A Tribute to J. Scott Skinner

James Scott Skinner (1843-1927), “The Strathspey King” was born in Banchory.

He started his young musical career playing violincello for his elder brother, Sandy, and later for the celebrated Aberdeen fiddler and teacher Peter Milne.

At a still early age, he became part of a young group – “Dr Mark’s Little Men” – in which he received a most thorough classical training during tours throughout the United Kingdom.

On his return to the north east, whilst still in his late teens, he embarked upon a career in music.

Skinner was known as a dancing master, concert performer on violin and prolific composer.

He wrote some of the most beautiful airs, marches, lively Strathspeys and exciting reels ever composed in this idiom – music which has maintained its influence and popularity since his death in 1927.

In programme notes written by the SFO’s original Musical Director, John Mason, John described the March, Strathspey and Reel set of “Compliments to Dr. MacDonald”, “The Laird o’ Drumblair” and “Davie Work” as “probably the most powerful and popular of Skinner’s tunes”.

  • The first is dedicated to Dr. MacDonald the Collector of so much Scottish music.
  • The second (and arguably the most famous Strathspey ever composed) to William F. McHardy who owned the estate of Drumblair and who accorded Skinner one of his cottages during a particularly difficult time in Skinner’s life. (Incidentally, Skinner also dedicated his other great Strathspey “The Iron Man” – and other compositions – to McHardy who had made his fortune in railroads).
  • Davie Work was an Orcadian fiddler who settled in Glasgow and became the founder of the Glasgow Caledonian Strathspey and Reel Society over 100 years ago.

The short video below features clips from each of the three tunes.

SFO concerts generally feature at least one March, Strathspey and Reel set. Often, it is a celebration of the music of J. Scott Skinner, who is arguably the most important composer in the history of Scottish Fiddle Music.

P.S. Please consider making a donation to the SFO’s Just Giving Appeal.

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