Return from Helsinki - tune book and album

by Ian Stephenson in Morpeth, Northumberland, United Kingdom

Return from Helsinki - tune book and album

Total raised £35,405

raised so far



A book of 50 compositions, and a new album to go with it. Includes chords, info on the tunes.

by Ian Stephenson in Morpeth, Northumberland, United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 2nd August 2023 we'd raised £31,269 with 704 supporters in 21 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.

 New stretch target


This stretch will mean all CD albums are produced with a glass master rather than duplicated as a limited run - better quality CDs for everyone!

I will also start composing more new tunes for a potential ’volume two’, as well as preparing some of my existing choral, string quartet and large ensemble pieces for publishing separately.

Why Now?

Since the recent upsetting news of my brain tumour diagnosis, I thought it’s about time to get on with making a book of my tunes, something I’ve been intending to do for ages, and now with added impetus!  

Why only 50 tunes?

Although I have way more than 50 compositions, think of this book as a ’best of’ compilation - who wants to rifle through hundreds of ‘decent’ tunes to find the very best ones?  I mustn't be overly ambitious as it’s a lot of work!

If you have come here because you like the tune ‘Return from Helsinki’, you won’t be disappointed - it’s in the book twice, in both common keys G and D - and in the TWENTY years since I wrote that tune, I’ve written many more, most of which share characteristics with Helsinki, the most well-known of my tunes.  It is my hope that people might enjoy playing these other tunes too - it’s such an honour to hear from musicians who have recorded ‘Helsinki’ or play it in jam sessions all over the world - thank you!

What instruments are the tunes suitable for?

The tunes are pretty varied - all are playable on violin, guitar, most but not all are well suited to flute. But most are okay for a range of instruments.  Melodeon players can play the F major tunes on a D/G melodeon, in the key of G by reading the transposed versions in the appendix.  I do love the key of F major (due to the Northumbrian pipes) and E major (which sits well on the C#/D box and the guitar), but check in the back of the book for transposed versions, you can play them in easier keys like D or G if that helps you out!  Not all tunes will be transposed, I’ll just do the ones where it makes sense to do so and doesn’t result in a stupidly high or low pitched tune…

Is this a suitable gift for my friend who plays Clarinet or Northumbrian Pipes?

Possibly! The book will include a number of transpositions in the appendix, so that for example tunes in F major can be played at pitch on the pipes or clarinet, they’ll be included written in G in the back of the book which allows playing duets with concert pitch instruments and accompanists reading from the concert pitch versions.  Quite a few of the tunes were written specifically for the Northumbrian pipes and should suit them very well, and from experience that translates very well to the clarinet too, possibly other Bb instruments too depending on the range of the tune.

However, there are also a few tunes which are completely impossible on those instruments - but I promise that the best pipes tunes are transposed for you!

What about Chords?

As you might expect from me, the book will include some chord diagrams for certain tunes, for standard tuning guitarists, which helps in situations where the chords make more sense in certain inversions/frets, and guitarists can learn how I approach certain chords.  But you can also just play whichever chord shapes you like, as the names for the chords are all written above every tune anyway.

Is the CD/album a ‘proper’ Ian Stephenson Album?

The accompanying album is not a recording of the tunes on a single instrument, it is definitely an album in its own right, which can be bought and listened to irrespective of the book.  They share the repertoire, which comes exclusively from the book, but the tracks are recorded and played as if it were a proper album, with arrangements and multiple instruments playing on every track. 

It is mostly already recorded as I tend to make a recording whenever I write a tune, but it needs a little work to finish off mixing etc - most tracks feature myself on multiple instruments such as guitar, C#/D melodeon, double bass, piano, harmonium or Northumbrian Pipes, whilst a few have special guests such as Esko Järvelä, Emily Stephenson or larger ensembles such as the Coquet Concert Band, or Rothbury Highland Pipe Band.  I will need to pop into the studio to re-record a few bits and bobs, something which I can do as and when I have the energy.

How & when will the book & album be completed?  What are the risks?

If the project is funded, I will start finishing the book during treatment for my tumour - I will be spending 6 weeks going to and from the hospital for Radiotherapy every week day, and have a notation app on my iPad to help me write out tunes and edit them during that 1.5 hrs a day of travelling!

At this point I don’t know how I’ll be affected by the Radiotherapy or Chemotherapy, but working on a project like this gives me something productive to do which I can work on as and when I feel up to it, as well as providing some income at a time when I‘m less able to work as usual in the studio as a recording engineer.

However, a lot of the tunes are already written out, much of the donkey work having been already done.  Likewise the album needs 'finishing off'.

One ‘Elephant in the room‘ I should address is that there is always a chance this project might not reach fruition, for obvious reasons - that’s very unlikely but I thought I should mention it, as a refund wouldn’t be guaranteed in that case - but this situation will only happen if it is completely unavoidable (serious health reasons).  In any case we’d endeavour to have someone finish it on my behalf if that situation arose.

I’m hoping to finish the book and album by mid October - ideally sooner.

What are the ‘Rewards’?

I’m hoping that this project will be an injection of income at a time when I’ve not got the usual work - so if you’d like a tune book when they’re ready, an album, or both, please consider signing up for your chosen reward below and you’ll get a book and/or CD in the post and/or album download in your email via the magic of the Information Superhighway / World Wide Interweb.

I don’t have a ton of energy so I have also included the COMMISSION A TUNE reward but I need to limit this to 3 tunes.  I realise the price is substantial, but it'll be a big tiring job in the circumstances so I sort of don't mind if people don't go for it! I don’t want to give myself too much to do or over-promise, and these tunes may or may not be ready in time to be included in the tune book, and choosing that option means you understand it *might* be a long wait before the tune is ready!  You’ll receive your tune (name it yourself and dedicate it to whomever!) with framed sheet music, and a recording of the tune played by me - usually played on two or three instruments.

All the rewards have a ‘pay more if you like’ option - I’ve tried to keep the prices fair in order to get the project done, but if you think it’s worth more or want to show your support the option is there for you.  It is also possible to make your contribution ‘anonymous’.

What if I want to support the project/you but don’t want the book or album?

Erm, if you really want to??? - there is a ‘donate’ option. You’re crazy!

Anything else we need to know?

These types of funding campaigns live or die by how much they are shared on social media or via email.  If you would like to help, please consider ’sharing’ it online with people you think might be interested.  And mention it to pals in sessions too!


This project offered rewards

£12 or more

One album on CD - posted out

One copy of the album on CD. Posted to UK Address. International shipping is possible for additional postage, charged at cost and confirmed before shipping. Includes link to Digital album download on MP3 & WAV files plus CD sleeve as PDF.

£20 or more

A copy of the tune book!

One copy of the tune book, delivered to UK address. International postage is possible but additional delivery (at cost) will be payable - will contact when the time comes to confirm.

£27 or more

Book posted out + Digital Album Download

A hard copy of the tune book plus a link to download the album as MP3 and WAV files, including a PDF of the CD artwork.

£32 or more

One Tune Book AND one CD

A copy of the tune book, and a copy of the album on CD, posted to UK address. Includes link to Digital album download on MP3 & WAV files plus CD sleeve as PDF. International postage is possible and the additional postage will be payable at cost - will contact when they’re ready to be posted.

£150 or more

Super Duper Supporter!

Two Books, Two CDs, and your name(s) added to the special list of Supporters on CD artwork and in the Book. Option to remain nameless or use a pseudonym are possible of course.

£500 or more

Commission a Tune - composed by Ian

A tune to be composed for you - Ian will respond to any info or ideas you have e.g. name of tune, what it is about, type of tune, written for specific instruments? You will receive the sheet music framed, a CD with a recording on it, recorded by Ian on various instruments (you can also choose which ones). Choose a dedication to be written on the sheet music if you wish. The ‘fulfilment date’ is worst-case, will hopefully be finished sooner.

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