SFO Concert analysed by half-time pundits

Who wants to follow in the footsteps of such renowned half-time pundits as Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness and Ron Manager?

Our own Catriona MacLean, Willie Kidd and Jamie Mason subjected themselves to interrogation by SFO Chairman, Bob ‘Lineker’ Diament, during half time at our Perth concert (22 February 2020), the whole of which was streamed live on YouTube.

Rising above periodic heckling from the PA system, these brave souls touched on subjects as diverse as

  • cymbals,
  • nepotism in the SFO,
  • (appropriately) Monty Python, and
  • (as confusingly as possible) the SFO’s forthcoming North America Tour.

They packed a lot of information – some of
it relevant – into 10 minutes and 43 seconds of chat.

[Read more…]

First principals to second fiddles (life in an orchestra that’s not the SFO)

[Note that this article first appeared in the SFO Newsletter for December 2018 (no. 78), available to download here].

The Irish Times ran an interesting piece about the RTE orchestra during November 2018.

Though this is a professional and classical orchestra, there were many humorous references to different players and sections within the “band”.

It well explains the structure of an orchestra, including that of the SFO.

[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…]

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

Blair Parham SFO Conductor

Blair Parham conducts SFO at Usher Hall rehearsal - 13.06.15 - 1

This article first appeared in the SFO programme for the Usher Hall concert of 13 June 2015:

Originally from Ayr, Blair’s first proper introduction to music began at the age of six when he took lessons on the recorder, before beginning to learn the cello when he was 8 under the instruction of John Leitch. Blair performed annually at the Ayrshire Music Festival, playing cello and recorder and participating in all manner of ensembles. One of the highlights was performing in Holmston Primary School’s cello quartet – a quartet that performed together through most of their secondary schooling at Belmont Academy in Ayr.

Introduction to traditional music

In 1987, Blair was introduced to traditional fiddle music when he went to his first rehearsal with the (then) Ayrshire Junior Fiddle Orchestra formed by one of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra’s founding members, Wallace Galbraith. [Read more…]

The Big Draw: 25 Years On

John Mason pictured on the cover of "The Big Draw of the Decade" by Reesa McGinn (1990)

Cover of “The Big Draw of the Decade” by Reesa McGinn (1990)

Reesa McGinn was a founder member of the SFO and, together with her great friend, Betty Henderson, an essential ingredient in any SFO concert of the 1980s and into the 1990s.

John Mason (pictured above) composed several lovely duets for Betty and Reesa to play, each one partly accompanied by the Orchestra.

The two ladies were both teachers in their day jobs. Reesa was an art teacher and, when the SFO reached its 10th anniversary in 1990, Reesa undertook the massive task of drawing each member of the Orchestra, plus some former members and supporters, for a book entitled “The Big Draw of the Decade”. [Read more…]

Yla Steven – SFO Soloist

Yla Steven - SFO Soloist

Yla Steven was born in Edinburgh.

Her unusual Christian name is simply the old spelling of Glen Isla in Perthshire, where she had a home in early years.

Learning the violin

She began learning the violin in Edinburgh, at the age of seven, continued her studies in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, 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. [Read more…]

John Mason Interview – Perth – December 2009

John Mason Interview 2009

John Mason was the founder of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and its Musical Director until his death, at the age of 71, in January 2011.

There’s a brief but revealing interview with him on YouTube, from which you can get a good idea of his drive and enthusiasm for Scottish Traditional Music, in general, and the SFO, in particular.

His great sense of humour and fun also come across well. [Read more…]