John James Cunningham, a Celtic fiddle player and songwriter, died on Dec. 15 from a heart attack. He was 46.
Born in Scotland, Cunningham began playing the harmonica when he was only five years old. By the time he was eight, he’d tried the piano and the accordion, and declared the fiddle to be his favorite instrument.
During the 1970s, Cunningham co-founded the band, Silly Wizard, and performed on the folk festival circuit throughout Europe. He moved to the United States in 1981, where he played with several other groups like Relativity, Nightnoise and the Raindogs.
Cunningham became famous in 1996 for reworking the J.M. Barrie classic, “Peter Pan,” into an elaborate musical using puppets and shadows. He wrote the music and lyrics for the theatrical production, which toured in regional theatres from San Francisco to New York. In 1997, “Peter and Wendy” won an Obie Award for Best Production.