Fiddlers mark 20 years with their very own compositions

We all know the feeling: you have a great idea in your head but can't get it down on paper.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 1st June 2017, 11:18 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:40 pm
Fine composition...members struck the right chords with tutor Gavin Marwick who helped them with their compositions. Picture: Michael Gillen
Fine composition...members struck the right chords with tutor Gavin Marwick who helped them with their compositions. Picture: Michael Gillen

Whether it’s a business plan, a new invention, or the next chart-topping hit, getting genius ideas out of your head is often tricky.

But it can be done – just ask members of Falkirk Fiddle Workshop who penned their own tunes to celebrate the club’s 20th anniversary.

The fiddle enthusiasts were guided by professional musicians and enlisted help from fellow members to write the scores.

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Mary McElroy, Falkirk Fiddle Workshop chairwoman, said: “The biggest thing we have done is the composition book which was suggested by a committee member last year.

“A few of us had composed before but many hadn’t.

“Gavin Marwick gave a lecture and had a chat with us about the process he goes through. Based on that, we decided we’d have a go, with Gavin giving one-to-one support to those who were struggling.

“One person had the tune in his head but couldn’t get it down on paper so people helped him and we also discovered MuseScore, a piece of music composition and notation software.

“Now, we have 20 compositions in the book.

“Having Gavin there was good as he has written many, many hundreds of tunes. He was an inspiration.”

Falkirk Fiddle Workshop was founded in 1997 on the back of similar ventures, including Glasgow Fiddle Workshop and Edinburgh’s music project.

Sandy Harvey, one of the founding members and tutor said: “In the early days, we thought it would be good to have a fiddle workshop in the central area.

“We had a few exploratory meetings with the Glasgow members and got some ideas about how to get started.”

Initially, the fiddle workshop met at the community education base in Falkirk’s Park Street before moving to Falkirk College, then the Boys Brigade unit in Carronvale and Stenhousemuir.

It has met at its current home – The Station Hotel in Larbert – for the past five years.

Sandy said: “When we started we really weren’t sure it would take off; it was quite experimental.These were the days before social media, so we advertised in newspapers and with posters in libraries.

“Elenor MacDonald, as well as being a founding member, was also instrumental in providing us with advice about promoting ourselves.

“We have had our ups and downs over the years, but here we are 20 years on.”

Recent years have seen Falkirk Fiddle Workshop perform at high-profile events. In 2014, it was approached to take part in a concert at the Helix Park as the Queen’s baton relay passed through Falkirk on its way to Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games.

The featured music was a piece commissioned from Falkirk-born folk musician Brian McNeill, entitled The Kelpies Suite.

The following year, the workshop took part in a concert featuring the same piece in the Town Hall as part of Falkirk’s “Creative Place” award.

Members play at the Howgate Shopping Centre regularly, as well as at the Falkirk Wheel and at Linlithgow Folk Festival.

Central to the success of workshop-goers has been the support of resident and visiting tutors.

It has played host to an array of talented performers and teachers including Douglas Lawrence, Lorna Swan, David May, Sandy Harvey, Brain McNeill, and Gavin Marwick.

Gavin, who helped the players with their compositions, said: “Falkirk Fiddle Workshop has always been a hotbed of fiddle enthusiasm. They are a very encouraging bunch who make it all about the music.

“Supporting the members through composition was a challenge for me; I have never done a composition workshop before. Some couldn’t read or write music but the members were really keen and surmounted those challenges. The pieces are lovely and delightful, mainly because they are the first tunes people have written.”

With around 20 members from Falkirk, Larbert, Stirling, Bridge of Allan and Linlithgow, the workshop is now looking forward to the next 20 years.

Mary added: “We want to encourage Scottish, Irish and Celtic music and support anyone who wants to pick up the fiddle.”