Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Podcast

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Podcast 1 – Half-time chat at Perth 2020 and Hogmanay Show 1981

NOTE: The above audio is in mp3 format and is also downloadable, if you wish to listen at a time when you may not have a reliable internet connection. Other devices are available but, on a PC, for example, if you right-click on the 3 vertical dots at the right side of the audio player, the drop-down menu should offer the option to “Save as…”

In this Podcast, we look back to the recent past and the distant past in SFO terms.

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How it all began for the SFO in Aberdeen in 1980

There is a symmetry to the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s 40th anniversary.

The SFO has existed for as long in the 21st century as it has in the 20th century.

How did it all begin?

The inaugural concert of the SFO was held in the Music Hall on Aberdeen’s Union Street on 22 March 1980.

The poster for the SFO’s first ever concert – in Aberdeen in March 1980.

Much has changed in 40 years but, given that some traditional music is several hundred years old, it’s little surprise that much has stayed the same.

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Blair speaks about the SFO 2020 Tour rescheduling

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Conductor, Blair Parham, has delivered a video message to set out the reasoning behind what was, in the end, an inevitable postponement of the 40th Anniversary Tour to the USA and Canada from 28 March 2020 to 08 April 2020.

Watch the following video for details or read a full transcript of the text of what Blair says, set out below the video.

Hi there.

Blair here – Conductor of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.

Some bad news, I’m afraid, in that the tour to North America – that we were so looking forward to coming on – has had to be rescheduled.

We’re not cancelling; we’re postponing it for the time being.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, the situation with the coronavirus has hit everyone globally in many different ways and unfortunately our tour has had to be rescheduled.

We had been reviewing the situation for the past few weeks very closely, looking at all the eventualities and came to the decision several days ago that actually it would be best if we postpone it. Obviously, in the last couple of days or so, that decision has been made for us, anyway, with the travel bans that have been put in place.

We’re really sorry.

I’m sure you understand the reasons why we’ve taken this decision but we’re looking forward to coming next year – April and March 2021.

So, we’re visiting North Eastern United States and Eastern Canada – as I say, the end of March into April 2021.

We’re really sorry not to see you this year, on our 40th anniversary celebrations, but hope to see you when we turn 41.

Stay safe. Take care.

Bye for now.

Postponement of The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra North American Tour 2020

A message from SFO Chairman, Bob Diament.

The SFO Board and our Promoters, Culture Path, jointly took the difficult decision to postpone our planned North American Tour at the end of last week.

After weeks of increasing uncertainty and anxiety generated by the worldwide onslaught of the Corona virus, we thought that the risk to our players, their families, our guest musicians and our audiences was too high.

The subsequent implementation of an international travel ban from the UK would have made the Tour impossible. However, our decision had already been made on the grounds of safety.

Culture Path have started to work on rescheduling our concerts in 2021.

We will be coming – just not this year.

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SFO Concert analysed by half-time pundits

Who wants to follow in the footsteps of such renowned half-time pundits as Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness and Ron Manager?

Our own Catriona MacLean, Willie Kidd and Jamie Mason subjected themselves to interrogation by SFO Chairman, Bob ‘Lineker’ Diament, during half time at our Perth concert (22 February 2020), the whole of which was streamed live on YouTube.

Rising above periodic heckling from the PA system, these brave souls touched on subjects as diverse as

  • cymbals,
  • nepotism in the SFO,
  • (appropriately) Monty Python, and
  • (as confusingly as possible) the SFO’s forthcoming North America Tour.

They packed a lot of information – some of
it relevant – into 10 minutes and 43 seconds of chat.

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SFO Just Giving Appeal

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra 40th Anniversary North American Tour 2020

(NOTE that this post is superceded by the fact that the SFO’s Tour to North America in 2020 has had to be postponed in March 2020)

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020.

As tradition bearers for Scottish music we will be touring the USA and Canada. Leaving from Edinburgh on 28th March we will perform at concert halls in New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

The SFO is a registered charity, run entirely by volunteers.

This tour will feature not only fiddles, but flutes, cellos, and our very own piper.

With a touring party of 50 musicians, we will be ambassadors for Scotland.

We hope to foster strong social and cultural links, widening access to traditional Scottish music, and promoting one of Scotland’s most recognisable cultural exports.

We will present 7 concerts in a 12-day period.

In addition, we plan to lead workshops with young local musicians.

We will be inviting members of local communities with physical, mental or behavioural constraints to attend our rehearsals. Our aim is to help to expand access to music for those who find it difficult to attend formal concerts.

At each concert location, a local pipe band will join us on stage to help us perform our signature Orchestra and Pipes showpiece arrangements, such as Rose of Galloway and Highland Cathedral.

We would really appreciate your donations towards our travel costs.

We have set up an SFO Just Giving page, for that purpose.

In return for donations, we are delighted to offer the following rewards:

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Songs of Scotland with the SFO

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra concerts include fiddle music. But we have a host of other instruments besides violins.

Cellos, Double Basses, Flutes, Accordion, Percussion, Piano – sometimes Organ too – and, last but not least, the Human Voice.

At the foot of this article, you will find a video clip of the SFO accompanying one of our good friends and regular singing guests, Colette Ruddy.

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The Gay Gordons with the SFO

Virtually all SFO concerts begin with a tune in March tempo.

The very first SFO concert at Aberdeen Music Hall on 22 March 1980 opened with John Mason’s ‘Patrol’ March “Fiddlers to the Fore”.

The most popular Scottish dance with march-time backing is The Gay Gordons. Ceilidhs will often begin with this dance because it’s medium-paced and a fairly gentle introduction to proceedings which will probably become a bit more frenetic as the evening wears on.

Some SFO concerts feature a ‘take the floor’ section for audience and orchestra members.

The video clip below shows dancing of The Gay Gordons, accompanied by the tune “Goodbye Dolly” from the SFO’s “Songs the Nation Sings” set.

Audience dancing to “Goodbye Dolly” from the SFO’s “Songs the Nation Sings” set (Note some empty seats in the band too!)

P.S. Please consider making a donation to the SFO’s Just Giving Appeal.

Singing and dancing with the SFO

Would you be up for dancing at an SFO concert?

The short video below features “The Wild Rover”, part of a set of Sing-Along Waltzes we like to play at a regular point in our concert programme where we invite the audience (along with some members of the orchestra) to take the floor.

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A Tribute to J. Scott Skinner

James Scott Skinner (1843-1927), “The Strathspey King” was born in Banchory.

He started his young musical career playing violincello for his elder brother, Sandy, and later for the celebrated Aberdeen fiddler and teacher Peter Milne.

At a still early age, he became part of a young group – “Dr Mark’s Little Men” – in which he received a most thorough classical training during tours throughout the United Kingdom.

On his return to the north east, whilst still in his late teens, he embarked upon a career in music.

Skinner was known as a dancing master, concert performer on violin and prolific composer.

He wrote some of the most beautiful airs, marches, lively Strathspeys and exciting reels ever composed in this idiom – music which has maintained its influence and popularity since his death in 1927.

In programme notes written by the SFO’s original Musical Director, John Mason, John described the March, Strathspey and Reel set of “Compliments to Dr. MacDonald”, “The Laird o’ Drumblair” and “Davie Work” as “probably the most powerful and popular of Skinner’s tunes”.

  • The first is dedicated to Dr. MacDonald the Collector of so much Scottish music.
  • The second (and arguably the most famous Strathspey ever composed) to William F. McHardy who owned the estate of Drumblair and who accorded Skinner one of his cottages during a particularly difficult time in Skinner’s life. (Incidentally, Skinner also dedicated his other great Strathspey “The Iron Man” – and other compositions – to McHardy who had made his fortune in railroads).
  • Davie Work was an Orcadian fiddler who settled in Glasgow and became the founder of the Glasgow Caledonian Strathspey and Reel Society over 100 years ago.

The short video below features clips from each of the three tunes.

SFO concerts generally feature at least one March, Strathspey and Reel set. Often, it is a celebration of the music of J. Scott Skinner, who is arguably the most important composer in the history of Scottish Fiddle Music.

P.S. Please consider making a donation to the SFO’s Just Giving Appeal.