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The Braes of Ballenden!
The Braes of Ballenden!

A glorious C18th Scottish Air composed by James Oswald.  
This tune, played by the stunning Fiddle player Maura Shawn Scanlin, was for me the highlight of the recent magnificent Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship Concert at Blair Castle.
I'm playing it here by on Fiddle, English Concertina & Hammered Dulcimer.

Anyone who enjoyed my rather clumsy efforts here, should check out the playing of master Champion Fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin, when she played this gorgeous tune at the start of her set at the recent 2016 Glenfiddich concert of Fiddle Champions
She starts at around 39 mins & absolutely stole the show ( for me at least ) with her breathtaking performance of that wonderful Strathspey - Tullochgorum. ... 
Watch & be amazed!  Smile

Well performed, sir. I was lucky enought to be at this final Glenfiddich event, Dick, and had a really wonderful experience enjoying the performances of all the past champions. I'd find it impossible to single out any one performer from the day's proceedings, and one of the highlights was the almost total lack of repetition in the individual performances. At competitions, especially where there is a named composer as was the case with the Glenfiddich Masters, we often find the same tunes being selected by the performers. This of course can be interesting in that we get to compare the different interpretations they offer. Off the top of my head I think I only remember "Donald McLean's Farewell to Oban" featuring more than once.
Lucky you John. 
It certainly was a fantastic concert & all the better for it not actually being a competition. 
It'll be interesting to see what sort of event replaces this one.
It was mentioned that the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra might be getting involved in some way, Dick. Will be interesting to see what transpires. William Grant and Sons are continuing with the piping competition, which seems to get more coverage than the fiddles, and said they would be looking at where they might invest in traditional playing in other ways. All credit to them for their 27 years of excellent sponsorship. For the £10 entry charge we got up to three hours of the finest playing, a very fine souvenir programme, and on the way out a miniature of 12-year-old Glenfiddich! Mine was savoured after the 3hour drive and ferry trip back home.

I was talking with a few folk at the event and we were wondering if the fiddle competition was perhaps too much weighted towards the north-east tradition at the expense of west coast playing. When you look at the named composers chosen the names of William Marshall, Gow and Skinner seem to come to the fore. One could argue that they wrote the best and most demanding fiddle music free from the restrictions of the nine notes of the pipe scale, but as a Westie I must own up to a real liking for the pipe tunes. There are many current composers producing some great music for the fiddle and alot of it sits well in the traditional genre.

Time will tell, but lets hope something continues.
£10 well spent, I'd say.  Cool

As for the styles represented, this is surely one of the many downsides to such music competitions. 
For example, in the early years of the Comhaltas competitions in Ireland, great Irish Music like that from the rich & varied music produced from Donegal, Cork & Kerry were not actually allowed to be played, which was an absolute disgrace. Also, some instruments now regarded as intrinsically part of the tradition were not permitted, but later were snuck in under the heading of miscellaneous, before finally being accepted. Another problem over the years, has been the actual acceptable or at least perceived to be suitable repertoire has always tended towards the long, complicated & awkward keyed tunes & the tendency for competitors to feel compelled to have to cram absolutely as much possible ornamentation as is humanly possible into each piece. A rather ugly spin off too, is how many young musicians far too often regard a session as simply an extension of the competition arena, so they dare not ever be seen to be playing any of the 'simple' tunes, ones which often have so much charm. For this reason, many sessions are sadly just a hell fire fight to see who can play the most, the fastest, the most difficult music. It's not the first time I've simply packed up & left a session, because all anyone seems to be willing to play is Reel after Reel after Reel, with perhaps an odd Jig thrown in as a token gesture. Very sad really, because a session can & should, in my book, take full advantage of the many moods such a rich diverse musical tradition has produced over the past few hundred years. 

As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of competitions, so would never have attended the Glenfiddich ones, but I certainly did enjoy & would have happily attended this concert.

So hopefully, any future events that come from this will hopefully make an effort to inclusive of all the many & varied styles of Fiddle music present in Scotland, from the Borders to Shetland. Of course that'll only make the job of any adjudicator so much the harder, but then for me it's an utterly impossible task to have to say one player is 'better' than another, especially at that level. It'll surely always come down to an individual judges preferred style, so should never really be regarded as anything more important than just a bit of fun.


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