08 April 2024

SFO North America Tour that might have been (4 years on…)

Part of the worldwide community of music preservationists and promoters…

The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra is a company limited by guarantee and formed under the law of Scotland.

It is registered as a charity (non-profit) in Scotland.

The orchestra’s aims are to raise money for partner charities through the preservation and promotion of Scottish fiddle music (a type of music which has well-established links to other fiddle traditions such as those found in Ireland, Scandinavia and North America – e.g. The Calgary Fiddlers).

The orchestra was planning to undertake a tour to the eastern seaboard of the USA and Canada from 28 March to 11 April 2020.

The tour was planned as a celebration of – and to coincide with – the 40th Anniversary of the SFO’s first concert in Aberdeen in March 1980.

Arriving in Boston and leaving from Montreal, the orchestra were going to play a total of 7 concerts at venues in New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

This was to be the highlight of our 40th anniversary year.

Proposed-SFO-North-America-Tour-2020-Map

One of several draft versions of the proposed SFO Tour to the US Eastern Seaboard and Canadian Maritimes in March/April 2020.

The tour could not proceed because of the Covid Pandemic.

It was initially postponed at very short notice and then cancelled due to the continuing impact of Covid-19.

The orchestra had engaged an organisation called Culture Path, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to organise and manage the tour.

A contractual document, “letter of agreement”, was provided by Culture Path.

This was never signed but it was accepted that the basic arrangements for the tour proceeded in accordance with what is contained in the document.

In particular a payment schedule per person was defined, with date deadlines. Complying with this, the orchestra paid Culture Path $100,000.00 (US Dollars) in advance for 50 travelling musicians.

The tour as planned became impossible when the US Government prohibited access to the USA from the UK on 15 March 2020.

This was two days after it imposed a similar travel ban from Mainland Europe.

Following cancellation of the tour, the SFO recouped the total cost of airfares, £33,000, which had been paid to Flight Centre UK for the flights to and from North America. These had not been arranged by Culture Path.

While Culture Path appeared to remain open to the possibility that there would be some level of refund made to the SFO of the sums which were paid to them, they were not prepared to give any guarantees.

They did not consider themselves to be contractually bound to pay anything to the SFO. In other words, in their view, any payments they might make to the SFO would be as a matter of good will only and not as a matter of obligation. Despite repeated requests, Culture Path refused to provide the SFO with any accounting as regards sums expended on their behalf by Culture Path.

On the basis of the SFO’s understanding that the written contract, though unsigned, would be regarded as live and valid given that it had been subsequently acted upon, the SFO’s position was that any contractual arrangements would be governed by the law of Alberta, given that that was provided for in the contract. It also appeared that any enforcement remedies would have to be pursued in Alberta.

SFO-Logo-with-US-and-Canadian-Flags

The SFO subsequently raised proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench (now King’s Bench) of Alberta, Canada, in February 2021.

After lengthy court procedure, including depositions of the main witnesses on both sides, the SFO applied for summary judgment in its favour and Culture Path applied for summary dismissal of the SFO’s claim.

These applications were heard by Judge J.L. Mason in Calgary on 10 January 2024.

The Judge granted the SFO’s application for summary judgment.

As a result, Culture Path were ordered to pay the sum of $133,791.00 (Canadian). At the same time, the Judge dismissed Culture Path’s cross-application for summary dismissal.

The SFO were awarded the costs of the action and fee items for all steps taken in the action after 18 March 2022 were ordered to be doubled.

The total costs awarded amounted to $20,000 (Canadian).

Culture Path have lodged an appeal against the decision of 10 January 2024 and we understand this is unlikely to be heard before October 2025.

The SFO is committed to pursuing its legitimate claim for repayment of the hugely significant amounts spent in respect of the 2020 North America Tour.

For a charitable organisation run entirely by volunteers, the continuing litigation has been a real thorn in our side, with significant and mounting legal costs.

To finish on a more optimistic musical note…

We remain ever-hopeful that our Tour will take place eventually and we will fulfil our long-delayed engagements in:

  • Boston, MA;
  • Portsmouth, NH;
  • Lewiston, ME;
  • Fredericton, NB;
  • Charlottetown, PEI;
  • Moncton, NB;
  • Halifax, NS;
  • St. John, NB; and
  • Montreal, PQ.