Tuning up for Falkirk Fiddle Workshop's 25th anniversary celebrations

For the last 25 years Falkirk Fiddle Workshop has been playing and sharing the great fiddle music of Scotland and further afield.

By Fiona Dobie
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:30 pm

Now the organisation is looking to attract new members as it plans anniversary celebrations to mark its quarter of a century.

And to help it do just that, the workshop will be running a programme of free beginners classes from May, offering people the chance to learn to play the fiddle with professional tutors.

Morag McSween, chairperson, said she hopes that people will come along, give the fiddle a try and perhaps enjoy it as much as she does since she first picked it up 25 years ago.

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Falkirk Fiddle Workshop celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Pic: Michael Gillen.

She said: “I’m not exactly a founder member but I started quite soon after the fiddle workshop had started.

"I was really a total beginner when I went there and I have been going ever since.

"Someone had said a new workshop had started in Falkirk, I’d previously to that had started in a very rudimentary fashion had started to play the fiddle with a tutor. I was a total novice.

"When I was sitting at a fiddlers rally the big sound filled the hall and everyone was clapping and stamping their feet and I realised I wanted to be part of that.

The Fiddle Workshop meets in Arnotdale House on Tuesday evenings.

"I didn’t want to just listen but wanted to play.

"It’s allowed me to play with other people and pulled me on in different ways.”

Falkirk Fiddle Workshop began in 1997 and has been doing its part to keep Scots fiddle tunes alive and vibrant during that time.

The aim of the group is to promote traditional fiddle music to individuals who wish to develop their skills and playing techniques, and professional tutors lead sessions for different levels of ability.

Morag McSween, Chairperson.

The group currently has around 20 members coming from across the area including Falkirk, Larbert, Stirling, Bridge of Allan and Linlithgow.She continued: “Beginners don’t need to be scared.

"I was 48 when I started playing.

“It’s very relaxed, and although they pull you on, they don’t put you under pressure.

“I’m not a good musician and I accept that. All I can do is do my best and try and improve.

New beginners classes, funded by Creative Scotland through Tasgadh, are due to begin in May.

“I honestly think it’s the best thing for people to play music and to play it together, otherwise it’s just a solitary thing to do.

"I think Scottish music should be heard by more people.

"The fiddle is so versatile and that’s why it’s so popular.”

Morag explained they were looking at having the beginners classes split into two, one for total beginners and one for people they’d call ‘returners – those who perhaps haven’t picked up the fiddle since their school days.

The classes are due to begin on Tuesday, May 17 and run for five weeks.

She said: “The free classes are possible thanks to Creative Scotland’s Tasagdh funding.

The Falkirk Fiddle Workshop was founded in 1997.

"It’s thanks to them and it’s brilliant to be able to offer free beginners classes.

"All these people that have got fiddles lurking neglected in houses, during lockdowns they may have come across them, it would be great if they could donate the fiddle or even better come along with it and play it.

"These fiddles need to be played. They have got a voice that needs to come out.”

The last two years have posed challenges for the workshop, as it has for many organisations locally and across the country, with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group adapted and kept going with Zoom lessons while restrictions were in place.

However, now as restrictions have eased, more face-to-face gatherings and classes are able to take place and members meet most Tuesday evenings in their new venue – Arnotdale House in Dollar Park, run by the Cyrenians.

They had previously been meeting at the Station Hotel in Larbert.

"You have no idea of the difference being back meeting in person,” Morag continued.

"When you’re doing lessons online you can’t all play together as the way sound travels there’s delays in the sound.

"So we were taking lessons and would all be on mute apart from the tutor.

"You would be playing in your own house along with the tutor, but couldn’t hear others.

"Being back in person you realise just how much we have missed this big sound with us all playing together.

"The acoustics at Arnotdale House are wonderful.

"The rooms are bright, welcoming and spacious and we’ve fallen in love with it.”

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In between lockdowns last year, the workshop did manage to get out and play at the Linlithgow Folk Festival, and they hope going forward there will be more opportunities to let a wider audience hear their sound.

“We hadn’t played together for two years so we had a couple of meets before we went just to get our repertoire up to speed,” explained Morag.

"We were happy with the way we performed. It’s a really nice festival and the audience are always great.

"I hope we can play more in public going forward.

"It’s ordinary people around and about that never think about fiddle music, I would like to see coming in.

“I’m astonished some people know so little about our traditional music.”

Aside from the launch of the beginners classes, there are not yet any further firm plans for celebrating the workshop’s 25th anniversary, but Morag says they will definitely be looking to mark the milestone in the coming months in a variety of ways.

She added: “We’re pulling together ideas now that restrictions are easing.

"We will be looking for something each month, something a wee bit different and something with audience participation.

"The workshop is now looking forward to the next 25 years.”

To find out more about Falkirk Fiddle Workshop, and the free beginners classes, get in touch through its Facebook page or its website at www.falkirkfiddleworkshop.org.uk

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