June is recording month

Last week the pibroch team of Bill Taylor (harps, lyre) and Clare Salaman (hurdy-gurdy, medieval fiddle, nyckelharpa) were recording with Barnaby in Huddersfield, and next week the fiddle band will be recording in the wonderful acoustic of Crichton Collegiate Church in Midlothian. But first there’s the little business of a gig to play.

poster for 19 June concertOn 6 June, with the help of Talitha MacKenzie, Alyona Shmakova, and some folks from the Traditional Music Forum of Scotland, we were able to try out some of the late 18th–century fiddle repertoire with its original dance figures, which was enormous fun.

And this Friday, we’ll do the same with the whole band and the audience at the Cottier Chamber Project. Our team of players is pretty formidable, some of them getting to grips with 18th-century setup instruments for the first time, and others with decades of experience of playing them.

pipes, recorder: Callum Armstrong
fiddles: Mairi Campbell, Aaron McGregor, Lauren MacColl, Shona Mooney, Marie Fielding, Alison McGillivray (bass fiddle)
fortepiano: David McGuinness

I won’t be playing piano for the dancing (I might get on the floor and join in instead), but in between the dances we’ll be playing domestic repertoire from the same time, some of which was published as souvenirs of major dancing events, so that you could play the tunes at home with the piano that you’d already danced to at the Assembly Rooms. So, a busy couple of weeks ahead …

We’re off!

Finally, after years of preparation (yes, years) ‘bass culture’ is launched and under way. Barnaby is ensconced in Cambridge, Karen has two days a week away from her job at the Conservatoire, we have two very distinguished professors keeping a kindly and perceptive eye on the proceedings, and we have a budget – let the discoveries begin …

Karen and I have already been poring over 18th- and 19th-century fiddle books to get a rough overview of the kinds of material that we’re going to be dealing with. Last week up on floor 12 in Glasgow University Library, the nice folks at Special Collections gave us a room to ourselves with some key sources. It was the first time I’d looked through Alexander McGlashan’s fiddle books, and I was struck by the pure, uncompromisingly basic but brazenly confident style of the lines for bass fiddle. ‘King’ McGlashan’s band can’t have mucked about when they were playing the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms in the 1770s and Nathaniel Gow was serving his musical apprenticeship. Nathaniel’s own Select Collection (c.1815) includes, amongst many other things, a jig by Corelli, which he included because it was his father Niel’s favourite.

The Duke of Buccleuch has kindly lent the University a selection of music manuscripts from the Montagu Music Collection, and on a brief look through one of those, I came across a variant bassline for Miss Grace Stewart’s Minuet by Robert Mackintosh. It looks like it may be a later, slightly more elegant version than the one published in his Airs Minuets Gavotts and Reels of 1783.  The original was fresh in my mind as in the past week we’ve finally mastered Concerto Caledonia’s Mackintosh album for release in the spring.