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…]

SFO thrilled by the prospect of Northern Nights of Music and Song

Shetland road verge in Summer

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s Northern Nights Tour will see us visit Moray, Orkney and Shetland over the course of a week in July 2018.

For details of ticket sales and prices, please scroll to the bottom of this article.

The tour commences with a concert in Elgin Town Hall on Saturday 21 July 2018 at 7.30pm.

After spending that night in Moray, our tour bus will then take us west along the A96 and north up the A9 to Scrabster for the ferry transfer to Stromness in Orkney on 22 July.

The following evening, we play a concert at the Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall (Monday, 23 July at 7.30pm). Tuesday evening – 24 July at 7.30pm – sees us perform in the town’s St Magnus Cathedral and we’ll then catch the 11pm ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick.

Arriving in Shetland at breakfast time on 25 July, our concert at Clickimin Complex Main Hall is at 7.30pm that (Wednesday) evening.

We depart Shetland on the evening ferry on 26 July and head back to mainland Scotland at Aberdeen. We plan to play a free concert on board the MV Hjaltland on this return journey, partly as a “thank you” to NorthLink for sponsoring our tour. [Read more…]

Campbell Smith

Campbell Smith of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Edinburgh, 2015

As set out in the SFO Newsletter for August 2017, we’re very sad to report that, on 4th August 2017, Campbell lost his battle with what he had characteristically described as “a wee touch of cancer”, something with which he had several run-ins over many years.

Campbell never seemed to let anything get him down. He always had a positive outlook, which he communicated to everyone with whom he came in contact. He always had words of reassurance or encouragement.

In the context of the SFO, Campbell was a larger-than-life character.

On stage, he was literally “larger” because, as the orchestra’s only left-handed fiddler, he immediately stood out to audiences. [Read more…]

SFO “In the Fair City” DVD – 2016

SFO "In the Fair City" DVD Cover - 2016We’re very proud of our front of house team and we rely on them to keep us updated with audience and patrons/friends comments.

For some time they have been requesting new CDs and DVDs and we can now announce that their requests have been granted.

Recorded at our sell-out concert in Perth in February 2016, the latest DVD is entitled “In The Fair City” and has been produced containing a brand new programme which will surely enhance any music collection.

Effectively, we now have a DVD to offer our audience which reflects more or less each one of this year’s shows. This will of course enable enthusiasts to buy a close programme of the performance that they have attended this year, when the music is still fresh in their minds.

We are also completing a music CD, taken from the same concert but without any dialogue or extras. It was noted that there is still a demand for CDs and we are more than happy to fill that gap.

Recordings were also taken at Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Alhambra in Dunfermline and the plan is that a selection of pieces from both these recordings will be combined into another CD.

All of this has has been set up by Bill Cook and Campbell Smith through Red Barn Studios who have proved to be a real find and these CDs will be on sale very soon.

On that note we also plan on releasing a DVD of our trip to the Waterfront in Belfast.

Under the stewardship of Jim Brodlie (who organised such a memorable trip to Nottingham earlier in the year) the Belfast concert turned out to be a real cracker. Stewart and Gill from Red Barn were with us on the bus and they recorded the orchestra, both on and off stage. So, with a bit of luck, we’ll have some truly memorable shots which we can use to make a great DVD. Nothing was too much trouble for these two and it turned out be a very successful exercise.

Watch this space for some exciting new material.

Note: This article first appeared in the SFO Newsletter of December 2016.

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.

Two Ylas

Imagine discovering that you are not the only person in the world with your first name.

For most of us, that’s not difficult to imagine at all. However, for the SFO’s principal soloist, Yla Steven, it came as bit of a shock.

Yla’s name – pronounced “Eye-La” – is the old spelling of Isla (as in, Glen Isla, in Angus).

As many visitors to this website will already know, most SFO concerts feature Yla playing a slow air, accompanied by the orchestra. This season’s programme includes John Mason’s composition, “Lament for the Death of the Rev. Archie Beaton”, with Yla taking the lead.

Yla Steven and Yla Lloyd, Fiddlers with the SFO

The 2 Ylas in rehearsal

Yla has performed solos with the SFO all over the world.

Yla’s influence is demonstrated not just in her playing but also in the way she has passed on her skills and knowledge to younger generations of violinists.

Until her retirement in 2010, Yla worked as an instrumental teacher in Edinburgh.

She has taught hundreds of students, several of whom have gone on to join the SFO. (The current management of the SFO includes 3 of Yla’s former pupils).

In 2015, Yla was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Scottish music.

Having taught violin to so many pupils, inevitably, Yla lost contact with a lot of them after they left school and moved away from the Edinburgh area.

One such pupil was Tudor Lloyd, who was one of Yla’s most talented students during the 1970s.

After decades of lost contact, Yla was delighted to receive, out of the blue, a card from “Tudor and Clan” at Christmas 2015. This included a note to the effect that Tudor was married with 3 children and living in the Midlands. His middle child, a daughter aged 11, had been called “Yla” in honour of his former teacher.

Not only that, Yla (junior) had been learning violin and was already up to Grade 6 standard.

As Yla (senior) says, “I was completely gobsmacked. It was disconcerting to find out all these things and then turn to the back of the card to see that it had been designed by ‘Yla Lloyd’. I was honoured that Tudor should name one of his two daughters after me.”

Yla (senior) quickly contacted Tudor to suggest that he and his family might like to come to see her playing with the SFO at their Nottingham concert in April 2016. He replied, saying that they already had tickets for the concert.

From there, it was only matter of time before arrangements were made for Yla (junior) to join the orchestra as a special guest for the Nottingham concert.

Yla Lloyd and Yla Steven, Fiddlers with the SFO

The 2 Ylas ready for the SFO’s Nottingham concert

The 2 Ylas sat side by side in the orchestra throughout the rehearsal and concert.

They received a special ovation from the audience for their efforts.

Yla (junior) has clearly been well brought up because, when questioned after the concert as to how much she had enjoyed the experience, she confirmed that the SFO is the best orchestra she has played with so far (!).

We wish Yla (junior) all the best with her future in music. May it bring her fun and friendship, in the way it has done for all of us in the SFO.

This article originally appeared in the SFO Newsletter for April 2016, which you can find and download from the “Join the Friends of the SFO” page of this website