The Soundhouse Story
The house concerts begin
Fast forward to 2002 and Douglas, by then a photographer living in a converted shop on the edge of Holyrood Park, was asked to host a house concert for his old friend Dean Owens, one of Edinburgh’s best known and best regarded singer songwriters. When Douglas’s other musician friends got to hear about Dean’s gig they began asking if they could play in the house too.
As these musicians toured and told other musicians about playing in the house, more and more of them got in touch asking to entertain Douglas and his friends.
So many concerts, not enough space
By 2012 Douglas and his partner Jane-Ann had put on literally hundreds of gigs in their house, welcoming bands from all over the world, and inviting audiences of friends to come and see them. Their ethos is always to treat the musicians well and ask for donations from audience members that go direct to the artists. As a result these musicians come back time and again to play their favourite gig. In 2012 Douglas and Jane-Ann dipped their collective toe into commercial promotion when they put on a gig at the Queen’s Hall for New Orleans blues legend and house favourite Chris Smither.
From 2013 Douglas and Jane-Ann started investigating a proper venue in Edinburgh where musicians can perform, rehearse and record. They wanted to encourage teaching and learning too through workshops and master classes for professional musicians led by the very best exponents from around the world. The decision was made to set up The Soundhouse Organisation as a charity and they quickly put together a group trustees made up of musicians and music lovers.
The Traverse Theatre Bar
Finding a venue in Edinburgh does not prove easy, so at the end of 2014 The Soundhouse Organisation began putting on gigs in The Traverse Theatre bar every Monday night. This swiftly became a very sought-after booking for local and international bands alike.
Since 2015 Soundhouse has been programming gigs for Edinburgh Tradfest and in 2019 took over the running of the festival from TRACS. In 2019, by refocusing the festival to a predominantly programmed music event, they doubled the audience for their gigs compared with 2018.
The Soundhouse Choir
Via singer and vocal coach Heather Macleod the Soundhouse Choir was formed in 2016 which, even in these restricted times, continues to go from strength to strength. The choir’s current number is 120 (meeting regularly via Zoom and in person). In 2020 they unveiled a new video Enough is Enough with Karine Polwart and Oi Musica. This is a special project that was planned as a response to COP26 – the climate change conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow in 2020. The choir finally got to perform the song live at the event in November 2021.
In 2021 Soundhouse built on the success of Edinburgh Tradfest Spotlight with another ten online gigs, billed as Soundhouse Spotlight. These reflected the broadness of their usual programming featuring a wide spectrum of artists from the worlds of jazz, folk, classical, Americana and experimental music. They were supported by Creative Scotland.
It was hoped that Edinburgh Tradfest might be back IRL, but it too was digital in May 21. This included presenting two online concerts, one livestream and one pre-recorded, and a very popular podcast! This programme was supported by Creative Scotland and the William Grant Foundation.
Returning to live
In August 2021 Soundhouse returned to gigs with live audiences in the outdoor/covered space of the Old College Quad. This included co-promoting a series of 16 traditional music concerts with Edinburgh International Festival. And in October/November 21 in person shows returned to the Traverse with a series of socially distanced live gigs supported by Creative Scotland and the William Grant Foundation. These concerts were also filmed and streamed via Traverse 3 (the Traverse’s digital theatre) in November/December 21.
Back to normal (fingers crossed)
Building on the hybrid model of 2021, full audience concerts were back in 2022. After a short season at Riddles Court on the Royal Mile, funding from Creative Scotland and William Grant Foundation allowed Soundhouse to put on a series of ten concerts in the Traverse Theatre between March and June. Punctuating this season was Edinburgh Tradfest in late April/early May which made a triumphant return to full power, increasing the audience by 30% on 2019 figures. And finally the ‘spring’ season was topped off with a return to the Traverse Bar at the end of June, the first time a show had been possible in that space for two years, three months and two weeks. It felt very good to be back.
A bumper year (so far)
So far 2023 has proved that audiences really want to see music live. Where other art forms may be struggling to get people to return after getting used to in-house entertainment during covid, in our small corner of Edinburgh’s gig scene box office returns are not giving cause for concern. In fact, our festival Edinburgh Tradfest managed another 30% rise on 2022 and really hit its stride. Of course we continue to search for the elusive building, and this year have come closer than ever before only to be held back by the byzantine workings of the Edinburgh property scene.