A quick diary piece…

A quick diary piece: Most of the Scots Trad Music Awards are now sponsored. We're looking for sponsors for Venue of the Year and the Hall of Fame. The dates for entering your nominations for the trad awards are between 1 – 19th October 2007. The voting (for the 4 top nominations) will happen from 29th October – 23rd November. Our events are running from the 29th November til the 1st December (Award Ceremony) this year.


We're now looking for events for the St Andrew's Celebrations. This is a umberella project where try to gather as many trad music ceilidhs, gigs etc from around Scotland and market this as one. With this publicity we hope that members of the public will see the event in their area and go a long and take part and love traditional music.


We announced the semi-finalists of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award last week. They are Steven Blake (Pipes), Gillian Fleetwood (Clarsach), David Garner (Fiddle), Adam Holmes (Guitar, song), Amy Lord (Scots song), Lorne MacDougall (Pipes, whistle), James Duncan MacKenzie (Pipes, smallpipes), Iain Angus MacLeod (Accordion), Robert Menzies (Accordion, piano), Ewan Robertson (Guitar, song), Ailie Robertson (Clarsach), Fraya Thomsen (Clarsach). The event weekend runs from the 5th – 7th October 2007 with the concert in Coulter Hall, Coulter, South Lanarkshire on the the 6th October, 7.30pm, tickets £8 (conc £6).


More on all these events at www.handsupfortrad.co.uk


I'm away to Italy at the weekend with Keep It Up. We don't really gig at all nowadays so this will be fun. Even more fun will be remembering the sets! Next week I'm off to Germany with Dave Milligan. We're there for about 10 days. The tour is: 



8, Chemnitz, club Arthur

9, Bad Langensalza, church concert

10, off

11, Ilmenau, Alte Försterei

12, Schmalkalden, Kunsthaus (art gallery)

13, Hildburghausen, Rathaus

14, Oberotterbach, Musikantebuckl

15, Weilerbach, Bürgerkeller, club Dreschflegel


Fiddle Concerto is coming along. I've moved to the computer and am currently inputing my ideas for moulding…

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What is Scottish music?

This question has arisen as I write my fiddle concerto. In doing this I have written a march in F as my opening theme but it has no scotch snaps in it, it's not a strathspey nor does it utililise the bagpipe scale (A mixolydian starting on G). These are the common things that if asked I would describe as the Scottish sound. When I play my tune I think it sounds Scottish and when played by fiddler Gordon Gunn  complete with ornamention it will sound right. It makes me wonder if the above description is a lot baloney and infact the 'Scottish sound' is actually bourne out of ornamentation and phrasing.

When I go abroad and pick up a book of say Breton tunes and play them I don't feel like I've cracked the culture and I sound like their musicians – the tunes instantly become quite Scottish. Same when you look at Brahms' Hungarian Dances or Bulgarian traditional music – they all look very simple on the page but when the local musicians play them they transform into something that is not on the page, not even near. It's the ornamentation and phrasing that makes these tunes sound Breton or Bulgarian not the notes on the page.

So when I (or any other Scottish musician) play a tune the first thing we do is to not think about it. We don't worry about inserting scotch snaps or g naturals, we just phrase it in a way that feels right and use ornaments that seem to work.

I wonder if Scotland has a set of 'phrases' and 'ornaments' and each region of the country dips into these, makes them their own but never deviates far enough away from the originals to become their own national style – subsets of something bigger. Shetland music does sound different to other parts of Scotland but you can still here the Scottish links.

This is something to mull over for a while although I better not take too long as I feel the deadline for the concerto is fast approaching alongside everything else including the Trad Music Awards.

The strange thing that has happened to me in the last week is our first born child Charlie has started school. I was the most worried about it as I couldn't believe 5 years has passed so quickly and my wee boy has grown up! Anyway as my wife said Charlie is loving it and from the first day he hides when I go to pick him up rather than come home with me! I'll take that as a positive!

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It occurs to me that everybody is struggling for time to do things. In traditional music a small amount of people do many things and I wonder if we've all reached saturation point. Many of us are in the industry because we play/sing the music and often trying to bring admin and performance/creativity together can be difficult and of course admin is what pays the bills in most cases. In classical music there are many administrators – the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has 4 administrators to every musician.

Is it maybe time for to start employing more people who are not directly interested in traditional music? I always worry that an employee doesn't know enough to do the work. Maybe also the wages are not fantastic (due to funding) so you are wanting 'a love of the music' to compensate for some of the wages.

On another note I had a great meeting with the Scottish Exec about their St Andrew's Celebrations. Hopefully The Scots Trad Music Awards will be able to be part of this in 2007.

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