25 November 2017

Scots Fiddle Festival 2017

The Scots Fiddle Festival (17 – 19 November 2017) is over for another year but what a fantastic weekend of music, workshops and sessions the 21st festival proved to be.

Given that some of the musicians now appearing on the main stage originally attended the festival as children along with their parents, it’s understandable that the event has a real “family” feel to it.

Newspaper reviews in The Scotsman and The Times had glowing praise for the concerts, artists and organisers.

Much of the talent on display was home-grown.

However, the Festival continued its mission to bring the best international exponents of fiddle music to the Scottish stage.

Topping the bill for Saturday’s concert was the Jeremy Kittel Trio, whose fiddle-playing leader lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The compere for the evening, Stan Reeves, explained that “Kittel” is pronounced with the stress on the first, not the second, syllable. Stan also referred to a tune called “The Cat That Kittled In Jamie’s Wig” which, according to The Session website, is an alternative name for the well-known Strathspey “Miss Lyall” – composed by the 19th century Scottish fiddler, compiler and composer Captain Simon Fraser.

Performer, teacher and collector (and Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame inductee), Nigel Gatherer, has also noted these lines in a collection of Perthshire ballads, rhymes and (anti-Jacobite) fragments:

The cat has kittled in Charlie’s wig,
The cat has kittled in Charlie’s wig,
There’s ane o’ them living, and twa o’ them dead,
The cat has kittled in Charlie’s wig.

“Kittle” is also an appropriate name in a Scots music context because one of its many meanings is “Of a musical instrument: to set the strings, etc. in motion (with the fingers or a bow), to tune (up), to strike up (a tune on).”

As reviewed in The Scotsman, it was indeed a “mercurial” set ranging from classical to jazz-inflected pieces. According to The Times, they took “the string band tradition to marvellously rarefied levels of collective virtuosity”.

The most recognisably Scottish set was saved for last, with Patsy Reid joining the band on fiddle, for a driving set of Strathspeys and Reels, ending with Willie Hunter’s guaranteed showstopper: “The Cape Breton visit to Shetland”.

How can you help make the 2018 Scots Fiddle Festival even better than this?

The simplest way to help (and remember that Scots Fiddle Festival Limited is a registered charity) is by supporting the festival’s Outreach Project.

As has become the tradition, this year’s group opened the Saturday evening Queen’s Hall concert “with impressive youthful panache” (The Scotsman). They drew their members from places including Bonar Bridge, Crieff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Keith. Taking turns to introduce themselves and their music, they explained they were called “Siubhail” – which means “traveller” in Gaelic and reflected their diverse geographical bases.

One of the sets they played has been studio-recorded and is available for download from iTunes.

The set of jigs is: The Drover Lads / Lady Douglas of Bothwell / Miss Sally Hunter of Thurston / The Stool of Repentance. It is available for download at a cost of 79p. All money raised will go to supporting future Scots Fiddle Festivals.

As in several previous years, the SFO had a stall at the festival.

Many of us enjoyed taking part in the sessions and workshops – and attending the concerts. One of the SFO’s members, Isla Ferguson, ran the “Come and Try” Fiddle session on the Saturday.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s festival.