IN LOVING MEMORY
MESSAGES CELEBRATING JOHNNY'S LIFE FROM AROUND THE WORLD
A Fiddler's Fiddler. Johnny Cunningham was the greatest of my generation; I'm 43. My dad "overplayed" French-Canadian fiddle music when I was a little girl; guess the SOUND of the fiddle stayed in my head... till I was older, played the guitar; loved Celtic music and saw Johnny at the Somerville theatre. What a presence and an AMAZING fiddler. I will always get the chills listening to his haunting airs. Saw him across the street that night at JD's - no courage to say 'Hi". Trisha, I am so very sorry for the loss of your love, and it seems weird to say, but, "Johnny WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU". I truly believe that, but a loss of a true love is so very hard. I am sorry. Johnny will be missed. ~ Denise Jaillet, Waltham, MA
My lasting memory of him was a gig in The Golden Lion Stirling. Phil hadn't seen him in a while and they chatted about his trip, the family, the weather, drink... you name it... all while playing at 100 miles per hour and flawlessly! A brilliant night and a brilliant musician... the world will be a sadder place without him... my deepest sympathies to his family. ~ E. Gavas
I only met Johnny once in a NYC hotel in April 2002. I was with the Scottish Power pipe band and we had Phil on tow to do our concert with us. I met Johnny while buying a drink in the hotel bar and ended up enjoying a long conversation with him. i was shocked to read that he had passed away. He was friendly, cheery and was keen to enjoy the company of the band. Even after my brief encounter with him I knew he was a really decent and sincere guy. It was a pleasure to have met him. ~ Donald McFady
Johnny sare missed. all my love Phil. so so sorry mate, no more tea trolleys. always ~ John Ramsay
To what your life left to us. Your music, your feelings and emotions... Your love. I will love when I play again your notes. Be fine.
This lovely man has blessed us all with his friendship and his beautiful music. My heart goes out to his family and friends. With much love, Bob McQuillen
Morning in Madrid. Nunca olvidaré la noche del concierto en Madrid de Nightnoise. Fue en 1994. Yo había gastado el poco dinero que me quedaba en una entrada y ahí los vi aparecer. Eran algo más que músicos. Eran la música propiamente dicha. Johnny estaba allí jugueteando con su sonrisa permanente. La forma de tocar el violín atravesaba el alma. Esa noche supe que ellos serían siempre mis amigos. Luego me enteré que esa misma noche, Johnny no había ido al hotel y que paseando por Madrid se le ocurrió la composición de "Morning in Madrid". Al día siguiente era mi cumpleaños, así que recibí un excelente regalo, casi sin saberlo. Bueno, Johnny, nunca te olvidaré. La taberna Elisa ya no será la misma sin ti. Javier.
What a loss to the world and to music! I feel blessed to have seen the winter concert in Boulder Colorado in December, and will always remember the loveliness and energy of the music and the musicians. May Johnny be remembered whenever musicians come together to play, and may his music and life live on in the rest of us. in peace ~ Elena Klaver, Colorado
Very very saddened to hear of Johnny's passing, have many great memories of when I first moved to Edinburgh in 1980, the hospitality of all the Silly Wizard boys, and the sessions in St. Vincent's, and the festival club. As well as being a brilliant musician, Johnny was always a gentleman, and I am honoured to have had tunes with him. Deepest sympathy to Phil, and all the family, Gary Peterson
I met Johnny while presenting one of the last Silly Wizard concerts in 1988 in Philadelphia and then again in London in the late-90’s while Johnny continued to trail blaze with the Celtic Fiddle Festival. Both times landmark experiences in my personal and professional life. The world has lost a truly great artist and keeper of tradition. As I reacquaint myself with the memories, both personal and recorded, of truly remarkable music, stories and good cheer, the empty feeling of loss seems to fill again. My deepest heartfelt condolences to Trisha, Phil, and all the Cunningham family. ~ Tom McCabe, London
His flair, music, and wit will always be with me. I send my condolences and deep affection to those who were really close to him (and he to them). I can only hope the fact that so many share the pain of his loss, might make your sorrow more bearable. ~ John Karr
It has taken me a while to write this, and I will never be able to put into words how I feel about Johnny's passing. All I have to say is that there will never be a day when I don't think about him, and that there was more music in the pinky on his left hand than there is in my entirety. We are all so fortunate to have known him. I will leave it at that. Peace to J and to us all. ~ DLyn
I loved knowing you and playing with you.Why'd ya have to go so soon? Thanks, my friend. ~ Lindsey
Brief flight in Sedona. Trish, I met you and Johnny at the Faery Festival in May 03. I have such fond memories not only having the pleasure of performing with Johnny - a magical moment for an aerialist, but also of sitting with you both back at the hotel and just listening to stories. My heart goes out to you. Robyn x
My deepest sympathy goes out to to Johnnie's family and loved ones at this most difficult time. His musicianship, charm and wit will be dearly missed. What we have now are Johnnie's lasting memories and that will continue to enrich us all. ~ Phil Smillie
My condolences to Phil and other family and friends of this awesome musician whom I first heard and met in Atlanta in the early 80's with Silly Wizard. I never missed a performance in Atlanta! I know they are dancing and laughing in Heaven even as we cry here at the loss of you. ~ Darcy Douglas, currently of Anchorage, Alaska, usually of Atlanta, Georgia
WE ARE SUCH STUFF AS OUR DREAMS ARE MADE OF......AND OUR LITTLE LIVES ARE ROUNDED WITH A SLEEP....FOND MEMORIES AND CONDOLENCES TO YOUR FAMILY ... LOUIS ODWYER.. TULLAMORE FOLK CLUB OFFALY IRELAND
What a wondrous muse inspired him, and not a bad comedian muse either.
I'm saddened to hear about Johnny Cunningham's untimely passing. You have my heartfelt condolences and prayers. ~ Chris Cunningham, Georgia
Johnny and I were friends in Edinburgh before he left for the States. Despite having lost touch for many many years, Johnny has never really left my memory. I especially remember the day we went to see 'The Rescuers' when it first came out, aroung 1979, armed with a bottle of champagne and booking a box seat, in true Johnny fashion. Johnny got quite tearful as he thought the wee girl reminded him off his sister. I only wish I had had one more chance to say hello and goodbye. ~ Mandy MacLean
My wife Lisa and I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting Johnny 8-10 years ago when we were invited to spend the night at his home in Mass. He spoke excitedly of buying a home in New Bedford where gardens could be planted and birds could be listened to. His generosity and exhuberance for life touched us deeper than we even realized for when we heard of his crossing over it was as if we had spent all our lives with this Man who was suddenly taken away! We feel that when one makes the transition from this life rather than going away they go everywhere... so when we breath we breath them and when we see the beauty of a flower we see their beauty and when the moon lights our way in the dark it is their light guiding us............. We wish Peace to All, Hawk Lisa Henries
Saddened and shocked by the loss of a great Scottish musician who has brought joy to the heart of people the whole world over. ~ Rick Johnson, Lancaster
The passionate pirate. I'm in shock. I was just looking to see when Johnny would be playing in Minneapolis again. I had NO idea. I'm crying as I type this. I saw him in Tulsa, Oklahoma 10 years ago and will never forget it. I was blown away by the passion he contained in his playing. It went right through my soul. I was so hoping to see him play again. Tonight, I'm going to see Bonnie Rideout, Scottish fiddler, play in Redwing, Minnesota. Maybe Johnny will be on stage as well. God bless him and his family and friends.
To all Johnny's friend and family. I'd like to share my memory of Johnny from a few years ago. Around 1990 I produced a WUMB members concert with Johnny and I still remember his wonderful fiddling ! It was around this time of year (January or February) and he told me about playing a New Year's Eve Concert on the BBC in Scotland. There was fantastic line-up with all the finest traditional/folk musicians from Scotland playing live on the tube just as the New Year came in. In their undoubted wisdom the BBC producers kept the champagne and whisky locked up until the show was over but after that the party at the studio got going and was still in full swing at 6AM when they were all turned out. The entire group headed back to their hotel, got the manager to open up the bar at 7AM and the party continued unabated! Although I am also of Scottish decent, I had never known why Scotland had 2 holidays for New Years but after talking with Johnny, I knew that we both came from a country that really knows how to party! Wherever Johnny may be now, I hope he is having a wonderful time at some great party playing with all the other musicians. My thoughts and sympathies with all of you who were close to Johnny and must now carry on without him. ~ Isabel Freeman Boston
au revoir Johnny pas adieu. Having been to a festival in the North of Scotland in 1978, it's there I discovered "Silly Wizard" and since I often listen to their music;I'm very sad to hear Johnny has left us but if there's a heaven I'm sure his music is filling the hearts above. Thank you Johnny for you music. ~ Nicole Couteau
Loved the playing, especially the slow airs, played like no-one else. I'm glad and grateful to have heard as much of your music as I have done. ~ Jon Scaife Sheffield, England
John, you brought a bright life into the hearts of many. My wife and I will never forget your joyful tale about your Granny teaching you to swim. You will be missed. Thank you for bringing your music to the world. ~ Salt and Faye Philla, Acushnet,Ma.
Blessed prayer of thanks. I really only recently discovered Johnny's music, regrettably thruogh a sort of side door by hearing the song Starlight Lullaby I think it is called sung by Susan Mckeown. What a beautiful composition and the two seemed to fit together very well. My wife and I and some friends were honored to see them perform what was one of their last shows at th Irom Horse Coffehouse in Northampton, MA. I just heard today about his passing and would like to send along my most deepest heartfelt condolences. ~ Peace and Love, William Tobin-Greenleaf
My sincerest condolences to the Cunningham family. I first met John and his family in Edinburgh in 1969. I was 16 and he was 12. He was always smiling. And laughing. The whole room lit up when he started telling his stories. In the final few months before I came back to the states in 1972, he was starting to blossom as a fiddle player and his brother Philip was learning the accordion. Little did I know I was in the presence of such greatness to come. ~ Steve Grigg, Salt Lake City
Slan Johnny! Last night I dug out a video which featured Nightnoise and watched Johnny telling myself I would never have the pleasure of sharing his company again. I recall meeting him in the Central Hotel during the Celtic Connections festival, I had just popped into the hotel bar for a stiffener before going to see James Taylor in concert, I had scored a ticket earlier and they were very scarce. I met Johnny and we started drinking 80 Shilling and crème de menthe. It seems he always did this ritual before going home to see his mother, needless to say I didn't get to see JT and we had a ball. Time spent in that man's company was always a pleasure and always fun. Johnny Cunningham was a man who lived and loved life and enriched other people's lives with his music and personality. Thanks, Johnny for the music and the memories. Condolences to his family and all he loved. Long may you reign. ~ Alan O'Leary, London
The connected universe. I send my deepest condolences. I was on my way to Florence Italy and noticed his 'obit' in the paper and just about fell over - Johnny 10 years prior had been a great inspiration and friend to me, a singer/songwriter on tour in Italy - opening for Bill Morrissey - Johnny was a friend to me and made me laugh. He got me out of a 'foot in mouth' story and I never forgot him. I was just talking about him, telling someone about meeting this 'great Scottish fiddle player' in Italy only a couple days before I read that he had passed on. Johnny devoured life and looked at it with such humour and passion. What a great soul and I consider myself lucky to have known him. I'll be in New York in January for writing and performing, if I can do anything, please let me know. All my best and much peace, Kris Wilkinson (Thank you Johnny for being around when I needed a friend! I am very sad to see you go!!!!)
I am one of Johnny's Australian cousins and whilst living in London for several years had the privilege of attending two of Johnny's concerts at the Blackheath Concert Halls. I also had the privilege of meeting him on both occasions. How special he made me feel and how wonderful his music was. I wish I had had the opportunity to get to know him better. His music and sense of humour (very Cunningham) were amazing gifts. His Australian family is feeling this loss too and we send love to Tricia, Phil, Laura, Aunty Mary and all the family. We will be with you all in spirit on the 10th. ~ Debbie White (Cunningham)
Thank you Johnny for the music and the humor that you have brought to us. The earth is a sadder place today, but they are surely dancing in heaven. ~ Dan Dennehy
To have known Johnny was to have loved him. It was impossible to know Johnny without being entertained and charmed by him, and to love him for the unique and wonderful human being that he was. His humour, his music and his passion for life endeared him to everyone who ever met him. Johnny was the finest friend and fellow musician one could hope to have. We will miss him forever. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Johnny's mother Mary, his brother Phil and his sister Laura and to all his friends and loved ones. Suaimhneas siorai da anam ~ Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, Brian Dunning, Micheal O' Domhnaill of Nightnoise
Portobello High School Music competition. I was at Porty High school at the same time as Phil and Johnny. Fantastic musicians. Remember how brilliant they were at the music competitions. Johnny was a great talent. Sorry to hear the tragic news. ~ Andrew Crummy
We were truly saddened to learn of Johnny's passing. It was always such a pleasure to hear him play. ~ Tony & Jeannette (former owners of Rhythm Alley, Chapel Hill, NC, USA )
The Wizard of Portobello. About the only thing I can think of expressing at a time like this that truly commemorates the spirit and impact of a fellow musician who gave so much beauty to the world is to offer more music. Here's a tune in Johnny's honor. Anybody's welcome to play it and carry on the legacy. Sincerely, L.E. McCullough. Woodbridge, New Jersey
To my friend Johnny. For all the fun times we spent in "An Siopa Eireannach" ...my store, when you often helped me out. Then after when we got together for drinks.... and laughs we shared, especially about times growing up. Other than Christmas cards, since you moved to New Bedford, and maybe going to one of your concerts, we lost touch. I am so deeply saddened........... Johnny, my friend, Oiche Mhaith agus Codlagh Samh......Goodnight and sleep softly. ~ Frances Connolly.
The joyous memories Johnny has given me will forever be treasured. His presence on stage was always a warming delight, and his playing - passionate like fire. He has improved the world with his beauty on many levels.
It is with sadness that we learned of Johnny's passing. We shall remember his life by the music that he gave to us all. ~ Don & Lydia Jeffrey (McDonald/McGregor), Monrovia, California
None & Plenty. Speechless at the news --------------- I was privileged to spend an hour chatting in my Bar to Johnny before his gig at Stamford Arts Centre in the UK a few years back. We had a laugh and I felt I'd known him forever, chatting about his Broadway project and the weather.Two years later he played here again and we continued where we left off as if time had stood still. Sadly time has shot off to the wild blue yonder for him now. He treated everyone as his mate and had such an amazing personality. He wasn't bad on the Fiddle either! Sadly but rejoicing in the music, Love from Andy, the Sassenach, to a Plastic Mac (He'll understand that!!)
I was very sad to see the tragic news. Me and my wife just saw his and Phil's performance in NY in November, chatted a little and he invited us for a pub. I really liked their music and even attended Silly wizard concert in NY in 1985. ~ Avi Bivas
A wonderfully funny man, great company, a dream to listen to ...... couldn't believe that it could happen when I heard the news............so sorry, Anne O'Donnell
To the best of the best: Slainte! J. Bethancourt, www.WhiteTreeAZ.com
Thank you Mr Cunningham. Bird in the Air. On the open stage of a desert amphitheatre, My small company of players has been waiting all day… in fact they have been waiting most of the week, for an opportunity to rehearse... this is their last chance.
Backtrack… We had been invited to bring some characters to the Sedona, Arizona Faerieworlds Festival. To which our good friends Brian, Wendy and Toby Froud, are guests of honour. So, to go with the silly, 8ft high ‘Trollops’ who dispense faery blessings with gay abandon and the very impressive equally tall satyrs, I wanted to produce a moment of beauty that would reflect a sense of Brian’s art. I came up with the idea of an aerialist performing within a ball of light. The ball, which was to begin as an open flower structure would be suspended before a huge screen on which was played our film ‘Dance of Light’. Our beautiful aerialist would ascend her tissue rope and as the petals of the flower closed about her, she would transport the gathered thousands in faery delight. The mirror film that made up each flower petal would reflect in seeming dancing patterns the lights played upon it. Nice!
We arrive at the fashionable, hot spring town of Sedona, with plenty of time to spare, complete with flower pieces, beautiful aerialist, and large amounts of sticky tape and string to join the bits together. We walk on stage at the Sedona amphitheatre… Argh…! The technical specifications I had used were of what was proposed for the finished theatre not of what actually existed… There was no lighting grid to suspend my flower from and there were no sides to protect us from the elements. “Don’t worry man”, they said, “This is the desert, who needs sides?” But I noticed that there was a rather ugly, semi permanent plastic carport erected centre stage. There were no workshop facilities in which to assemble the flower and there are no riggers to attach the high wire for our aerialist to rehearse. “Tomorrow”, we are told.
It is the day before the event, the full technical rehearsal… Several ‘Tomorrows’ have gone by… The joys of Sedona remain unexplored and our hotel room stinks of glue… The local organiser keeps saying, as if the mantra will make it stop, that they never have winds this bad and rain is without precedent. It is 10pm and the technical crew have just pulled the plug on the lighting and sound systems, even the portable CD player has been locked away. Apparently, they were not ‘properly’ informed that there was yet one more piece to rehearse and now they are making a point.
But then a little magic: Johnny Cunningham, the world-renowned folk musician says that he will accompany our piece. He walks on stage and no-one is going to tell him to leave. He sits cross-legged on a wooden box and his bow caresses the fiddles strings, sending up a plaintive call, didgeridoos from the Australian folk rock band ‘Brother’ join him. Robyn our aerialist glides on-stage and is seemingly enchanted upwards on her tissue. The hard-assed crew, who have seen it all before stop, beer cans held halfway to parched lips. Around the amphitheatre all those still setting up stalls and preparing for tomorrows early start pause. The only sound is the music; the only movement is the dance. For 8 minutes out of time, we are spellbound. A precious bird has taken to the air and is held there by an ancient song. At the end she descends and gives Johnny a kiss on the cheek and the spell is broken. Now, the crew will do all that they possibly can to help and I know that tomorrow will be fine… though never quite as good as tonight.
Thank you Mr Cunningham. ~ William Todd-Jones
a tragic loss but a beautiful life. . . Though I saw Johnny dozens of times in concert, I never had the chance to meet him personally. I now regret not having the chance to tell him how much his life and music inspired me. As a rather confused and depressed 15 year old, I first heard the music of Silly Wizard. I'd never heard anything like it before, and in some magical way it opened my life to a love of Celtic music that remains to this day. I picked up the fiddle, and recall wearing away vinyl copies of his albums, desperately trying to learn from the beauty of his playing. Whether it was Silly Wizard, Relativity, Nightnoise, the Raindogs or any number of his marvelous works, I will always cherish that sweet sound. Johnny did not only have technical skill, he had true soul in his playing. I have never heard, and don't believe I ever will hear again, the passion of his music. I offer my thoughts, love and prayers for him and his family. I am not a man easily moved to tears, but I must admit to such at the news of his passing. May he be remembered for his passion, his fire and his devotion. He died far too young, but perhaps, in our pain, we might remember that the measure of a life is not in its quantity, but in its quality. May God bless him, just as God blessed us all with his life. All my best to his family and loved ones. ~ Sean M. Connolly
The fastest way to learn of life’s fragility and brevity is the death of a friend. Johnny was my friend, a marvelous musician, and someone who represented the antithesis of indifference, selfishness, and boorishness, traits far too common in today’s world. Johnny loved people, and they loved him back. His stay was short but strong. We were lucky to have him for the time we did. He left this world a better place than when he arrived, giving us good times, great music, and vivid, lasting memories. And in memory he will continue to live: fiddling, laughing, and telling stories. With deepest sympathy, Earle and Nancy Hitchner
I was shocked and then saddened to hear of Johnny's passing. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and to his close friends. I've added his name to the prayer list at our church so that folks will pray for his soul and for the consolation of his family. I never had the pleasure of actually meeting Johnny but like many others I had the pleasure of seeing him play in a live concert a few times along with the rest of Silly Wizard. My voice and my clapping can be heard on the Live in America and Golden Golden records. That concert at Sanders Theater in Cambridge, MA was my favorite show of all time. I believe that it was on that tour that Johnny started playing with the group again. The band played a few numbers without him and then he was brought out and the place just went wild. Johnny was the greatest fiddle player I ever heard. He will be missed but he leaves a great legacy of some of the greatest fiddle music ever. ~ Jim Higgins
Johnny was a true gentleman; you couldn't meet a nicer or funnier man. He'd always add a daft element to any gathering--an illuminated personality, loved by everyone he knew or even half knew. ~ Jane Kelton
I met Johnny in the late 70`s when the Wizard played the old St Andrews Folk Club. Our paths crossed often in those days, and it was always a pleasure to meet him.I remember him for his sense of humour, his talent, and his wisdom. It's not fair that a talent like Johnny's should have been taken from us so early,but life is not fair. We will remember him by playing his music. ~ Sandy Colquhoun
Thanks for your music, for your feelings when played the fiddle, we´ll be missing you from Madrid ~ Oscar
Mo shóraidh slán leat!!
MISS YOU LOADS. HEY JOHNNY FROM HERE IN NEW BEDFORD... WISH WE GOT TO HAVE THAT STEAK PIE. MISS YOU LOADS... JENNY E.
So many memories of Silly Wizard ~ when I and my then husband John ran Highway Records and Silly Wizard ran riot in our house! More than anything the magic of their music I miss. Johnny was all talent, he and Phil had such total empathy with one another. Johnny's music was sheer wizardy, it was beautiful, the world will be the worst for his loss. My thoughts go to all of you, to Phil and all his family and to Trisha whom I never knew. ~ Sue Zollman
Jose Alberto. Mis condolencias a su familia y a la musica celta y de raiz en general por tan triste perdida. Deseo que en el lugar que se encuentre, sea mas grande el auditorio y su musica llege mas lejos. Adios from León (Spain)
Our sympathy to Phil, Johnny's family and friends. He was always someone to look forward to - seeing, hearing, chatting to, drinking with... From all at Stamford Arts Centre, Lincolnshire, UK
Orbituary in Irish Massachussetts. We put a story about Johnny's time in Boston area on our "Irish Massachusetts" web site,which you can view here. A version of this article will also appear in the January issue of Boston Irish Reporter. Condolences and kind regards, Michael P. Quinlin, Boston Irish Tourism Association
death be not proud though some have called thee
mighty and dreadful for thou art not so
for those whom thou thinskst thou dost overthrow
die not poor death nor yet canst thou kill me
from rest and sleep which but thy pictures be
much pleasure then from thee much more must flow
and soonest our best men with thee do go
rest of their bones and soul's delivery
thou art slave to fate chance kings and desperate men,
and dost with poison war and sickness dwell
and poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
and better than thy stroke why swellst thou then
one short sleep past, we wake eternally
and death shall be no more death thou shalt die
-- john donne, 1633
stand fast trisha -- susan and maurice, 2003
I am stunned at the news although our paths had not crossed in 27 years. I have always remembered his generosity, his quiet "presence" then! (:-) and the soaring majesty of the music. Free Spirit - fly high! My thoughts are with those who grieve. ~ Mandy
I was at a "Celtic Christmas" concert in Tokyo when I heard the news of Johnny's passing; Sharon Shannon said it on stage before dedicating the next tune that she played to him. Shocked doesn't even begin to describe how I felt that night. Those Silly Wizard recordings are what got me started playing traditional music and I still remember Johnny's great version of Lexy MacAskill on that live record, with Phil droning on the accordion in the background...unbelieveable! Please send my condolences to Trisha, Phil et al. If I was shocked, I can't even begin to imagine how they must all feel. A great man whos music will be sorely missed. ~ Dan Baseley
Johnny, I'll never forget the time after your solo gig at Ramblin' Conrads Guitar Shop back about 1982, we all went out for a night of screwdrivers and local folk music. When we got back to the shop, you got out of our car and walked on your hands back into the building!! You always remembered me when ever we met, and I'll never forget you. ~ Mike Munden, Norfolk, Va.
None of us in New Bedford can believe it. I can't walk into Candleworks without expecting to see him holding court. Johnny was truly larger than life. Our hearts are with Trisha and Phil and the rest of Johnny's loved ones.
Forever in our hearts, Johnny... with your wit, with your laughter, and most especially with your music.
You're passing into legend now, Johnny... and I'm sure you're laughing to think how many toasts will be drunk to you in the years to come =)
My sister and I only heard the news today; we couldn't believe it. We feel so sad! I must have heard Johnny play 20 times, probably more, in the last 20 years.
I realized, hearing WGBH playing one tune after another, that sometimes, at those concerts, were among the most fun I ever had, anywhere, any time. I certainly never laughed harder. Thanks to Johnny and Phil.
Phil, we're thinking of you. We're so terribly sorry. ~ Sarah Brannen, Sudbury, Massachusetts
thinking of you. Tonight in Chicago, with our concert hall full of people for Nollaig, a wonderful celtic holiday show with bohola, there is an air of sadness from the news of Johnny's unexpected passing. The Old Town School will long celebrate the music and the musical spirit he shared with our community. We'll miss him. ~ Sarah Dandelles, Old Town School of Folk Music
I remember the first time I heard you. You were playing "Over the Rainbow" so sweetly on your fiddle. And I"m so glad I got to see you at the Kennedy Center this month. Little did I know what meaning your "Auld Lang Syne" would have. We will miss you but your music will live on forever.
I met Johnny for the first time about a year and a half ago. I don't think I've met many with such a deep quality of kindness. He was genuinely a nice person in a way I've seldom encountered. My favorite quote from him was "There are people living on the street who are happier than most of the people in this world." ...or something to that effect. I liked his advice for soloing too..."go into it strong, then do anything you want in the middle, and go out strong. He said no one is paying attention in the middle...and laughed. (I think he said it was a lesson he learned from Johnny Copeland). I was looking forward to more of Johnny's wisdom and wit but I think he gave me his best right up front. As on this earth, they'll be happy to have him wherever he goes.
I had the great good fortune to meet Johnny several times over the past 20-odd years and was always knocked out by his brilliant talent, not only for music, but for friendship, for laughter, for mischief, for fun, for life. My deepest sympathies and condolences to Johnny's loved ones. He was one of the all-time greats, and he will be sorely missed. We all loved him.
Godspeed you, Johnny -- from your friends in Houston, Julia Olivarez (and Greg Harbar, Kelly Lancaster, Mary Ann Willis, Barry Roberts, Vladimir Kotsiorouba, Richard Saldivar, Terrence Karn and the late Dave Peters) ~ The Gypsies
They often say that the best people are taken away from us early. Johnny's fiddle playing was magical, and a big influence of some of our local musicians here in Geneva. So sorry, Trish. I wish you lots of courage at this difficult time. ~ Christina O'Shaughnessy, Geneva
For those of us at the 11th St. bar we have lost our Falstaff. The merry prankster who kept us all entertained, laughing in our souls deep into the night. Love you Trish. ~ D
That bright star? That's him. I'm sure. I've been reading all of your beautiful tributes and trying to come to grips with the idea that Johnny Cunningham is not on this planet with us now. My friend Colleen Low has spoken very eloquently for Kansas City. We have been blessed to know Johnny and the other Wizards for many years thanks to Gerald Trimble making his recordings here and MVFS booking almost every band that had Johnny in it. I'd like to thank the Cunningham family for sharing this amazing man with us and send my hope that you find solace in all of our words. My love to you, Gwen Ervin
Thanks Johnny. I was playing solo for nearly nobody on the Riverwalk in San Antonio when Johnny came in and told me he’d heard there was a fiddler there. I got my fiddle and played him a couple of Cajun and Texas tunes. When he found out I was tuned a half-step low he was intrigued. He played some reels for me, then he asked me to get my guitar and sing “Yesterday.” He accompanied me for hours on my low-tuned fiddle, for the challenge, I guess. He was so much fun, so generous and so talented that he inspired me to get serious about my Cajun heritage and get the kind of structure of learning he got coming up. He never knew it, but he did me a huge favor I’ll never forget. ~ David Greely, fiddler for Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Nuestras mas sinceras condolencias por la perdida de este gran violinista, aunque su musica seguira entre nosotros, te queremos johnny. GAITEROS DEL FARO - CANTABRIA.
Raising a parting glass. I feel so sad that Johnny has left us, but I am grateful that he died in Tricia's arms. I send heartfelt condolences to Tricia and Johnny's family. I did not know Johnny personally, only his music making. His fiddling has awed and inspired me for years, and it always will. I am glad that he left us many recordings but I certainly will miss his live performances. He was really "live." Some part of Johnny lives on in the hearts of those of us who have loved his fiddling. ~ Pauline
To Johnny Cunningham, Scotland’s Fiddler
Live, I heard you but once
when you played and played and played.
This fall, at the New World Festival in Randolph,
your hand had been injured, you said, not long before,
and you were told then that you might not get the use of it again;
and so you played and played and played.
Later, in the darkness outside Chandler Hall, we spoke
stranger to stranger,
and you told me that you’d been afraid to stop,
that the knowledge of your hand had come back while on that stage
and you had no way of knowing if it would come back a second time like that
and so you played and played and played.
I hope you did not stop between that time and this.
I hope you played and played and played.
I’d have you die playing, die with the fiddle in your hands
doing what you loved best.
I knew Johnny through mates like Kenny Hadden, Dougie MacLean, Phil Cunningham and Dick Glasgow in Aberdeen in 1976-77 and enjoyed playing music with him and generally having the crack all over Scotland at various festivals as we did in those days. Condolences to his family from me in Nairobi. ~ Sean White
Johnny, You're not forgot, when a beginner, you taught me a lot. The tickly phrase, the double stop. Fred
several years ago, i had the pleasure of adding vocals to several tracks of an album by casey neill. johnny was producing, and generally just being a tremendous presence in the control room. i had never sung on anyone else's record before, and i think he could tell i was terrified. but to his credit, he never said a word, just guided me through and helped me to find just the right parts for me and for the tracks. here's to a lovely and generous man, we'll miss you. ~ erin mckeown.
Magic Music Man The fairies have quit dancing under my rose bushes.. Viola, their queen, has gone to the misty mountains of home to greet your spirit. The blue-eyed cat and the black cat with long white whiskers sit in my lap and we mourn our loss. Blessed be and safe home loved one ~ LaLa
Simply the most brilliant Scottish Fiddler of our time . . . The world will be diminished by his absence. Regards, Elyse Moore from Stowe, Vermont
somewhere over the rainbow. Johnny, I hope you're where the skys are blue! 2 very sad fans who had the honour of seeing you at the blackstone theatre ! SLAINT'E
Johnny's and Susan's concert on December l2 in New Bedford was wonderful and will long be remembered by me. Summerfest will not be the same without him. ~ Peter Porter
Dear Trish, We are all heartbroken up here in New Bedford. I had many wonderful moments with Johnny. We will all miss him. Please offer my prayers to his family. And to You! Wherever he is I know he's making music and making people laugh. ~ George Fonseca
The Winter Tailsman tour became my new Xmas tradition. I loved the joy and the sorrow of the music...really captured the truth of Winter. I'm SOOO sorry I missed my chance to see him during their DC gig this year. I thought for sure....next year. I'll treasure the CD and memories of the Winter Tailsman tour.
i am broken hearted to hear of johnny's passing, i knew him from the time i played with him for a few gigs with the raindogs. I then got a call from him and he asked me to assist him with a piece of music he was doing in new york, it was the first compositions for peter and wendy and johnny was staying at the chelsea hotel and we were going out to st anns in brooklyn where the work in progress was being rehearsed. Johnny had the whole score already in his head and we got a little room at the theatre to work on it.we then went into a studio in manhattan and recorded the music with other musicians.johnny loved the hotel and the first time i went up to his room I saw a mouse running about the room, i said to him there is a mouse running about this room, and he said I know Brian he is my friend.I said to him how do you sleep knowing that it possibly could be a rat living in your room. well every night we would go to dinner at the spanish tavern downstairs in the chelsea and johnn! y would make the waiter rap up the leftovers,and he would leave out food for his little friend. that was the type of guy johnny was. every time i met him he always seemed happy to see me and i was always glad to see him, he was a real star, i will miss knowing that he is around. I am lucky to have known him.johnny will always be the man. ~ Brian oneill
I met John in South Carolina when he was there during the Spolito Festival and enjoyed very much his Peter and Wendy. I saw him in Boston as part of the fiddle festival. A great light has gone out of the music world.
Me enteré de la muerte de Johnny por casualidad (y eso que no creo en ella). Tuve la inmensa suerte, y uno de los mayores privilegios del mundo, a saber: ver el último concierto de NightNoise en España, en Granada. El concierto fue auténticamante maravilloso. Pero lo que vino después nos pilló por sorpresa a un grupo de fervientes admiradores de NightNoise. Johnny, saltándose "las normas", nos pidió que le sacáramos de allí inmediatamente. Estuvimos en dos pubs tomando copas y hablando un poco de todo. No lo olvidaré nunca. Decía que lo peor de una gira era la rutina viaje-hotel-concierto-hotel-viaje, que a él le encantaba relacionarse y hablar con la gente, conocer sitios nuevos, gente nueva, compartir ideas, sentimientos y distintos pareceres. Nos hicimos una foto todos juntos. El privilegio de ver a NightNoise, y el regalo que nos hizo Johnny fue memorable. Ojalá, repito, ojalá existieran más personas como Johnny. La tristeza me acompaña todos los días, pero su música me acompañará toda mi vida. Con amor, gracias Johnny. ~ Daniel Dïaz. Granada. España
Doesn't seem to matter that I hadn't seen Johnny for around 30 years - still one of those people who was important to my musical soul. I met him a few times around Liverpool and once in Exeter - just a magical fiddler and a lovely man. ~ Peter Michael Rowan
25 years of hellos ...no good-byes. We have all lost the dearest friend and what should have been many more years of heart souling music.... Nakki Goranin
So sorry to hear of Johnny's untimely death. He will be sorely missed by all who loved his music and his humour. Sincerest sympathy to family and friends. ~ Matt Cranitch from Cork, Ireland
Brand New Angel. I'm reminded of a song Greg Brown sung on Prairie Home Companion some years ago on the passing of another fiddler. The song was "Brand New Angel." If I'm any judge of brand new angels, I'm sure Johnny's got 'em laughing up there. ~ Glenn Wrightson
Thank you, Johnny, for being you. God rest your wild and beautiful soul. ~ Kathy
I feel a great sorrow at the unexpected death of Johnny, and I think it will take a lot of time to forget him. At least, we can inherit his best legacy: his wonderful music,which will allow us to keep him in our hearts and minds. I hope these words may comfort Trisha, Phil, and the rest of family and friends. REST IN PEACE, JOHNNY.
Johnny was surely one of the best of the modern Scottish fiddlers, as well as being a very funny, genuine and always entertaining person. We will miss him and remember him fondly. All our best to his family. ~ Gary and Una Evans
Very sad to hear about johnny's untimely death. Having had a bit of a reminisce with Phil last year at Bridgenorth festival about the times we coincided in the '70's and '80's, I was in the Boston area only a couple of months ago staying with Helene and Alan. I narrowly missed johnny who was away for a few days. I greatly regret not being able to catch up with him. He was a great fiddle player and a man with a wicked sense of humour. I have many memories of doing gigs with Silly Wizard and cherish them. RIP Johnny. Phil Beer. (Show of Hands, Downes and Beer, Albion Band etc)
I had just seen Johnny for the first time in Portland Maine two weeks ago December 11th, with Susan McKeown and Aiden Brennen. They all were brilliant. They signed a CD for me to my Mom, who lost her husband, my Father, three weeks ago. Aye, 'tis true, Winter's taking those to die, in whom we had most left to see. I am deeply saddened at the loss of such a fine musician and kindred spirit. Part of me is hoping this is a manifestation of his amazing sense of humor, and that he'll be 'round again to have a laugh, and of course to give many more. But since my gut does tell me different, and the world has lost such beauty, I offer only this anonymous poem, and my deepest regard for a fallen brother. May we celebrate his life, his music and his eternal presence in our hearts.
Och hon for somebody!
Och hey for somebody!
I wad do - what wad I not,
For the sake o' somebody?
My heart is sair, I daurna tell
My heart is sair for somebody;
I wad walk a winter's night,
For a sight o' somebody.
If somebody were come again,
Then somebody maun cross the main,
And ilka ane will get his ain,
And I will see my somebody.
What need I kame my tresses bright,
Or why should coal or candle-light
E'er shine in my bower day or night,
Since gane is my dear somebody?
Oh! I hae grutten mony a day
For ane that's banished far away;
I canna sing, and maunna say
How sair I grieve for somebody.
See you 'round Johnny Cunningham. ~ John Mackenzie Rogers
Johnny, nunca tuve la oportunidad de verle actuar, pero si a su hermano Phil cuando vino a Murcia (España). lo descubrí cuando Ramón Tracet (RNE 3) puso un concierto directo de su hermano en EEUU y el salío al escenario tocando sin que su hermano supiese que iba a venir, se te ponen los pelos de punta... Te queremos, y dale recuerdos a Eva Cassidy...
I was listening to Encore when on a lark I decided to look up Johnny's website and saw the tragic news. What a blow! I never had the luck to meet then man, but I can imagine the terrible loss this must be to his friends and family. My deepest condolences. All I can do is listen to "The Dark Island" again and cry. The blessing is the tremendous legacy of music and love he left behind. Travel safe, Johnny. ~ Sara G
Johnny had a rare combination of talent, humor, and a sweetness not too often found in an individual. It is that sweetness of spirit and personality that blankets me with fond memories amidst the sadness we all feel at his untimely passing. That, and his mesmerizingly beautiful speaking, and reciting voice. We'll miss you Johnny, tho' we're all the better for having spent even the briefest of time in your presence. My heart goes out to Johnny's family and many friends, to Trisha whom I have never met, and to Susan & Aidan, who shared with Johnny this last tour. All the best, Cloud Moss
Rosining up the memories. It was in late August, and Edinburgh was buzzing with Festival Fringe goers. Cathal McConnell dragged me to an after hours actor’s club. The place was smokey and packed. Sitting on the edge of the stage were two young brothers playing like mad. “It’s the Cunningham brothers, Phil and Johnny,” Cathal murmured in my ear. They were celebrating Johnny’s 21st birthday, and we were all invited by default. That was my first encounter with Johnny Cunningham. We kept in touch over the years, and in the mid 80’s I hired Johnny for a dance music camp in Port Townsend, Washington. The week’s end featured a fancy dress ball, and Johnny and I, along with fiddler, Dale Russ hit up the local thrift store for appropriate attire. Checking out the used suit rack, we decided to go as a trio of gangsters all toting fiddle cases. With hair greased back, Johnny was perfect decked out in his choice, a yellow and green plaid double-breasted $12 suit. We stopped for a bite to eat before the party and! a young local girl, maybe about 12 years old, heard Johnny talking, and in her precocious way asked where he was from. “Scotland,” he replied, to which she replied, “So your Scottlish then,” And looking his plaid suit up and down, she added, “a Scottlish nerd!” It’s the kind of story Johnny liked. I’m honored to say I knew him at all. Frank Ferrel, Boston
When Johnny played he made my heart sing. My thoughts are with his family at this time. I'm so pleased to have known him. Lesley (Scotland)
Godspeed Johnny, you were the wind beneath the wings of traditional Scottish music. ~ Rege Malady, The Celtic Trader
Catching Johnny and Silly Wizard in concerts in Atlanta and Athens, GA, are such fond memories from years ago... so inspiring, and energizing... I'll remember Johnny's wry tales and quick rejoinders and the lift in his music. Fare the well, old soul... Andy Furlow
We have been lucky to have heard Johnny play in Silly Wizard, and other bands. But the concert that stands out in our memories is one solo concert he played at a little pub in Santa Monica in the mid 80's where we sat at the bar, a foot away and could talk to Johnny between tunes. We have memories of many live concerts and yesterday listened on the web to the performance at the John F. Kennedy Center last July. The pleasure of hearing him play is now mingled with tears. Our condolences to his family and all those who loved him. ~ Leda & Steve Shapiro, FolkWorks Los Angeles
I believe this sweet man, a king, will live on in every soul that he touched with his incredible music, irrepressible wit and puckish spirit. I love you Johnny and I'll never forget you. You gave us your all and I'll miss you heeps. You were there for me when I lost my Kathleen and I'm eternally grateful for your kindness. ~ Tom Hanway, Longford, Ireland
Many years ago, Silly Wizard played a concert for Old Songs, near Albany, NY, at the old place, a deconsecrated church with great acoustics and puritan pews. Vaughn and I took our young sons, Pete and Nathaniel (then probably aged 8 and 10 years). The boys loved the concert, and charged up front to meet the band afterward. Whether it was Phil or Johnny I don't now remember,but one of the Cunningham brothers pulled out a Scottish coin. Realizing he had only one, he called to his brother,who - with barely a word said - pulled out and tossed another across the stage apron... one for each of the Ward brothers.
It was such a right, generous and spontaneous thing to do, we never forgot it. And I've wondered - as it happened so fast and so easily - if someone had done as much for John and Phil, if they were passing something on. That and a love of the power of music. Godspeed then, John. And our condolences to you all. ~ George Ward
What a shock to hear of Johnny's passing. Although we hadn't met for years I fondly remember hoisting a few in the early nineties with Johnny, joking and grinning about all th eold times in Britain. He will be sadly missed by all of us in the music community in both Old and New England. ~ Tony Raine, Cape Cod Melody Tent/The Channel
back in the Silly Wizard days there was the magic of Johnny and Phil playing off each other as if it was from one heart - Johnny playing the "goes-under" and Phil the "goes-over" as they quoted their mother--now one piece of that heart is stilled, but those of us fortunate enough to have heard that magic will always be able to celebrate the music that was this remarkable artist--play for the stars now Johnny ~ Jules Schneider
I was listening to WWUH Celtic Airs out of the University of Hartford and they were playing a recording from the final Silly Wizard tour. It was recorded on April 4th 1988 at the Canton High School by the late Bill Domler. The music and the humor the band showed was just amazing. If there is talk of doing a commemorative album or box set I hope this recording would be considered. It shows the true spirit of the music! ~ Jim Murray
we first saw silly wizard at the phila folk festival in schwenksville, and became instant s.w. fans. "oursong" was my kindly sweetheart. it was with great sadness that we read the obit yesterday. There will never be another like him. He will live in ours hearts forever
On behalf of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, I've been asked to convey our deepest condolences to Phil, Trisha, Johnny's family, and his many friends on this untimely loss.
Johnny's performances at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival were brilliant and among the highest points of the event. We were honored that both he and Phil took time from their busy schedules to participate. Johnny's advice and support as a member of the Advisory Committee that helped us plan the Festival was invaluable and greatly appreciated by all of us. His death has left a large hole in the cultural fabric on both sides of the Atlantic. On a personal note, as one of his many friends, I will miss him greatly. ~ Nancy Groce, CFCH, Smithsonian
I first heard the band Silly Wizard when they were in Pennsylvania at the Main Point. They were in town for the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and I had just returned from a visit to Scotland. My boyfriend, turned husband, now turned ex husband took me to see them, and we stayed for two shows. During our marriage we became Silly Wizard groupies and got tickets to see them whenever they were in the Philadelphia area. We always admired the talent, the stage presence and the humor of all the guys in the group. I was pregnant with my second daughter in 1985, and we told the guys during intermission that we were thinking of naming her Bridget after their rendition of Bridget O'Malley, which I loved. We never did. We named her Jessie Marie, but many a night I rocked her to sleep singing Bridget O'Malley to her! Later, after they disbanded, we were delighted to see Johnny playing at the Keswick Theater in Glenside with the group NightNoise. Johnny, as ever was gracious and pleasant and talked with us during the intermission. He seemed glad we remembered him from Silly Wizard. He was gracious and pleasant as always. The amazing thing about Johnny, and all the guys in Silly Wizard is that they showed their appreciation for their fans, and were always accessible for conversation during intermissions. The world will be a sadder place without his talent and humor. I am sure the angels in heaven are making him play encore after encore. Johnny, I will be raising a cup in your name. God bless you all and thank you for allowing me this opportunity to tell you how I will remember his remarkable talent. ~ Margie Watters, Montgomeryville, PA
Scottish music centers me, brings me back to what I believe my roots to be. Johnny's music strengthened that personalization, and I am so sorry that he has moved on. He will be missed greatly.
Saw Johnny for the first time when he joined Kevin Burke on stage at the Blarney Star in NYC not so long ago. Had been listening to his music for many years. Then, this past summer happened to be in Vermont to hear him at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier. That was a performance my wife and I have talked about to friends over and over again since. His playing was, of course, brilliant but his manner was so sweet, so endearing. There was a charm about him and there were the lovely stories of his grandmother and Portobello.
We just bought tickets last week for the Celtic Fiddle Festival performance in February in MA. We were so looking forward to seeing and hearing Johnny once more. Shortly before the concert in Montpelier he was sipping wine with some young people at the bar nearby. I wanted to approach him and tell him how much we enjoy his music but felt awkward and intrusive. So the moment passed and now so has the man. Can't tell you how sad I feel to know he is gone. Sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. He seemed a man who enriched the lives around him. Johnny, in the new place, hope the wine is to your liking and you know how much you and your music are cherished. ~ Frank De Ligio - NY
My mind and heart refuse to take in the news that Johnny is among us no more. Although I didn't know him and never saw him play live, his music touched me at every level. No fiddler can come close to taking his place in my heart. My greatest disappointment was that he was not nearly as audible and prominent in Silly Wizard's music as his talent should have ensured that he would be. That can never be remedied, but had it been otherwise, Silly Wizard would have been twice the band it was, which is saying something indeed. Deeply saddened, Erica Mackenzie
My teacher my friend. Thank you to everyone who contributed a remembrance to this web site. I was one of John's fiddle students in the early 1980's, when he was married to Karen and lived in Pennsylvania. The two of us and our spouses became good friends. As the years went on, our lives changed and I moved to Vermont. We didn't see each often after that, but when we did, the reconnection was instant and the feeling of genuine caring and friendship was deep and enduring. We would spend hours talking (long, long philosophical hours), laughing and catching up over wine. One night, after a concert at the Iron Horse, we spent the entire night talking at the bar in the Hotel Northampton. A man who had been at the concert followed along and complained about not having any money for the trip home. John reached into his pocket and gave the man everything he had earned that night. That's the kind of human being John was. This month, December 2003, I had hoped to see him at his concert here in Vermont. I had looked forward to seeing his face light up with suprise and pleasure, and to spending time to learn news of his life and his love. I cannot imagine a world without John Cunningham, without his wit, his impishness, his sparkling intelligence, his generous heart. Sleep sweetly, dear friend. I will hold the memory of you close to heart until we meet again. ~ Eve Bailey
I can't believe you're gone forever... because you did something very special also for us in Italy... No words are enough to describe how sad I feel... All my sympathy to Trisha and your brother Phil. A humble and shy "thank you, Johnny", from one of Silly Wizard's many italian fans... ~ Arianna (Ari) Fioretti, Hirio Eventi, Turin, Italy
Porty! I was at the same school as both Phil and John...Portobello High in Edinburgh. I was in the year below John but how well I remember the school's annual (and all important!!!???) MUSIC COMPETITION!!!!!...and how, each year the Cunningham brothers won it!!! I recall Phil, simply pulling up a chair sitting down and playing the accordian as if there were no tomorrow!!!! (every other student fumbled with music etc but not these two !!!!)I also recall Silly Wizard playing in the school hall ....or did they get "cried off " at the last min !!???(long time ago !!) Years on...I was living in Frome in Somerset and I saw a venue advertised...The Celtic Fiddlers with John Cunningham ! I bought a ticket and went along ! Before it all began the "unsociable" smokers of the world stood outside and there amongst them was John ! Despite it being nearly 30 years he still looked the same!! I spoke to him and told him I'd been at the same school in Edinburgh !!! He was quite shocked I think to meet someone from his schooldays so far from home!!! When he went on stage he paid me a great compliment ..and dedicated a tune to me...telling the audience that he'd met someone from his hometown ...and that if ever HE wanted to remember Portobello...he'd switch his shower on to COLD....and stand under it...fully clothed ...with a fish supper !!!!ONLY PORTOBELLO PEOPLE WILL UNDERSAND WHY I FOUND THAT EXTREMELY FUNNY !!!! The whole evening was FAB ...he was SO funny and I spoke to him before I left ...asking him if it might not be an idea to write a tune/song about Portobello ! He said he'd think about it ! ....I wonder if he ever did? My love to all his family. ~ Sheena
I send my deepest condolences. Johnny brought light into many lives. I will always be grateful to him for his loyalty to his step-children, Brady and Travis Lea, my niece and nephew. Sing with the angels, Johnny! Best, Jane Lea
Many of us in Limoges (France) are very sad today. The tours I organized for many years in this area for you and Silly Wizard are among my best memories. I find it difficult to believe that you have left us. Your music is so much alive in our hearts! ~ Jean Pierre
One of my fondest musical memories is of an evening in a tiny venue in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had gone to a show featuring Phil Cunningham. In the middle of a tune his jaw dropped and he stopped playing because his brother - Johnny - had just come in the back door. Johnny strode up to the stage with flourish, the two embraced warmly, and then they treated us to a magical evening of tunes. The world has lost a great soul and a brilliant musician. My sincerest condolences. ~ Mike Gooley
Such a wonderful man, wonderful musician; Johnny and Susan usually would play for us just this time of year, a warm and magical night. Johnny was funny and quick and irreverent onstage and off. His ability to conceive something and bring it undistorted to listeners, while having a great, good time playing--well, awesome. The calibre of celestial music just increased incrementally. This "business" of music is really quite personal, you know, when you come right down to it; and personally, I'll miss his bright light. ~ Margie Rosenkranz (The Eighth Step, Albany, NY)
the magical music is gone. We'll miss ya, Johnny. ~ Meg Andersson
Occasionally, Trisha liked to pretend that she was a tad put out with Johnny's habits, his way of being... "Occh," she'd say, "what can you do?" But it was just the way of a woman's fierce and protective true love for her man. Whenever Johnny walked into a room, Trisha would light up, and a mischievous smile would come upon her lips. And Johnny was on top of the world when Trisha was nearby. His glance would follow her long, dark hair around a room; he would sparkle when she wore a lovely dress. In joining with Johnny, Trisha began to radiate a quiet joy, and used the word "shite" quite a lot. The Scottish lad loved the Irish-Lebanese garl, and she loved him back. They each had found a safe place in a hard-edged world, with a like-minded creative soul. Johnny's mind could light sparks in her own; his love kept her warm, and his beauteous fiddling made her tap her toes. If you are looking for Johnny, look towards Trisha... for he exists in her heart. ~ Madeline
Play with the angels Johnny! Johnny is and forever will be an inspiration to me. He is without a doubt my favorite Scottish Fiddler. I loved listening to him play and I could tell that he was completely light hearted about his music. It was all about having the best possible time ever. The only thing I liked better than his music was his stage presence. I thank God that Johnny found his calling and shared it with us. I hope to see Johnny again in the sessions that only can happen in Heaven. Nothing but Fiddler's Green for you Johnny. Nothing but Fiddler's Green. Johnny, we will miss you. My condolences to his family and friends. We have lost a great fiddler and raconteur. Yet another light now is "slockit". So sorry to hear the sad news, our prayers are with you all. ~ Ray and Joyce Caldwell, Houston, Texas
Dear Trisha, I'm so sorry to hear about Johnny's passing. The way I knew him, he struck me as an immensely warm-hearted, generous man with the most wonderfully dry sense of humour. The mere thought of him still makes me smile. I will keep the memory of him in my heart as a source of warmth and joy. It pains me to no end to see you left behind so suddenly. From working with you on this website I could get a glimpse of how deeply you care about him and how much Johnny must mean to you. You are a wonderful person Trisha and I send you my warmest thoughts in these dark times. From the bottom of my heart and in deep sorrow, Julia
Oh Johnny, I'll miss you. I'm so glad I got to see you recently. As we shook hands goodbye, you kissed mine, it was so warmhearted. I give thanks for my time with you. ~ JP
So saddened to hear of the death of Johnny. Our sympathies go out to your family and friends. ~ Altan
I was very sorry to hear of Johnny's passing. He was a brilliant fiddler who has brought untold joy to so many through his music--thankfully he will continue doing that through his many recordings. He was also a wonderful person, and his passing is a huge loss. ~ Marc & Deidre
Johnny, what an inspiration you've been to the people here in New Bedford, and to me. We'll miss you very much. ~ Jonathan Danforth
A life well lived. I saw Johnny perform last Wednesday at the Iron Horse. As always, he had us all laughing at his dark Scot's humor, and wiping tears as he fiddled Robbie Burns' Auld Lang Syne. He ended the show with an ironic Scottish holiday greeting - "We're born in pain, live in fear and die alone, Happy Christmas." Glad to know he was in the arms of someone he loved when he died. Glad to know he lived his entire life with a little boy's inquisitiveness and wonder as his operating principle. He brought a lot of joy into my life with his amazing music. I know I'm not alone. I'll miss him, true, but he's left us the great gift of his music. ~ Ed McKeon, Folk Music Director WWUH-FM, Hartford, CT
Love You Forever. Dear Johnny, Thank you for being in our lives. We will treasure the moments always. We send our heartfelt love and support to your family, especially your Mum whom we had the great pleasure of sharing a fun evening with in New York. Greater support and love to Phil, who loved you so very much. To see the two of you together, whether playing music or just hanging out, was always the best, most stimulating entertainment. We will miss you so terribly. Can't write more now because my arms have gone numb. Love, Amy and Robert, Cayo Costa, Florida
To Trisha and all of Johnny's family my heart is breaking at the loss of my birthday buddy. Seeing him come back after the wrist surgery and playing the blasting gig that he did here in New York this summer and sharing birthday wishes as we both spent the day with our great friend Edward Cosla, are times I'll remember fondly. I know that the music in heaven is now 10 times sweeter with that beautiful soul joining in the orchestra. You'll always be in my heart! Love, Alice Farrell
It is with great sadness that I pass on the information that Johnny Cunningham has passed away. He died last evening, December 15, 2003 at 8 PM. He will be waked in NYC on Thursday. There will also be a memorial service in New Bedford, MA, his home for the past 8 years, after the first of the year. Please email me privately for information about the wake and services. ~ Helene
Too soon, too soon. Not fair. We have lost many of our dears this year, but losing Johnny seems to have touched me most. It's been years since I saw him, or heard him play apart from records. But knowing he was out there, and anticipating seeing him playing again, somewhere, sometime, seems to have been in my heart all this time. Goodbye Johnny, you make a great hole in the universe with your passing.
A Beauteous Flame. All day yesterday I kept remembering his beautiful work 'Peter & Wendy' -- in particular, "Light That Beauteous Flame." I kept wishing that somehow, just as we did in the audience during that song, if we just sang along hard enough and wished and believed enough, we could bring him back as well. I know we can't do that, but his music and all our wonderful memories of him will be alive forever.
The world feels a darker place today for the loss of such an incredible musician; and his irrepresible humor and personality will be both sadly missed and lovingly remembered.
Dear Rover Family, I am so very sorry to deliver to you the worst news, news which will hurt you deeply. Our dear, dear Johnny Cunningham has left us. He has left us with hearts filled with music, and joy, and tragedy, and hilarious stories, and memories of wonderful days and evenings we spent with him at concerts or at home listening to radio broadcasts or recordings. These things we will always have and treasure, and lucky are we that this truly great musician and special man gifted us with his talents. His tunes. His songs. His stories. His smiles. His heartfelt thoughts, which he sometimes shared with us right here.
Johnny died suddenly last night in the arms of his beloved Trisha, who loved him the way Johnny deserved to be loved. He suffered a massive heart attack, and Trisha tried with all her strength to help him live. The paramedics were unable to revive him. He passed quickly, without much pain. Johnny will be cremated, and his ashes scattered around all of his favorite places in the home of his heart, Scotland. There is talk of a memorial concert sometime in the Spring, a suitable send-off for a musician who left so many other musicians awestruck.
Yesterday, Johnny went with Aidan and Susan to finish up the recording of a new folk album for Susan. She needed his touch on the final tune. As Johnny warmed up in front of the microphone the recording engineer turned to Susan and remarked: "He really is head and shoulders above the rest, isn't he." Susan said Johnny's playing of the tune was as beautiful and sensitive as ever, and this will surely be a special recording to hear, much appreciated by all of us who love him. After the recording was finished Johnny, Susan and Aiden toasted eachother with a wee dram of B&B down at Johnny's favorite watering hole, the 11th Street Bar in New York's East Village. One drink remains in that bottle, which has now been placed up on the top shelf of the bar, corked until Johnny's return.
The remarkable Trisha had planned to surprise Johnny at Christmas with a new website of his own. Though it is far from finished, she was able to show it to him just a couple of days ago, and he loved it. The webmistress, Julia, has now got it up and running, and if you wish you may go there and send your thoughts, feelings, recollections or wishes on the E-Mail page. www.johnnycunningham.com
I am so sorry, I wish I could phone each of you who loved Johnny and tell you this terrible news personally. I know each of you will keep Johnny in your hearts, and keep his memory alive always. Please send your best thoughts and wishes to those who were closest to our dear friend, and raise a toast to Johnny as often as possible - he would love that, you know. Love and comfort to all of us, Amy Gallagher
..wishing I could just hear "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" now ~ Johnny
What an incredible shock. John was absolutely one of the most talented fiddlers/artists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Always warm-hearted and having time to chat with friends, he is indeed someone I am proud to have known. My condolences to Trisha, all his family and his world-wide circle of friends. ~ Stephanie P. Ledgin, Music Journalist-Photographer, Event & Publicity Specialist
I will never forget Johnny launching into Somewhere Over the Rainbow, at Friar Tuck's in NY, as the entire audience joined in. When he first came out on stage, he observed the Robin Hood motif, exclaiming "This decor is me!" Later that night, he began singing a Frank Sinatra song. When I first heard him years ago, he mentioned his life ambition was to own a Wendy's in Revere. I had the pleasure of meeting him at O'Leary's in Boston one night, as he ate all my French Fries (which I had offered him). Besides being "a wicked funny bastid", he was an incredibly musical person. I will miss him. What a shock. ~ John Schulman
Goodbye Johnny. I am very upset to hear the news - I hadn't seen Johnny for a while but messages were constantly relayed to both of us via our mutual friends. The world is a poorer place without Johnny and my memories of our short times together are filled with laughter. Condolences to all Johnny's close friends. Goodbye Johnny and thanks for all the music and laughter! Niamh Parsons
siempre seguirá tocando. Soy un español enamorado de la música de Nightnoise y de Jonny y solo queria decir que siempre seguirá tocando para todos.Para mi al menos quedaran reflejadas toda mi vida canciones como Night in that land, Morning in Madrid ó A diferent shore.Gracias por todo Jonny y descasa en paz.
Oh Johnny, and Trisha who I never knew, Sad am I that you are gone. For you and for me. So much music and so much yet to come. So much warmth, humour-- and that twinkle. So many faces illuminated by your magic sounds and antic soul. Near 25 years of memories of your visits to The Iron Horse beginning with our first Wizard dates. And thankfully, one last time Dec 10. Who knew it was the last? And lucky lucky me that I made room in that evening to hear yet some more of your songs and stories. But no sadness, no robbery of brillaint future even touches the bright legacy of inspired sounds, mirth and kindness that will ever be you. Play on. Fondly, Jordi (Herold, Iron Horse Music Hall)
Goodbye Johnny, we love you! Johnny- it was an honour to know you and work with you- you will always be an inspiration with your humour and creativity, truly a force that will live on- your life made an impact on so many and so many love you. Despite your busy life, you were always human and real. My condolences to your loved ones and family, and to all the music fans on their great loss. ~ Love Andy of Mad Pudding
I am so sad to hear about Jonny's very untimely death. I could never hear enough of his wonderful fiddle playing and incredible sense of humor. He will be greatly missed!!!! ~ Abby Newton
Just heard about Johnny's passing away, such a young man. Wit, poignant musicianship, irrepressible flights of wild fiddling, the mesh with Phil, and again, the wit & stories. My main personal memory was a moment at the last Celtic Festival at the Hatch Shell, Labor Day weekend, 1994. I had invited him to perform at the Hatch Shell several times. He wasn't too keen on the venue--but. when we held a fundraiser show for the Festival at the Harp Pub, where you could relax and have a drink, he was up for it. Take this as you will, but I felt sympathetic for him and for his musical heart as he sat at a table there with a few friends and told me the reason he was enjoying himself so much was because of the quality and variety of top Boston-area Irish, Cape Breton and Scottish musicians who were playing that night, some of whom he had never heard before--he felt happy not only to hear it all, but also happy that the audience was there to hear good music, of which he was a part, and were not groupies looking to be near him. I'm sure he appreciated his fans, but his musical soul was touched by being a part of quality music and not just a star. As much as he went with the showmanship, his heart was obvious in the slow airs as well as in his musicianship on other tunes. I enjoyed the Scottish precision he bowed into his Scottish tunes, because it added a needed flavor in the popular Celtic music. This is a sad loss. ~ Ed Pearlman
i didn`t know johnny, i had just seen and heard him in philadelphia. i was really touched by him and his music. my condolences to his family and friends. ~ chuck gallun
Goodbye Johnny. He was one of the most talented men I'd ever seen. I got to have a Guinness with him back in '93, when he played The Folkway in Peterborough. He dedicated my request, "Altan Boat" to me during that concert. It was a moment I'll never forget. Music has lost a genius, and a funny, wonderful man. Trisha, my thoughts are with you. Take care. ~ Jennifer Dury, Vancouver, Canada
Johnny, we hardly knew ye! I and my family are greatly saddened by your sudden departure. Your sense of humor and mostly your warm greetings each infrequent time we would cross paths will be sorely missed. Your music, however, will always live on. We are very grateful that you have left us with such a vivid legacy of music, both from you and from those you influenced. You were always encouraging to my son Brendan, and may never have known how much that encouragement inspired him as a fiddler. There will always be a star shining for you, and we will always hear its song. To quote back your closing from a past message to us, "All good wishes and thanks for the great music." ~ Rich Block
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South Coast Today #2