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.

The Rose of Galloway (Galloway Rose)

Rose of Galloway is a composition by John Mason for orchestra and pipes.

At the foot of this post, you will find a short video clip of a Scottish Fiddle Orchestra (plus pipe band) concert performance of this stirring piece of music.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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