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

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!