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