ENTERTAINMENT on almost every street corner – a bold claim but with fiddlers from across the globe about to descend on North-east Scotland, it’s one which will be music to the ears of residents and visitors to Aberdeen this July.
The region is all set to stage the most ambitious programme of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) in Scotland with more than 150 events, and around 100 artists representing traditions from Scotland, the Baltic, Scandinavia, Spain and across the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada, USA, and Mexico, and even Africa and India.
The top fiddlers will be involved in masterclasses, concerts, workshops, talks, sessions and tours, with a heavy slant on engaging with local audiences and sharing the festival’s sparkle with the masses through many free events.
Novel approaches like Random Acts of Violins – almost like a free ‘busking trail’ of musicians and dancers of all ages who will share their talents on the streets of the city – will see street performances popping up in public places. The city’s pubs and bars will also host musicians tuning up for casual sessions.
There will be some fantastic musical line ups for free – like at the historic St Andrew’s Cathedral, where top talent will be performing daily; daily lunchtime concerts at the Lemon, and a family ceilidh dance at St Margaret’s Hall.
In addition, there’s been a doubling in size of the festival offering across Aberdeenshire, stretching from Macduff to the Mearns and Buchan to Braemar.
Take the festival’s Days Oot programme, which could be described as a fiddlers’ bus tour. It will explore a different part of Aberdeenshire each day, allowing passengers to experience the region’s musical heritage.
Departing from Aberdeen, each tour will be hosted by a guide who will relate stories of tunes and composers, with live music by NAFCo musicians providing a soundtrack to the stops at historic sites and landscapes along the route.
The first tour ventures into Deeside to share stories of James Scott Skinner, one of the most influential fiddlers in Scottish traditional music who came to be known as the 'Strathspey King'. This coach trip will include a visit to his grave, a coffee stop at Crathes Castle, tunes at The Mill o Hirn, as well as Sunhoney Stone Circle and the Brig o Feugh. The tour will culminate in a short visit to the Scott-Skinner Museum at Banchory before heading to The Barn for the NAFCo Northern Crossings concert.
Carley Williams, Festival Director, North Atlantic Fiddle Convention 2018, said: “Like April’s Nuart Street Art Festival showcased the work of local, national and international artists around the city centre of Aberdeen, the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention will do the same, ensuring the sound of music sweeps through the city centre, thanks to pop-up performances from our convention guests.
“Our Random Acts of Violins is a tongue-in-cheek name to draw attention to bringing the festival atmosphere to a broader audience.
“We want to engage with the community and offer opportunities for local residents, and summer visitors, to be able to enjoy an artform that has such an influence in Scotland, and the North-east, in particular.
“That influence will be explored in our Days Oot bus tours when hosts and musicians will tell the region’s musical stories.
“Add to that the chance to attend a range of different concerts at venues including The Lemon Tree, His Majesty’s Theatre, St Andrew’s Cathedral, city centre open air locations, local village halls and the medieval campus of the University of Aberdeen’s historic buildings and other community spaces of Aberdeenshire and it’s a wonderful chance to enjoy the finest global fiddle music in some very special settings.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland's Director of Events, said: “EventScotland is delighted to be welcoming the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention back to Aberdeen. Scotland is the perfect stage for events and the 2018 Festival programme is testament to this, celebrating the North east’s rich cultural heritage, and showcasing the very best local, national and international musicians. In Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 it is also great to see so many performance opportunities for young people, putting their fantastic talents and achievements in the spotlight.”
John Harding, Head of Lifelong, Learning & Leisure at Aberdeenshire Council, added: “Aberdeenshire Council recognises culture as being key in delivering on its strategies around both Sense of Place and Regeneration. Within this, and working with creative partners in the region, we have identified Doric and traditional music as a key area in which the local authority has both opportunities and obligations for the stewardship of our cultural heritage, and to ensure the future vibrancy of these unique cultural assets.
“We are delighted to be supporting the festival and are looking forward to a very beneficial partnership with NAFCo in future, building a longer-term relationship on our successful past collaborations.”
The convention returns to Aberdeen, the city of its birth, for the first time in a decade with a massive programme reflecting how the event has grown and stature, with concerts, ceilidhs, dance events, workshops, masterclasses, academic talks, pop up performances and other special events. The festival reached beyond the city and into Aberdeenshire and runs from 11-15 July.
For more information about NAFCo, visit its website on www.northatlanticfiddle.com