Folk Meets Baroque

Things are coming together nicely for this recital I’m giving with Natalie Brown, my colleague at the Elphinstone Institute, in a few weeks time. We’ve had three very productive rehearsals to date, with three more scheduled before the event itself. We spent a lot of time choosing the repertoire and arranging it for two fiddles, but have settled on five sets we believe showcase Scottish fiddle music at its best! Now all that’s left to do is polish a few corners here and there and we’re good to go.

The inspiration for the recital is the recognition that our modern ideas about fiddle music are quite different to those of the eighteenth-century fiddlers who composed it. Today, the categorisation of music is made according to its origins – classical music originates with Mozart, Beethoven, or some other composer, while traditional music originates with the folk, a faceless mass of peasants. The composer transmits his music via musical notation while the folk transmit their music by ear. However, in the eighteenth century the categorisation of music depended on its function, with authorship (origins) being valued much less than it is today. As such, Scottish fiddle music was categorised as dance music first and foremost. Slow airs and other non-dance genres excepted, the reels, strathspeys, jigs, and marches so familiar to us today were thought of in the same capacity as minuets, gavottes, and bourrées, which we associate with classical music. Anyone with a passing interest will know that there are composers of fiddle music just as there are composers of classical music – Niel and Nathaniel Gow, Robert Mackintosh, William Marshall – and far from being illiterate peasants, they transmitted their compositions in musical notation.

In this recital, Natalie and I aim to blur the boundaries between classical (baroque) music and traditional (folk) music by combining elements of both. Thus, we will perform a violin sonata by Corelli, said to be a favourite of Niel Gow’s, in a way he might have performed it. And we make a survey of different settings of Tullochgorum, highlighting the scope for creativity and invention surrounding one particular tune. Some later tunes by James Scott Skinner are also included by way of comparison, and to demonstrate the changes the music went through in the course of the nineteenth century (the lens through which we see it today).

The instruments we will be using date from the period when the music was composed, being two fiddles by Joseph Ruddiman of Aberdeen in baroque configuration. The use of baroque bows and gut strings will help regain something of the original sound of these tunes in historical performance.

‘Folk Meets Baroque’

Saturday 11th May, 5.30pm

Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen

Free Admission – Part of the May Festival

For those unable to make the recital on 11th May, there will be a second opportunity to catch it at St Andrew’s Cathedral, King Street, Aberdeen on Saturday 15th June at 12 noon as part of the Cathedral at Noon concert series. Free admission with retiring collection.

Ronnie Gibson (1st May 2013)

Post Scriptum A video recording of the recital was made which has been uploaded to youtube, for anyone who was unable to attend.

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