Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Ron Gonnella: Fireside Fiddle Chats 3

Fiddle Chats 3a: A Gordon for Me (William Marshall)

1) Miss Admiral Graham
2) The Marquis of Huntly’s Snuffmill/Lady Loiusa Gordon/Charles of Pettyvaich
3) Lady Niven Lumsden of Auchindoir/The Earl of Fife/Lowe’s Hornpipe
4) Lament for Sir Harry Niven Lumsden of Auchindoir
5) Mr Morison of Bognie/Miss Stewart’s Jig of Bombay
6) Miss Ann Cameron of Balvenie/Mrs Stewart’s Strathspey of Inverogie
7) Mrs James McInness/Lochrynach
8) Mrs Maj L Stewart of Java/Mrs Maj L Stewart of Java

Fiddle Chats 3b: Playing Second Fiddle

1) Jamie Lyall (Peter Milne)
2) Mrs Campbell of Saddell (air)/Mrs Campbell of Saddell (jig) (Robert Mackintosh)
3) Miss Barstow/Miss Robertson (Robert Mackintosh)
4) Miss Rose/Mrs Oswald of Auchincruive (Robert Mackintosh)
5) Miss Mary Lee’s Delight (Abraham Mackintosh)/Miss Marianne Oliphant of Rossie (Robert Mackintosh)/The Hon Mrs Maule (Robert Mackintosh)
6) The Flooers o’ the Forest
7) Miss Agnes Louden (Robert Lowe)/Rachel Rae (John Lowe)
8) The Prince of Wales (Joseph Lowe)/Sauteuse (Joseph Lowe)
9) Dandy Dismount (Joseph Lowe)/Sir David Davidson of Cantray (John Lowe)

This is the third of Ron Gonnella's Scottish Fireside Fiddle Chats, this time on the subjects of William Marshall, and a handful of other Scots composers (the Lowe family, Peter Milne, and Abraham and Robert Mackintosh).


Monday, 28 May 2018

Ron Gonnella: Fireside Fiddle Chats 2

Fiddle Chats 2a: James Scott Skinner

1) Mrs Will/Sandy Grant of Battan
2) The Bonnie Lass o’ Bon Accord
3) The Queen’s Welcome to Invercauld
4) Sarona
5) The Fallen Chief
6) Death and Dr Hornbook
7) Donald MacPherson’s Lament
8) Sandy’s Goat/MacLeod and MacLay
9) Highland Cradle Song

Fiddle Chats 2b: Have You the Gaelic? (Cpt Simon Fraser of Knock)

1) The Fall of Foyers
2) The Rebel/Belladrum House/The Favourite Dram
3) Sitting In the Stern of a Boat
4) The General Gathering 1745
5) Prince Charles’s Last View of Scotland
6) Gudewife Admit the Wanderer
7) Lament for Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch
8) Angus Fraser/Three Sheeps Shanks
9) The Northern Meeting/The Sprightly Minnikin

The second Fireside Fiddle Chats from Ron Gonnella, this time exploring the music of James Scott Skinner, and on the other side, the music collected by Simon Fraser.

Ron Gonnella: Fireside Fiddle Chats 1

Fiddle Chats 1a: Robert Burns

1) There Was a Lad That was Born in Kyle
2) My Love She's But a Lassie Yet
3) I Am My Mammie's Ae Bairn/Killiecrankie
4) Afton Water
5) Comin' Thro' the Rye/Corn Rigs
6) Ay Waukin O
7) Green Grow the Rashes o/Willie Brew’d a Peck o’ Maut
8) My Wife’s a Winsome Wee Thing/O Kenmure’s On and Away, Willie
9) Awa’ wi’ Yer Witchcraft o’ Beauty’s Alarms/Last May a Braw Wooer
10) O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast
11) Guid Nicht and Joy Be Wi’ Ye A’

Fiddle Chats 1b: The Gow Family

1) Come Ye By Athole?
2) Atholl Volunteers
3) Coilsfield House
4) Miss Stewart of Grandtully/The Fairy Dance
5) Farewell to Whisky
6) Miss Graham of Inchbraikie/Lady Charlotte Campbell
7) Caller Herring
8) Miss Sally Hunter of Thurston/Miss Margaret Brown
9) Miss Lucy Johnston’s Compliments to Niel Gow

In the mid-1980s, Scots fiddler Ron Gonnella issued a series of cassettes on various aspects of fiddle music. I know of three of these, the first of which featured music associated with the poet Robert Burns, as well as music from the Gow family on the other side. Gonnella was a master fiddler, and these rare recordings are a joy. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Ron Gonnella: National Scotland (1985)

01 Loch Lomond 1
02 Loch Lomond 2
03 Miss Margaret Brown's Favourite/Lady Charlotte Murray
04 Flowers of Edinburgh
05 The White Cockade
06 The Yellow Haired Laddie
07 Will Ye No Come Back Again
08 Lady Madelina Sinclair/De'il Amang the Tailors
09 Major Graham of Inchbraikie
10 Corgarff Castle/Whistle O'er the Lave O't

An unusual solo recording by Gonnella, this was part of an LP which formed one of a large library of recordings by Chappell aimed at radio and television producers. So if, for example, a shot required a pipe band, a gaelic singer or a solo fiddler as background music, you would have a selection of recordings and snippets to choose from. The first track, "Loch Lomond" is played as an air, and then there is a 30-second "jingle" version of it.

The Ron Gonnella segment of this album is worth listening to, not least because it is completely solo (he usually used piano accompanists, and sometimes a bassist too).


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Bluebell Polka

One of the few times a traditional musician has entered the hit parade was when Jimmy Shand took his recording of The Bluebell Polka into the Top 20 in 1955. Many people have assumed that the tune is a Shand composition, but it predates him. Jimmy got a lot of his repertoire from the previous generation of Scottish melodeon players: The Wyper Brothers, Pamby Dick, James Brown, etc, and indeed, Brown recorded a version of the tune on a 78rpm record on the 19th April 1911, calling it Little Pet (Caledonian Polka) (I used to have a copy of that track but, frustratingly, I cannot find it right now).

Going back further in time, possibly the first appearance of the tune in print is in the popular Kerr's Merry Melodies Book 1, where it is attributed to no composer, although it does say "Pianoforte copies of above…" The attached is one of those sheets for piano, where the composer is clearly given as "F Stanley" (I have 

Irish musicians also recorded versions of the tune: fiddler James Morrison recorded it in the 1930s (along with Happy Birdie), and more recently by fiddler Jesse Smith. There is an old American polka by the name Little Pet (see here), but it's a different tune.

Although its origins are unclear, The Bluebell Polka captured the hearts of many people, musicians, dancers and listeners alike. It is still played and regarded fondly in Scotland to this day (I played a ceilidh last Saturday evening; during our break a singer made me do the Macarena while she sang a vocal version of the song!). 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Jimmy Shand: First Recording Session, London 1933

Jimmy Shand's first recording session was in 1933 with the Regal Zonophone company. His employer, Dundee music shop owner Charles Forbes, had agreed to underwrite the costs - unknown to Jimmy - and so the session took place in the Abbey Road studios in London. There was a pianist available, but on some tracks Jimmy asked if he could record unaccompanied. Two records were eventually issued, MR 1387 and MR 1388.

1) CAR2411 Bottom of the Punchbowl/My Love She's But a Lassie Yet/Fair Maid of Perth
2) CAR2412 Atholl Highlanders/Rakes of Kildare/Teviot Bridge
3) CAR2414 Londonderry Hornpipe/High Level Hornpipe

Presumably matrix no. CAR2413 was The Druken Piper/Laird o' Drumblair/Deil Amang the Tailors - mentioned in Shand's biography by David Phillips (Dundee 1976); alas, I have not got a copy of that track.


Other collections of Scottish 78rpm records:
Will Powrie, Scottish Melodeon from 78 rpm Recordings
Donald Davidson: Scottish Mouth Organ Classics
William Hannah: Scottish Melodeon 78s

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ron Gonnella, Scottish Fiddler

Fiddler  Ron Gonnella was originally from Dundee, and lived for many years in Crieff, Perthshire until his death in 1994. Gonnella’s great grandfather was a Robert Dewar, who was a shepherd near Tulliemet in Perthshire. Ron Gonnella recorded at least fifteen albums and taught at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff for many years. When he wasn’t there he was travelling the world playing Scottish fiddle, recording albums, and performing on radio, stage and dance halls. His great love was the music of the Golden Age of Scots fiddle, typified by the compositions of Niel and Nathaniel Gow, Robert Mackintosh, William Marshall and Joseph Lowe. Gonnella played in the Scottish Dance Band circuit with the bands of Jim Johnstone and Andrew Rankine. He had his own band for a while - featuring Iain MacPhail on accordion - but it was as a solo artist that he toured all over the world promoting Scots fiddle music. 

Until he married - late in his life - Gonnella would sit in his small flat and listen to his precious record collection and practise the fiddle tunes for his next recording. Top Scottish fiddlers such as Duncan Wood and Gregor Borland have told me of their admiration for his skills and techniques, and I think of him as a fiddler’s fiddler. The instrument he mostly played was a 1722 Italian violin made by Carlo Antonio Tanegia. I have been told that after his death there were a number of fiddlers desperate to try it to achieve the same wonderful tone that Gonnella produced; in the end it turned out to be a mediocre fiddle, and it was the musician who was special, not the instrument.

Ron Gonnella: A Discography
1964 An Edinburgh Fancy
1966 Scottish Violin Music
1973 Scottish Violin Music from the Gow Collections
1975 Fiddler's Fancy
1976 Fiddle Gems
1977 Ron Gonnella's Burns Night
1978 A Tribute to Niel Gow
1980 Scottish Fiddle Master
1981 Live from Crieff Hydro
1982 Ron Gonnella Plays the Fiddles of Gow, Marshall and Skinner
1983 Music for Eight Scottish Country Dances
1984 Ron Gonnella Playing a Stradivarius
1986 The Lad o' Kyle
1988 Ron Gonnella's International Friendship of the Fiddle
1992 Ron Gonnella's Fiddle Magic