MacQuarrie and Toms formed in 2014. Since then they have played throughout the UK and Europe. In 2018 the duo were featured artists at Festival Interceltique de Lorient, the same year that they also supported Fairport Convention as part of their 50th anniversary tour.
Most recently the duo played with Welsh Folk Group Jamie Smith’s Mabon, to perform a commission piece to mark the 40th year of the Lowender Peran Festival in Cornwall.
Since their formation the duo have released 2 EPs, both of which have featured on BBC Introducing and in 2017 they won the International Pan Celtic Instrumental Duo competition in Ireland.
MacQuarrie and Toms aim to bring Celtic Folk music to a wider audience by combining traditional playing techniques with modern effects.
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"Celtic-Cornish folk duo MacQuarrie and Toms, who have been performing together since 2014, arrive with their second EP Granite. Featuring two songs and four instrumentals it showcases the combined talents of Stuart MacQuarrie on fiddle and Jamie Toms on acoustic guitar.
Sweet Nightingale is a charming rendition of a traditional Cornish folk song. Granite is the Hardest Stone, meanwhile, is the duo’s interpretation of a song by Chris Lethbridge, who wrote a number of songs inspired by the Isles of Scilly.
Dark and brooding, it tells the story of the Scilly naval disaster when four warships and 1,550 sailors lives were lost in a catastrophic night at sea back in 1707. The drone-like tones of an Indian Shruti Box, the beautiful haunting fiddle-playing, and the dark mournful vocals make this the definitive stand-out track.
With the tunes the duo take an inventive and engaging approach, both with their own material like Toms’ Clutterbuck and MacQuarrie’s Bunch of Fives, as well as with their own interpretations of other writers.
The sleeve-notes relate what happened when they approached Will Coleman for permission to use one of his tunes on the EP, We ’ent Goin’ Far. Coleman’s amusingly philosophical response was, “Writing tunes is like having kids - they fly off into the world and have a life of their own (and you just sit at home waiting for the phone call from the police/ambulance/DNA expert).”
Listeners can be reassured that the tunes, whether composed by Coleman or others, do indeed take on a life of their own on Granitebut they are far from any sort of disaster.
Inventive musicians with an imaginative and well-chosen set of songs and tunes, there is plenty to like about this EP."
(Darren Johnson - The Bright Young Folk)
"Can't say no to a good bit of tradtional Celtic and Cornish music... MacQuarrie and Toms, 'Clutterbuck' is wonderful!"
"Their EP, Kynsa, is available and is an atmospheric mix of charged fiddle and acoustic guitar. Download it, sit on a cliff, listen and become the most Cornish you've ever been."
(Lee Trewhela - West Briton)
"2017 off to a great start at Philleigh, warmed by a roaring fire and a brilliant display of sublime musicianship from MacQuarrie & Toms..."
(Philleigh Folk Club)
"MacQuarrie and Toms. It was these three magic words everybody was excited about last night. And I think that's the best way to describe these boys. Magic. Or maybe "magic trick" might be more appropriate. How on earth they make the music they do with just two people is beyond belief. There was lots of moments where I am sure I was not the only one looking for the rest of the musicians on stage.
The equipment surrounding them is the most I have seen in a gig. An amazing set of toys. No wonder they are labelled as "The future of folk", they are surrounded by contraptions! And believe me, they used every one. And they pulled a lot more than a rabbit out of the hat!
Cornish, Celtic and Irish tunes dominated each set but with their own unique delivery and skill. Both men are incredibly skilled musicians and it is of no surprise they are both teachers of their craft. They start off slow and beautiful and then out of nowhere surprise you and up the tempo.
One of the many highlights for me from the first half has to be "Bottleneck Caravan", written about a man with a large caravan going around the narrow winding roads of Cornwall, I won't give away the punchline, but this little anecdote was a hit with the crowd as they went into play the tune. I was overjoyed to find this on their EP which was played as soon as I got home. The song perfectly captures this caper and helps you visualise the scene completely.
The best thing about folk music is the storytelling. And what really impressed me was that these guys knew the origins and story of every song they played last night. You can see their heart, soul and passion goes into every performance. They write themselves and are so impressive, they enable music to just pour and flow out of them.
They really made you aware that tonight was a special show, they weren't using a tried and tested set-list, they were playing music they never have in public before. You could tell they were having fun and really enjoying themselves. They played an instrument that looked similar to an accordion like a piano, they played (I was waiting for this one) what looked like a close-up of the keys of an all-black piano. Something to do with bass to add to the song. This interesting bit of kit by the way Stu played simultaneously with the fiddle. At first I thought he was just tapping his foot to the music...he wasn't he was playing this bass thing! To see MacQuarrie and Toms is to see a show. You are transfixed, you cannot stop watching them.
There were a few times, the song was really fast-paced, and these guys kept completely in sync with each other, the exact same melody, the exact same time, on completely different instruments. Fast paced as well, remember.
Their talent and ability is staggering. Their twist and ability to be so contemporary is fascinating. Their "Trip to Miriams" was another highlight.
Partway through the evening, two girls got up from a table and began to tap dance to the music. A lovely surprise, and one the boys arranged for the audience.
MacQuarrie and Toms are funky. They are extremely talented. They are original. They are showstoppers. In short, they are bloody brilliant!
If you missed them, catch them. Or alternatively wait until they appear on Jools Holland and conquer the world!"
(Grampound Road Live Music Night)