A new chapter in leadership of the SFO

Yla Steven BEM becomes only the third leader of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra in its 40-year history.

As a founder member, she follows in the footsteps of Willie Dunlop and the recently dearly departed Bill Cook.

Yla was born in Edinburgh.

Her Christian name is the original spelling of Glen Isla in Perthshire, where she lived in her early years.

She began learning the violin in Edinburgh at the age of seven, continued her studies in Blairgowrie, and later graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

A strong interest in Scottish traditional fiddle music developed at an early age, and she entertained at many events during her teenage years.

[Read more…]

John Mason’s Salute to Cape Breton

The SFO is set to tour the north eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada in March and April 2020.

The tour will include a concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Tartan Day 2020, 06 April 2020.

To quote Wikipedia:

“Cape Breton fiddling is a regional violin style which falls within the Celtic music idiom. Cape Breton Island’s fiddle music was brought to North America by Scottish immigrants during the Highland Clearances. These Scottish immigrants were primarily from Gaelic-speaking regions in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. Although fiddling has changed considerably since this time in Scotland, it is widely held that the tradition of Scottish fiddle music has been better preserved in Cape Breton.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Breton_fiddling

This article is a personal tribute to the fiddle music of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, via a set of tunes played by the legendary group of fiddlers, the Cape Breton Symphony Fiddle.

The set of tunes features compositions by giants of both the Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle traditions.

One of the composers is John Mason, the leading light in the foundation and formation of the SFO in 1980.

[Read more…]

A message from Bill Cook’s family

Bill Cook - SFO Leader 1983 - 2019

Bill’s family have asked us to publish the following ‘thank you’ message from them on this website and we are delighted to do so:

The Cook family would like to thank most sincerely all who sent messages and letters from near and far following the sad loss of Bill. A special thank you to all who paid their last respects at the church and graveside and for the support from the members of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra whose music at the reception was an uplifting and fitting tribute to Bill.

We would also like to express our gratitude for donations given on the day which raised the fantastic amount of £1,158 and will be split between the Scottish Ambulance Service and Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland.

There is an article honouring Bill’s life and huge contribution to the SFO – and Scottish fiddle music, in general – here.

A fond appreciation of Bill Cook – SFO Leader and President

Bill Cook - SFO Leader and President

Bill Cook passed away suddenly on Saturday 05 October 2019.

Bill had been troubled with poor health recently but still managed to lead the orchestra with his customary flair at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 07 September 2019, shortly after his 80th birthday.

He will be a huge loss to the SFO and the traditional music scene in Scotland and will be sadly missed.

Bill was born in Alloa on 03 September 1939.

He was the eldest of three children, from a musical family, with his father being an accomplished violinist.

[Read more…]

The SFO in Concert in Inverurie

The SFO had a memorable concert in Inverurie Town Hall on 27 September 2019 as part of the town’s first In-Tune festival.

We were delighted to be joined by our good friends, Colette Ruddy, mezzo-soprano, and Dennis Haggerty, tenor, for the occasion.

The festival took place over 3 days and was organised by Inverurie Business Improvement District.

Our concert was one of a total of 16 events held across the weekend.

Unfortunately, the wet weather meant we could not do any outdoor pop-up concerts but we thoroughly enjoyed the main concert on Saturday evening, some of the highlights of which were:

[Read more…]

A Grand Night in Glasgow (SFO DVD)

The SFO’s DVD – A Grand Night in Glasgow – Recorded September 2018.

One of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s annual Glasgow concerts took place at the iconic Royal Concert Hall on 15 September 2018.

A video recording of the concert has been released on DVD in September 2019.

Members of the orchestra had warmed up with an impromptu “pop-up” concert on the steps of the concert hall, before their rehearsal that afternoon.

This DVD captures some of the highlights from the SFO’s main evening concert and you can purchase a copy via this website.

[Read more…]

The SFO’s 40th Anniversary Tour


If you follow the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra on social media, you will know that our digital media manager, Alexander (Davidson), has been releasing snippets of information about the orchestra’s proposed tour, since the end of June 2019.

30 June: SFO TOUR 2020 – Throughout July we’re going to let you know our tour plans – keep your eyes peeled for exciting tour related news. Our first announcement will be on Tuesday!

02 July: So it’s official, we’ve booked our flights, and at the end of March 2020 we’re crossing the pond. We’ll be touring some of the North Eastern states and can barely contain our excitement! But that’s not all, we’ve another location to announce, but all in good time. Let’s all get excited first!

09 July: As well as touring some of the North Eastern states, we thought why not head over the border to Canada too! So, in April 2020 we’ll be playing in the Maritime Provinces. We’ll let you know specifics before the end of July. We know traditional music is popular over there and are looking forward to meeting some traditional inspired musicians.

12 July: In case you haven’t heard… last week we announced our plans to tour the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the USA next Spring! More specifically, we’re finalising plans to play in Massachusetts and Maine. If you’re a fan and live in Massachusetts or Maine, or know someone who does and would enjoy a night of fiddle music, please share! [Here we are playing a Boston Two-Step to get you in the mood].

16 July: The last time the SFO visited Canada we played in Toronto… This time we’re planning performances in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia! Here we are playing John Mason’s ‘One Hundred Thousand Welcomes’ and a set of jigs in the Molson amphitheater, Toronto. Please share with anyone you know in Canada!

[Read more…]

First principals to second fiddles (life in an orchestra that’s not the SFO)

[Note that this article first appeared in the SFO Newsletter for December 2018 (no. 78), available to download here].

The Irish Times ran an interesting piece about the RTE orchestra during November 2018.

Though this is a professional and classical orchestra, there were many humorous references to different players and sections within the “band”.

It well explains the structure of an orchestra, including that of the SFO.

[Read more…]

A new era in digital downloads for SFO music

Violin on its side with one F-hole visible

As we reported in December 2018, we have been going through the process of making the orchestra’s self-produced recordings available for digital download.

Historically, SFO recordings have been released through REL but – with the growth of digital downloads and online streaming – it has gradually become possible for us to consider releases which are more under our own control.

The two most recent SFO CDs are now available for purchase as downloads via iTunes or Amazon Music.

The flexibility of this format means you can either choose to download the whole album or you can select individual tracks, if you prefer. [Read more…]

Be part of and take home a little piece of the SFO (38 years of SFO recordings)

SFO Second Violin Section 2018

If you come to an SFO concert, you can’t miss our merchandise stall in the foyer.

You may have been in the audience at one of our live concert recordings before and, if you are coming to our Hogmanay Concert in the Usher Hall on 30 December 2018, we will be recording this concert live.

As half time approaches in the programme, you’ll get a gentle reminder from the compere that “CDs and DVDs are available”, and possibly how many shopping days there are left until Christmas.

It has also become an SFO tradition in ending a concert for Blair to see the orchestra off on a set of Swinging Reels, finishing with Caddam Woods. Beforehand, he explains that he’ll be in the foyer in a moment – to meet and greet the audience, and maybe sign a CD/DVD or two. [Read more…]