touring acts such as Gria, Fara and singer songwriter Rachel Sermanni, among others. In 2015, Louise headed overseas to study at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. While in school, Louise managed to release her debut solo recording "Out of My Own Light" in 2016, which depicts the story of her late Grandmother and her family ties to Canada. The album was received with great acclaim, and Louise continues to tour the material today. Also while studying in Boston, Louise spearheaded an overseas project, "Apiary", which included two fiddlers from the US and two from Scotland. They debuted at Celtic Connections in 2018 alongside Le Vent Du Nord. Today, in addition to Bellwether, you can find Louise touring internationally with her band Corner House, also a group formed at Berklee. The group play a mix of traditional andoriginal tunes and songs, from and inspired by the Old Time and Scottish fiddle traditions, and are making waves across continents with their debut release.
Eric McDonald has been a professional performer and instructor of traditional and acoustic music for a decade. The early part of his career was spent cutting his teeth as a mandolinist in the rich local folk and roots music scene in Boston MA. Most of his time was given to Passim, a non-profit arts organization in Cambridge with an enriching and formative community surrounding it. Later Eric attended Berklee College of Music where he studied under world renowned mandolinist & guitarist John McGann, as well as gaining a practical knowledge of music in many styles. His education continued post Berklee and he soon found a gateway into the realm of traditional music through playing for contra dances, a native form of New England folk dance derived primarily from a combination of English, Scottish, Irish and Acadian traditions. Following the path set before him, Eric's quick ear and tasteful approach drew the interest of many around him and he found himself quickly in demand as a DADGAD guitar accompanist for musicians playing traditional music, finding a particular niche in the Scottish & Cape Breton realm. Inspired by the players around him, Eric dug deeper into the genre and developed a sincere appreciation for the music of the celtic folk revival in England, Ireland and Scotland during the 1960s and 70s. In 2014 Eric re-located to Portland, ME and began a new chapter. Now well established he maintains an active touring schedule, supplemented by recording sessions and a variety of teaching endeavors. In addition to Bellwether, he can currently be seen touring with the Scottish power trio Cantrip and the alt-trad group Kalos. Other touring credits include celtic supergroup The Outside Track, Lively Irish music trio Daymark, flute virtuoso Chris Norman's Ensemble, hodge podge folk band The Dave Rowe Trio, Scottish fiddler Katie McNally, folk-pop outfit Pesky J. Nixon and renowned Cape Breton fiddlers Andrea Beaton & Wendy MacIsaac.
Alex Cumming is a traditional Singer, Accordionist, Pianist and dance caller hailing from Somerset, England, now living in Greater Boston, MA, USA. He performs songs and tunes from around the United Kingdom and America with a great depth of knowledge of the tradition. Alex has made his mark on the folk scene with his rhythmic dance-able accordion style, strong voice and his fun and engaging stage presence.
Along with Bellwether, solo performances and calling work, Alex is a member of award winning a Capella quartet The Teacups, Fiddle and Accordion duo Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley and Ceilidh band's Dyer:Cumming’s and Alex Cumming Dance Band. Alex has also regularly performed and recorded with Faeta Female Vocalist of the Year winner, Ange Hardy and BBC Young Folk Award winner James Findlay. You may also see Alex out on stage with Contra dance bands Reelation, Mystic River Trio, Trip The Light Fantastic and Four Idiots.
As well as performing live, Alex has starred in prime time TV shows including BBCs Edwardian Farm and played live sessions for BBC Radio. In 2014, Alex obtained a BMus Hons. in Folk & Traditional Music from Newcastle University, the only degree program of its type in England.
Alex is also an experienced teacher and workshop leader. He has run group workshops in Dance, song and music for many schools and some of the top folk festivals and organizations including CDSS (Country Dance and Song Society of America), Sidmouth Folk Week, EFDSS (English Folk Dance and Song Society), Towersey Festival, Folk Arts Center of New England and Folk South West.
Alex is currently on the Board of Directors at the Folk Arts Center of New England, Program Director for CDSS English Dance Week at Pinewoods and is Music Director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA.