The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Returns to Northern Ireland

SFO at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall - September 2015

It is almost exactly 25 years ago that the SFO played its first concert in Northern Ireland.

“Belfast gripped by fiddle fever”

That was the headline for the occasion as reported by the Belfast Telegraph on Saturday, 31 August 1991. [Read more…]

The SFO’s Most Popular Recording

Cover Art for SFO's CD "Highland Cathedral"

Most people know or have heard of the Beatles’ song, Yesterday. As with the majority of the Fab Four’s output, the composition is credited to Lennon and McCartney.

In fact, the song is thought to be largely, if not entirely, the work of Paul McCartney. He says the melody came to him in a dream he had one night in late 1963.

This was a unique experience for McCartney in the context of the Beatles, though John Lennon has said that ideas for the songs Nowhere Man and Across the Universe came to him in similar fashion.

Yesterday took a long time to complete

The time from original concept to final recording of the song was about 2 years.

McCartney had a number of hurdles to overcome

  • He was initially doubtful whether the melody was original.
  • He struggled to find an appropriate title and lyrics to go with the tune, the 3 syllable title evolving from a first-draft of ‘Scrambled Eggs’.
  • Having named the song ‘Yesterday’, he needed to be persuaded that it was not too staid a title (Beatles producer, George Martin, assured him it wasn’t).
  • There were wrangles about the song within the band, not helped by its recording for the album ‘Help’ as essentially a solo piece: Paul strumming acoustic guitar and singing, backed by a string quartet.

Yesterday’s subsequent impact is well known

Over 4,000 cover versions have been recorded, by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Daffy Duck. Bob Dylan recorded it even after making disparaging remarks about the quality of the song.

In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Two years later, a BBC poll saw it voted best song of the 20th century.

In the field of pop music, at least up to the turn of the century, Yesterday’s popularity is arguably unsurpassed. Turning to look at the music played and recorded by the SFO since its inception in 1980, which one of our recordings has proved to be the most popular? [Read more…]

It’s Bill and Aly!

Aly Bain being presented with a tune composed by Bill Cook of the SFO, Findhorn, 25 May 2016

The SFO’s Bill Cook caught up with Aly Bain at Phil and Aly’s Findhorn Concert on 25 May 2016.

Bill took the opportunity at half time to present Aly with a framed copy of Bill’s tune “The SFO’s Compliments to Aly Bain”, composed for the occasion of Aly’s 70th birthday.

Referring to the SFO’s recording of the tune on YouTube / Facebook, which he had seen, Aly said he was “over the moon” that we should think about him for his birthday and that there was a tune recording the occasion.

We would like to express our thanks to Universal Hall, Findhorn, for their permission in allowing us to use their photo of Bill and Aly – and the tune.

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s Compliments To Aly Bain

To wish Aly Bain a happy 70th birthday (15 May 2016), our Leader and President, Bill Cook, has composed a Highland Barndance – ‘The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s Compliments to Aly Bain’ – and here is a recording of it from the SFO’s rehearsal before our Nottingham concert on 09 April 2016.

Aly is currently on his ‘Le Grand Anniversaire’ tour of Scotland with Phil Cunningham.

Happy Birthday to you, Aly! We wish you many more years of music-making and laughs.

The SFO Returns to Nottingham

The SFO returned to Nottingham for a concert in the Royal Concert Hall on 09 April 2016. Orchestra members arrived from all over the UK by car, bus, train and plane.

A novel feature of our promotion of the concert was the use of advertising space on East Midlands buses – as illustrated here by the SFO’s own left-handed fiddler, Campbell Smith.

Campbell Smith of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra points to a Nottingham bus bearing an ad for the SFO's concert

Campbell Smith points to one of the SFO’s bus adverts for the Nottingham concert 2016.


For the concert, we were joined by Robert Lovie as compere, Colette Ruddy and Dennis Haggerty as singers, the Nottinghamshire Police Pipe Band and, within the orchestra, by 11-year-old Yla Lloyd from Leicester. [Read more…]

SFO Visits Orkney

The SFO had a fantastic weekend in Orkney, with a concert in the Pickaquoy centre in Kirkwall on Saturday 15th August.

The concert was in aid of Friends of the Neuro Ward Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (Scottish Charity SC044430). [Read more…]

STV Appeal is the SFO Charity Partner for 2015

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Members playing at STV Appeal Big Live 2014

SFO Members playing at STV Appeal Big Live 2014

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra is proud to announce that its Charity Partner for its Scottish concerts in 2015 will be the STV Appeal.

STV Appeal’s achievements to date

The Appeal, now in its 5th year, has raised in excess of £8.2million to help fight child poverty in Scotland. Statistics show that around 1 in 5 children in Scotland live in poverty. [Read more…]

The SFO to Tour China!

We are incredibly excited to announce that the SFO has been invited to give a concert tour in China at Hogmanay 2012 and early January 2013!

Having previously toured in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, this will be the orchestra’s first visit to the Far East.

We will give 9 or 10 concerts in Shanghai and the provincial capitals of several regions of southern China. Cities to be visited include Shanghai, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Haikou, Nanchang, Suzhou and Liuzhou. Plans are at an advanced stage of preparation and the formal arrangements, venues and dates are expected to be finalised in October.

The SFO is very grateful to Creative Scotland for a grant of £10,000 towards the costs of this venture. It is hoped that the concerts, which are expected to attract some 10,000 to 14,000 people, will generate interest in traditional Scottish fiddle music.

65 of the orchestra will depart on 28th December, after performing our now traditional ‘Hogmanay’ concert on the previous night in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. The orchestra returns to Scotland on 13th January.

The concert programmes will include selections of traditional Scottish items, plus tone poems and slow airs written by the SFO’s founder, the late John Mason MBE. These will be mixed with some traditional Chinese tunes, in particular ‘Jasmine Flower’ and ‘Purple Bamboo’ arranged for the orchestra.

Watch this space for further details on venues and concert timings should you happen to be in the Far East!