The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra on stage in The Usher Hall, Edinburgh at Hogmanay 2018.  Submitted photo

LEWISTON — The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra will celebrate its 40th anniversary as “tradition bearers” for Scottish music by touring the USA and Canada in 2020. The tour will performa at the Gendron Franco Center for Heritage and the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1, after the opening concert of the tour at the Portsmouth Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, March 31. There will also be several more dates in Canada.

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra leader and soloist Yla Steven Submitted photo

June Nelson, leader of the second violin section of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Submitted photo

The SFO have been at the forefront of promoting and performing traditional Scottish music since 1980. Formed by John Mason MBE, the SFO grew out of the mass Fiddlers Rallies in the 1970s, which had become a feature of the Gaelic Mod, and they are now recognized as “Scotland’s leading fiddle orchestra.” They will bring 50 musicians travelling from Boston to Montreal playing seven concerts over a 12-day period, performing programs of Scottish traditional music. They will collaborate with local groups to perform their unique concert arrangements for orchestra and pipe band.

The cost of bringing 50 musicians on tour from Scotland is approximately $180 000, which will have a huge impact on financial reserves for the next five years. This cost will be underwritten by members, the SFO financial reserves from UK concert income, a travel grant from the Scottish Government, Crowd Funding and sponsorship. Any further financial assistance would be welcome.

Singer Dennis Haggerty of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Submitted photo

Scottish Fiddle Orchestra conductor Blair Parham Submitted photo

Singer Collette Ruddy of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Submitted photo

Under the baton of conductor Blair Parham, the orchestra will comprise fiddles, accordions, cellos, basses, flutes, piano and drums. They will be joined by acclaimed soloists Yla Steven on fiddle, mezzo-soprano Colette Ruddy and tenor Denis Haggerty. The SFO produce a unique sound playing traditional music, slow airs, marches, strathspeys, reels, jigs and the songs of Scotland, and also perform unique stirring concert arrangements for combined orchestra and pipe band.

The SFO perform annually in Scotland’s major concert venues plus concerts in England and Ireland. They do short summer tours out with major venues. Last summer their Northern Nights Tour took them to Moray, Orkney and Shetland. They tour internationally and have visited China, Australia, Canada and the USA, the last North American Tour being 2008. The SFO has broadcast and recorded extensively, with over 30 CDs and DVDs being produced. Their most recent DVD, “A Grand Night in Glasgow,” was released in September 2019.

During their travels in North America they will give workshops for young musicians and host disability group members at rehearsals, widening access for people who find it difficult to attend formal concerts due to physical, mental or behavioural constraints. This initiative has proved popular at their UK concert venues.

For example here is one of many messages received from support groups after the most recent concert in Edinburgh; “We had a wonderful time at the orchestra’s rehearsal on Saturday. To sum up the impact your music has on our members — by the end, Rose, who has very poor mobility and needs constant support to stand and walk, was dancing in front of her seat, while holding onto the back of the seats in front and behind. Amazing indeed. Thank you for inviting us, organising our visit and allowing us to enjoy your music making. It really is a privilege. I am sure that Saturday evening’s performance would have been wonderful and we wish you well for the rest of your concerts for this year. Very best wishes, Moira — On behalf of The Singing Groups and The Forget Me Notes.”

The SFO has raised well over a million pounds sterling for partner charities from collections at concerts and impromptu performances. The SFO hope to be Ambassadors for Scotland while they visit locations that already have strong ties of heritage to Scotland, principally aiming to entertain while reinforcing existing cultural links and promoting Scottish music at a time when the international language of music can cut through some of the uncertainty of global politics.

Reserved tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Franco Center box office by calling (207) 689-2000 or online at The main doors will open at 6 p.m. The Gendron Franco Center is located at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston.

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