SFO Members on Celtic Music Radio

Ahead of the SFO’s concert at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 15 September 2018, on 23 August 2018, Celtic Music Radio broadcast a discussion their Sandy Weir had with Blair Parham (Conductor) and Bob Diament (Front of House Manager) of the SFO.

If you would like to listen to their segment in the show again, you can go to the following link and listen from about 11 minutes into the recording.

There’s a chance to win a pair of tickets for the Glasgow concert – open until 12 September.

The chat was interspersed with several tracks from the SFO’s Live CD “A Selection from the Caird and Usher Halls”.

Opening with the tune Fiddlers to the Fore from that CD, Bob and Blair explained that this was a composition of the late, great John Mason and was the first tune played by the SFO at its inaugural concert at Aberdeen Music Hall in 1980.  [Read more…]

The SFO’s Northern Nights Tour gets under way in Elgin

Elgin Town Hall, Elgin, Moray, with SFO in lights

The SFO’s Northern Nights Tour took place from 21 July to 27 July.

Our main concert points included venues in Moray, Orkney and Shetland.

We had planned some additional “pop-up” concerts along the way and the generally fantastic weather meant we could add in even more concerts than we had originally intended.

This is the first of a series of articles detailing the different parts of the tour.

We hope these posts will give you a taste of what we got up to on our travels. And the story begins in Troon, Ayrshire… [Read more…]

Blair Parham – World Peace Tartan Ambassador

Our dynamic Conductor, Blair Parham, is renowned for his swinging kilt during concerts.

The SFO is proud that Blair is also a World Peace Tartan Ambassador.

It’s a tartan he often wears when on stage with the SFO.

We asked Blair to explain how he came to be involved in the project and what it hopes to achieve. This is what he told us:

A little over a year ago I was contacted by Victor Spence, Founder of the World Peace Tartan Initiative asking if we could perhaps meet to discuss the initiative and how I could become part of it.

I met with Victor and listened to the history of the initiative and its aims and objectives, before giving him the history of the SFO and my involvement with it. Victor had clearly done his homework as he knew most of what I had to say! The culmination of the meeting was when Victor asked if I would become a World Peace Tartan Ambassador – something I was honoured to be asked to do.

The World Peace Tartan Initiative was created in 2011 as a message of peace.

It also helps to generate funds to aid charitable work through the licensing of its brand, design and products. As it grows, the World Peace Tartan Foundation invests in education initiatives intended to build a culture of peace and address child poverty. [Read more…]

The SFO’s Compliments to Edradour Whisky

The grounds of Edradour Distillery, Pitlochry

The SFO’s concert in Edinburgh on 9 June 2018 will again feature Edradour Distillery as a sponsor of the orchestra.

The sponsorship, which started in 2013, has brought the name of Edradour and the quality of its whisky to a much wider audience.

Edradour is to be found hidden away in Pitlochry, in the heart of Perthshire, and it can trace its handmade production of malt whisky back to 1825. [Read more…]

How wonderful it would be to be sitting in the audience!

Isle of Arran viewed from Fairlie Moor, near Largs, Ayrshire

The title is a comment from the SFO’s Facebook page.

It’s one of 431 comments under a video we put up of the orchestra and Davidson’s Mains Pipe Band playing The Sleeping Warrior at our concert in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, on 30 December 2017.

You can view the video here.

At the time of writing, the video has 41,000 views, 779 likes and 582 shares.

Composed by Mike Gill, the title refers to the outline of the Isle of Arran, viewed from the Ayrshire coast, which looks like a Warrior in profile. John Mason arranged the tune for orchestra, pipes and drums. [Read more…]

SFO thrilled by the prospect of Northern Nights of Music and Song

Shetland road verge in Summer

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s Northern Nights Tour will see us visit Moray, Orkney and Shetland over the course of a week in July 2018.

For details of ticket sales and prices, please scroll to the bottom of this article.

The tour commences with a concert in Elgin Town Hall on Saturday 21 July 2018 at 7.30pm.

After spending that night in Moray, our tour bus will then take us west along the A96 and north up the A9 to Scrabster for the ferry transfer to Stromness in Orkney on 22 July.

The following evening, we play a concert at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall (Monday, 23 July at 7.30pm). Tuesday evening – 24 July at 7.30pm – sees us perform in the town’s St Magnus Cathedral and we’ll then catch the 11pm ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick.

Arriving in Shetland at breakfast time on 25 July, our concert at Clickimin Complex Main Hall is at 7.30pm that (Wednesday) evening.

We depart Shetland on the evening ferry on 26 July and head back to mainland Scotland at Aberdeen. We plan to play a free concert on board the MV Hjaltland on this return journey, partly as a “thank you” to NorthLink for sponsoring our tour. [Read more…]

When you discover you have a personal connection to a historic fiddle tune

Mansion House Hotel (formerly The Haugh), Elgin, Moray, viewed across the River Lossie

(SFO Member, Peter Brash, explains how he discovered he had a surprising “personal” connection to a tune by Scottish Fiddle Music legend, James Scott Skinner).

Though it’s a few years since it featured in the SFO’s regular programme, Scott Skinner’s Cradle Song has often been played at SFO concerts.

Here’s what one concert programme said about the melody:

“James Scott Skinner was arguably the greatest Scottish Violinist / composer of all time.

Classically trained from an early age, he was conscious of the wealth of Scottish music and its popularity. He taught violin and dance throughout the north-east of Scotland and as a performer shared the stage with our greatest entertainers. Both he and Sir Harry Lauder took part in the opening of the London Pavilion Theatre.

His excellent compositions are a lasting testimony to his creative abilities.

Whilst teaching in Forres and staying in the local hotel he was returning to his room when he heard and saw a lovely young lady endeavouring to console to sleep her young child. The experience so moved him to write this simple and yet beautifully formed melody which has been used not only by performers but also as the music for more than one set of charming lyrics.”

When John Mason used to introduce the Cradle Song to audiences, he told an interesting story about it.

He would explain that the “young child” in the story had grown up to have a child of her own and he now played in the First Violin section of the orchestra – retired SFO member, Gordon MacGregor.

Gordon provides an interesting link back to a Scott Skinner tune which was first published in his Logie Collection of 1888.

Another of Skinner’s over-600 published tunes is Talisker, named after the distillery on the Isle of Skye.

Of course, the vast majority of fiddle tunes are named after people, places and events.

The tune, Talisker, appears as a reel and then a Strathspey, both published around 1882.  The link here is to the wonderfully stereotypical artwork which accompanied one published version of the tune. [Read more…]

Scots Fiddle Festival 2017

Fiddle, bow and player's left hand

The Scots Fiddle Festival (17 – 19 November 2017) is over for another year but what a fantastic weekend of music, workshops and sessions the 21st festival proved to be.

Given that some of the musicians now appearing on the main stage originally attended the festival as children along with their parents, it’s understandable that the event has a real “family” feel to it.

Newspaper reviews in The Scotsman and The Times had glowing praise for the concerts, artists and organisers.

Much of the talent on display was home-grown.

However, the Festival continued its mission to bring the best international exponents of fiddle music to the Scottish stage. [Read more…]

Campbell Smith

Campbell Smith of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Edinburgh, 2015

As set out in the SFO Newsletter for August 2017, we’re very sad to report that, on 4th August 2017, Campbell lost his battle with what he had characteristically described as “a wee touch of cancer”, something with which he had several run-ins over many years.

Campbell never seemed to let anything get him down. He always had a positive outlook, which he communicated to everyone with whom he came in contact. He always had words of reassurance or encouragement.

In the context of the SFO, Campbell was a larger-than-life character.

On stage, he was literally “larger” because, as the orchestra’s only left-handed fiddler, he immediately stood out to audiences. [Read more…]

The Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards 2017

Fiddle - "F" hole, bridge and strings

Niel Gow is arguably the father of Scottish fiddle music.

The first Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Awards will take place at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, on Sunday, 26 March 2017 from 10am until 5pm.

As a worthy successor to the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship, for the first time, the occasion will also feature a junior competition.

The junior competition is open to young people aged 15 and under. The requirement is to play a Slow Air, March, Strathspey and Reel.

The afternoon session from 2pm until 5pm (including an interval) features the senior competition. The requirements are rather more demanding for the seniors. They must each play 3 selections: [Read more…]