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.

His brother played the guitar and his sister the piano, but it was to the violin that Bill was directed as a youngster, under the tutelage of his father, who was, at the time, the conductor of Stirling Strathspey & Reel Society.

This early association with Scottish music fuelled a passion within Bill which was to become a major influence in his life and was to take him all over the world.

His talent developed in the Army.

He played on a regular basis and matured into a fine violinist, attending classes at Trinity College London and earning plaudits for his arranging talents, as well as his playing ability.

He left after a 6-year spell and found himself looking at a return to Scotland, with his wife Teresa and their young family.

He decided against orchestral playing as he wished to be at home, and, quite by chance, found himself being offered the position of violin teacher by Clackmannan Council.

He accepted the position and, for the next thirty years until his retirement, he was the inspiration for many youngsters. He became a highly respected player, adjudicator, composer and publisher, with several successful books on Scottish fiddle playing to his name.

Bill’s talents reached far beyond music.

As a teenager, he was very active in sport and became an international standard tennis player.

He was an accomplished painter, with many fine works to his credit and he developed an interest in restoring old cars.

Throughout this time, Bill was playing, writing and becoming more and more involved in the Scottish music scene across a diverse range of musical genres.

Following the loss of his father, he took on the role of musical director and conductor of Stirling Strathspey & Reel Society.

John Mason, founder and Musical Director of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, recognised his talents and invited Bill to become the Orchestra’s Leader. Bill took on the challenge, with his usual enthusiasm and was Leader from 1983 up to the present day.

In that time, he became a much-loved and highly respected figure within the orchestra and it was with pride that Bill accepted the role of President in 2008.

That year he was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award in recognition of achievement in the Arts in Clackmannanshire by Clackmannanshire Council and, in 2019, he was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Hall of Fame in recognition for his life-long commitment and contribution to “enriching the lives of others through selfless service and charitable work”.

We will always remember him fondly.

Aly Bain being presented with a tune composed by Bill Cook of the SFO, Findhorn, 25 May 2016
Bill Cook presents Aly Bain with the tune Bill composed for Aly’s 70th birthday in 2016.

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…]

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…]

A Review of Scots Fiddle Festival 2018

The Scots Fiddle Festival (SFF) took place in Edinburgh on the weekend of 16-18 November 2018.

I’ve been at every SFF since 2008 and have seen it go through venues from the Assembly Rooms, Queen’s Hall / King’s Hall, Queen’s Hall / Summerhall and on to a new venue this year at the Pleasance.

The Assembly Rooms worked well because workshops, recitals, sessions and concerts were all under one roof. The Pleasance seems to represent an excellent change of venue primarily for the same reason – everything in one location. It also has a congenial café bar area which seemed to work well for the sessions and stalls. [Read more…]

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…]