Members' News January 2009Looking forward and looking back
So that's another year over, blah blah blah. You don't really want a resume of 2008 do you? And a look forward to 2009? You do? Why can't you just go to the Old News and Past Gigs pages and there you will find everything you need to know, about all those gigs, the new tunes, the workshops, the lottery work, the jokes and everything. Having maintained all that stuff for another year you shouldn't expect me to spend my precious time condensing it in to the easy read version just so you don't have to. What do you take me for - a mug?
OK so here we go. Thirty one gigs. Our lowest number for some years but still a respectable list for a group like ours. Fifteen were ceilidhs, about six were for a limited number of players and the rest, about ten were for everyone. That last figure seems to be a bit low - less than one a month. We have been letting you guys off lightly - look forward to more gigs in 2009. Somehow we'll get you all out there, exposed to the public (if you know what I mean.) We managed to keep the Friday sessions going for well over 40 weeks. If you take into account the Friday gigs, that means that on most weeks BFG met somewhere and played music, which is a good thing to have done and quite possibly has helped make the world a better place, or at least less bad than it might have been. The Allanbank sessions have not come to much but several of us have met regularly at the Tappit Hen in Dunblane on Tuesdays. What next?
The workshops with Mike Vass seemed to be popular so we'll do some more in 2009.
We were nominated in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2008 - we didn't win but what the heck we got a mention which was nice. Next year we might go one better.
I cannot remember any year recently when we learned more tunes than in 2008 and we will continue with the monthly tune lists in 2009.
We are going to have a weekend away and tune-making sessions in the spring.
The biggest change in 2009 will be ceilidhs. By the summer we will have only one remaining young member of the first two ceilidh bands. Not only that, Jan, who has been on guitar for years will be away to live in Canada. So we have a big challenge to get another new ceilidh band together and until we do we will be taking on fewer ceilidhs for weddings and such like. This will hit our income - the recession comes to BFG - but we will make up for it somehow. I would suggest robbing a bank, but that isn't likely to be as lucrative these days.
We began 2008 by asking all our members what they liked about BFG and what they wanted to change. Over the year we have tried to take these ideas on board and by and large have done so. If we have not got it all right yet then just keep telling us what you want.
Thanks to Karen, Isobel and Cindy who joined the Executive Committee, and to Jan and Andrew who have have been on it now for a looooooonnnnnnng time. In 2009 we may need so more help, especially with gigs so please don't be shy.
Every so often we do a recall on fiddles. Right now we are very short of fiddles of all sizes so if you have one that you no longer use please give it back. If you know of other people who have them but don't come anymore please encourage them to come but if they don't, get their fiddles back. We are putting together a bunch of storm-troopers to do raids around Perthshire and beyond to recover our fiddlesby force if need be.
New tune learning list
The current monthly list is on the members' page. We'll stick with that for now. But don't forget to play the tunes we learned in 2008. That way they will stay in your heads so that when you need them you will know where to look.
Several for everyone coming up - watch the gigs page. There will be a few changes early in January. The first gig is on Monday 5th in Dunblane. Everyone welcome.
New Year Honours
The nominations are in and your committee will be soon be announcing the lucky (and unlucky) winners.
In December we posed the following question. There have been amusing answers but nothing correct. The best answer will receive a prize. The tune we know as Ruby With the Eyes That Sparkle was given that name by the makers of the film, Cold Mountain. In fact the proper name for the tune is Shove That Pig's Foot A Little Farther In the Fire. Question - what does that title mean? (There is a correct answer and a prize for the first member that emails it to BFG.)
Members' News February 2009FRIDAY PRACTICES AND SESSIONS
Since New Year redecoration has forced us out of the hall and in to the Blackford Hotel on three Fridays. This was unexpected and it was just fortunate that the hotel could take us. In the end it worked really well and many of you said how much you enjoyed it. Could it be anything to do with the bar? Anyway, as of last Friday we have decided to meet more regularly at the hotel. Thanks to the proprietors we are going to use the function room at the hotel every other week. The Fridays page has an updated calendar. The plan is that we will be at the Hotel on the first and third Fridays each month and at the hall on the second and fourth Fridays. (The fifth Fridays will be fixed nearer the time.) This arrangement has been booked for the next 2 months initially.
How often have I said that the Friday sessions seem to have got busier? Every so often we have a little boost of new members (welcome to them all) and returners to swell our numbers and that is what has happened recently. What amazes me is that we have had about eight or more new members and have found time to help them and at the same time we have learned five new tunes together. Not only that the late session kept people playing until about 11.00pm. There is life in the old BFG yet.
Last year we had a couple of evening sessions with Mike Vass. We hope to do the same thing again soon - assuming he can make it. We'll keep you posted a bout dates.
Signing in - We are asking everyone who comes on Fridays to sign an attendance sheet. This isn't to check up on you but will help us keep membership records in order and will assist with our child protection policy. If you want to know more about why this is important ask us at the hall.
New tune learning list
The monthly tune list has been hopelessly optimistic, with far more tunes than we could really manage. At least it has given a bit of structure to what we learn. As a result we have learned more new tunes and that is good. We will continue with the list and the new Fridays calendar will have the tunes most likely to be on the menu each week. If there is something you particularly want to learn then let me (Andrew) know.
January has been a busy month with six gigs. It all started on 5th January with the Celtic Connections Night at Dunblane Cathedral Hall. What a great turn out too from BFG. I didn't count but there were over 20 players and by and large it all worked well. As ever though with a big number we all have to listen carefully so that we play in time with each other. And after that you should all learn to smile as well!!
There was one other "everyone" gig, at Glencairn, and although we had a small turn out, it was enough for such a small venue. Then there were two Burns suppers (well done Jazzy, Freya and Jan for taking the high pressure formal dinner in Perth with the VIPs) and well done Matthew, Jenny and Andrew for doing the community event, and thanks to Ian W who stepped in at the very last minute to do the singing as David L had the flu. We had one ceilidh and a SWRI party too. All in all a very satisfactory start to 2009
Gigs to come to. Dunning New School ceilidh - Thursday 5th Feb. One hour of ceilidh dances.
Gigs to get ready for. Neil Gow festival, March 21st. A programme of what we are going to play will go on the members' page and will be discussed at the Friday session on 6th February.
In 2007 we had a really good tune writing workshop with the composer and fiddler Marie Fielding. Not only was the day a great deal of fun but we also managed to make a book of tunes. So we are going to do it again on Saturday 14th March from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm at the Blackford Hotel. We have not worked out a cost for the day but kids will go free and adults will be expected to pay for lunch. BFG will meet the other costs of the workshop.
Before I start, I had better say that this section is not aimed at anyone in particular. One of the things that we all want to do is to play fast. It seems that the younger you are the faster you want to go and the more likely you are to be able to do it well. Generally there is nothing wrong with speed, provided that the music stays intact. But there are a couple of problems to watch out for. The first problem is when you don't realise how fast you are going. This can stop others from joining in and sometimes you cannot keep it up yourself. We have all been there. So its fine for a bit fun but not a great musical experience. The second problem is speeding up. Occasionally this is done deliberately, to put a bit of life into the music, but very often it is not done on purpose, it just happens. We all speed up from time to time and if you are leading a set in a session or playing solo it doesn't much matter. The problems begin when people do this in a group piece and it leads to people playing out of time. It is also a bit of a session taboo - be warned.
Speeding up is not related to age - everyone is capable of doing it and it tends to happen most when people are playing something that they can't quite manage or when they are concentrating very hard on their own playing. Melody players and those accompanying on guitars or percussion can all do it. Once it begins the speeding up process is hard to stop and tunes can become less about music and more about survival. The thing is that a good tune played well at modest speed sounds better than one played badly but fast.
There is a real advantage to learning tunes slowly. It gives you time to learn the tune and once you can play a tune competently you can speed it up with ease. It you start too fast you will never master the tune or the speed. So learn slowly - if you find that too easy then keep slow and concentrate on tuning, tone and ornaments.
Here is some very good advice, taken from an Irish music page (listed on BFG links page).
There is more sound (no pun intended) advice on the same web page. I suggest that you have a read. It is about Irish music but applies to everything we play. http://www.rogermillington.com/siamsa/brosteve/meditation.html If you don't have a metronome (a mechanical time keeping device) you might want to get one and play along to its beat. It is a frightening but useful experience.
Next time I may talk about tuning and keeping in tune.
New Year Honours
Thanks to everyone for making the NYHs a bit of fun. If you didn't get a mention, don't worry, we'll pick on you next time. A full list of awards will go on the members' page shortly.
We have started to do a deliberate round up of fiddles that we have not seen for a long time. Thanks to those who have returned fiddles already. We have got about 10-12 back so far and expect another 10 soon. This will keep us going for a while. Believe it or not there is a world shortage at the moment, so buying new is getting more difficult and more expensive.
We have also started a new register of instruments on loan and we may ask for yours at some stage so that it can be numbered.
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Members' News March 2009Events this month
The tune-making workshop will be held on Saturday 14th March at the Blackford Hotel. Still some spaces. Come if you can - the last one was a great day and we have loads of good tunes from it. Marie Fielding is leading the event and she asks that you come with a tune or an idea for a tune and an item that is special to you - an ornament, picture, or similar thing..
See gigs - the Neil Gow Festival is on 21st March. BFG is playing in the evening but it will be worth going up early for the afternoon concert.
The VIckers going away ceilidh is on Friday 27th March - all regular BFG members are invited.
The new format seems to be working well and the hotel evening s are particularly good with lots of tune playing. The tune learning list has been revised a little (see Members' Page). To be honest it was a bit ambitious to think that we could learn 5-6 tunes each month.
There were three gigs in February. The first was a wee ceilidh at Dunning Primary School. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and have had two lovely letters from P2/3 which we will display at the hall. The next two gigs were both full ceilidhs but with rather different results. At the first there was almost no dancing but lots of songs (tank you David - but then it was your gig) and the other in Blackford had more dancing. We were able to introduce new ceilidh band players at both gigs which is exactly what we want. You would be surprised how many members could play ceilidhs with just a little more practice and knowing a few more tunes. That is where the monthly tune list comes in
Playing tips - Tuning and pitch
This section should be called the Pot and Kettle. But in the BFG spirit of self-help and working together here are some thoughts on playing in tune.
Last month we had a quick look at speed (see old news) and how and why to avoid playing too fast. Now we will look at tuning. Every note has a correct pitch, that is when it is in tune. If you don't play in tune you will not sound very good. If you are playing in a group and everybody plays in tune it sounds great. There are three things you need to consider so that you can play in tune.
Now your fiddle is in tune and you are going to play it. For your tuning to have been worth it you will have to put your fingers in the right places for each note. Several things will make this more difficult. Playing too fast will often mean playing the notes a bit out of tune. If you play slowly you will be able to hear the notes better and "teach" your fingers to go to the right place. Without lifting your finger bow a long note and rock the finger a little to see how the note changes. You have to be quite precise to get the note in tune. The next thing is to listen carefully. If you are concentrating too much on reading music or something else you may not be listening carefully enough to your own playing. Lastly, listen to other players, especially the good ones. They are much more likely to be in tune than you, so if what you are playing is not quite in tune with them check your own finger positions.
It is not easy to hear your own playing and at the same time to listen to others but it really is essential if you are going to play in tune. Obviously the less effort you have to spend on reading music or remembering the notes the easier it gets.
For beginners we often put little strips of sticky label across the finger board to show the right place for your fingers. This can be a good way to start off.
At BFG we spend very little time teaching technique, such as playing with a good tone or in tune. It is really important that you practice these things so that when we play together it sounds good. Listen to yourself carefully. Use a tuner to test how well you play in tune. Play long notes to see how you stay in tune and try moving your finger a little to adjust your tuning.
We have had quite a few fiddles back. Thanks to everyone who has helped with this. We will be asking you to sign a new instrument register soon.
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Members' News April 2009Contents: Gigs Tune Writing Fridays Beginning of a new era Hints on rhythm
The highlight for March was the Niel Gow Festival in Dunkeld on 21st. Twenty BFG members turned up to play the final set of the evening concert, following on from Jonnie Hardie, Ronan Martin and Marie Fielding. With the audience already warmed up to some great music we really had to be on form. There never was a better time for it to "be alright on the night" and so it was. We played a great set - 7 sets or tunes all of which went well, and then Jonnie, Ronan and Marie plus Pete Clark joined for a final romp through a set of six reels to finish. What a great gig. If anyone has any photos could they send them to me - although I had a photographer in the audience the camera battery went flat after two pictures.
Hard to top that but we managed it. The Vickers emigration party at the Aytoun Hall on 27th was a last chance (for the moment) to remind Mr and Mrs Vickers that we take a very dim view of people absconding without permission. With BFG members old and new there was music all evening, dancing and time to eat and chat. Another BFG triumph. (See below).
The other gig of the month was an epic for the SWRI at Kirkintilloch. Two long sessions in front of 60+ and a relatively small array of players. Sorry I couldn't make it - work is getting in the way of life. Well done all those who made it, the women were delighted.
In addition to the normal Friday sessions we will be starting Sunday sessions once a month for the ceilidh band. Details are on the Members' Page. These sessions are to rehearse the band not for tune learning and are open to people who are able to play enough sets at dance speed. We will continue to learn new ceilidh tunes at the Friday sessions so anyone who wants to will pick up enough tunes to make it to the ceilidh band at some stage.
Isobel organised another tune writing session with Marie Fielding on 14th March. A dozen of us were there, which was about the right number as Marie was able to give one to one help through the day. Everyone managed a tune and some were amazing. We may have to add one or two to the BFG repertoire soon.
The new format seems to be working well. If the Hotel are happy to allow us to keep going there on a Friday we will carry on with the week there, week at the hall arrangement. Check the Fridays page for details. If it isn't clear on the web where you are supposed to be, go to the Hall first.
Tips on Playing (No. 3)
The last two news pages have included hints on speed and tuning.(See Old News) This month we turn to rhythm. I am not going to cover the differences between jigs, reels, waltzes and so on - that will come another time. What I want to do is to look at how you create a rhythm in the music rather than worrying about what the basic rhythms are.
A tune really consists of two things - the notes and the rhythm. We all spend many hours getting the notes right but a lot less time making sure that we have the right rhythms, which is a shame because the rhythm is essential to the feel and sound of the music. By this I don't mean getting the notes to right length, which is important, but working out where to place the emphasis in the tune and how to tweak the note length slightly so that the tune gets the right lilt or swing, it is about bowing (fiddles) and blowing (whistles and stuff).
Rhythm is about three things.
Emphasising the beat. If you play a tune without varying the degree of emphasis given to the notes it will sound very dull. It is usual to "attack" some notes with more effort. Some tunes will have groups of two or four notes, others groups of three. It is normal to give emphasis to the first note or beat of each group. Other beats will also get emphasised a little - its is important to listen carefully to good players to hear what they do. Copy them. If you start tapping out the rhythm of a tune you will find that you tap more loudly or firmly for some notes and that this will create a regular pattern. That is the basic pattern you need to create when playing the tune. Try exaggerating the rhythm at first as this will help you take control of what is going on. You may then find that some others notes need a minor emphasis within the basic rhythm. This is step one.
Swing or lilt. In jazz this would be called "groove" and it is the slight lengthening of some notes and the related shortening of their neighbour. It can go hand in hand with the emphasis described above. In some tunes the pairing of notes gives the same feel as a pendulum that is not quite balanced - an uneven ticking of an old fashioned clock. In other tunes the lilt affects groups of three notes. All this means is that despite what is written down in the music the notes that look the same may vary slightly in length, but to a regular beat, feel or groove. This is the swing or lilt. If you don't add this to traditional music it will sound lifeless. Once again you need to listen to others and copy the good ones.
Phrasing. This is much the most difficult aspect of rhythm and it requires you to think about bowing if you are a fiddler, and breathing and tonguing if you play flute or whistle. Box players and pluckers also need to think about their technique too. In music some notes run together smoothly, with no gaps between them. Other notes are slightly separated. These differences are determined by whether you change direction of the bow or whether you change your breathing and use of your tongue (obviously not for fiddlers). As a fiddler if you change bow direction for every note the music will be missing an essential part of the rhythm. Not only that, you will find yourself using an up bow when you really need to emphasize the note with a down bow. So you must slur some notes together - that is play them without changing bow direction. Different styles of playing use different bowing techniques. Listen carefully to good players not just so that you can copy the notes and any lilt they use, but also to hear how they break the music into phrases by their bowing. You may need to get help from a good player to show you how this works. In time we may put some examples here on the web too.
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Members' News May 2009Contents this month: Gigs AGM Friday sessions Tutors Playing tips (No. 4)
There was only one gig in April, the annual trip to Letham in Perth. There was a fair turnout of players and a modest audience, mainly comprising ladies of mature years. Which you would have thought would have meant added respect from the band and no jokes about "grannies". And you would therefore have been wrong. We may never be invited back. Tom made valiant efforts to play some of the right chords at the right time, Andrew managed to start playing the wrong tune twice, just in case nobody noticed the first time, but otherwise the music was indifferent to reasonable. Let's just say it was an interesting gig which everyone enjoyed.
Annual General Meeting
The AGM was held on Friday 24th April. Minutes will be published on the Members' page soon, along with the revised constitution and child protection policy. The main business was as follows;
A trip to Cape Breton in Canada was now more likely and organisers will be sought for this.
Last year was another good one - busy sessions, 35 gigs and lots of tunes.
We have the makings of a demo CD now.
Nomination for the Trad Music Awards was a highlight.
Funds remain healthy.
The new committee is;
Karen Yearsley and Isobel Wilton (Joint Convenor)
Andrew Bachell (Treasurer)
Andrew Sloan (Secretary)
Learning tunes and playing over the old stuff remain the main purpose of the Friday sessions. You may not have noticed but the rate of tune learning over the past four months has been impressive. At least 16 tunes have been taught often by a flute player which may explain the range of bowing techniques now in use. But never fear, help is at hand as we are arranging for some tutoring for you all.
Tips on Playing (No. 4)
Over the last three months we have covered speed, tuning and the rhythm that comes from placing accents on certain notes and phrases. We will now look a the rhythm as is comes from the arrangement of notes in the tune - what makes a reel different from a jig, waltz or Strathspey. Music theory is a bit of a dry subject and you don't need to know much, but it helps to understand a little about the in-built rhythms of tunes.
(Sorry - this article is not ready at the time of going to press, but it will be added to the news page as soon as possible.) Why not go to the Old News pages and look at the previous Tips on Playing (Feb, March and April 2009.)
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(Added 14 June.) Had a call from Jan (anyone remember her? Didn't think so). Anyway she says that there is no music in Canada, not that she can get to anyway because it is just constant hard work and toil. No wonder she is missing BFG on a Friday night. Let that be a lesson to us all. Don't let anything come between you and getting to a BFG session. Perhaps we have discovered the route to true happiness and fulfillment. (If anyone feels that learning the fiddle brings true happiness and fulfillment could they please come forward and explain just how bad their life must have been before they came to BFG.) Well all joking aside, Jan wants me to pass on her best wishes - which I am delighted to do. I think I am safe to say although we never liked her anyway that she is welcome to our best wishes in return. Watch out for the July news page - there may be links to the Canadian branch of BFG.
We deliberately took on very few gigs in May - those of you who have exams might have been studying and we didn't want to blamed for any sub-standard performances. So all we had was one ceilidh, for Tom's grandson's christening. The ungrateful little mite didn't dance once! But it was a momentous occasion as the band had a new guitarist and the bare minimum of fiddle players. Supplementary melody included flute/whistle as usual but also concertina. So how well did the new band get on? Audience verdict was good. Friends and family thought so too. As for me, I reckon that the band played as well perhaps more tightly than it has for a while so I think we can say that the ceilidh band is still alive and well.
Lots of gigs for June - watch the gigs page and come and play.
The new committee is;
Karen Yearsley and Isobel Wilton (Joint Convenor)
Andrew Bachell (Treasurer)
Andrew Sloan (Secretary)
Make these people work for you - insist on regular action updates, key performance indicators and all that rubbish.
A sub-committee is now working on the possibility of going to Canada in 2010. To make this trip a reality we will need to get people to commit to it, to raise money and to start sorting out dates and options for travel. Speak to Ian, Linda, Kathleen or Carlos if you have ideas.
Teachers are like buses - you wait for ages and then half a dozen come at once. Because of this the Friday sessions have had added help from Kay, Sarah, Ruaridh, Freya and Matthew. Not only are we learning tunes at an increasing rate, but we are learning more about playing with style.
The monthly learning list is still being followed. The choice of tunes on the list is mainly mine (Andrew that is) based on what we use for gigs. If there is anything that you would like to learn, preferably from the music books, let us know and we will add it to the monthly list. A new version is on the members' page. (I have received a request for some slow airs. Does anyone have any suggestions? If not we will learn a tune called Coilsfield House. I'll put the dots on the web.)
The tunes that Ruaridh has been teaching will all appear on the music pages eventually. Before then they will appear on the Stirling Area Community Music Project (CMP) web page www.communitymusic.org.uk The CMP has involved Freya and Matthew mainly in getting some one to one lessons and then passing on their tunes and technique to others. It would be useful to know how well you all think that has gone and if we were to do it again would you volunteer to be trained as a trainer? We are grateful to Scottish Arts Council and Jo Miller at the Riverside Music Project in Stirling for sorting out the funding for the project.
Tips on Playing (No. 4)
Once again this article is not ready at the time of going to press, but it will be added to the news page as soon as possible. Why not go to the Old News pages and look at the previous Tips on Playing (Feb, March and April 2009.)
The web site is the best place for us to keep up to date information and details about playing tunes, learning tunes, the ceilidh band and other useful things. We can add information of changing fiddle strings, care of bows and fiddles and the like. For a while I have wondered if we need a sort of fiddle group handbook too. What do you think? Is this likely to be useful? If you have joined recently would it have helped to have a book that gave you a little background to the group, how we work and how we can help you to learn tunes? For regular members, would a handbook be useful or is the web the right place to put information? Please email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Updated 1st July 2009
Members' News July 2009
June has been the busiest month for gigs in a while, with a good variety of events too. It started with the Sunday BBQ get together with the other Stirling Area Community Music Groups (Stirling, Balfron and Falkirk) which several BFG members attended. We also played twice at residential homes for the elderly - including the first time we have actually been charged for our tea and cake. Now that is a gigs first and no mistake (actually a pretty big mistake in my view and one we will try not to repeat.) Then we had three ceilidhs, including the Langtoon In June Ceilidh in Auchterarder which went really well. The feedback has been terrific and congratulations to everyone who played, especially those of you who are not regular ceilidh band members but who came along and stuck in with the sets at full speed. Finally we played a small event on behalf of the Auchterarder Library. So seven gigs in all - quite a month.
Sessions are a really good way to improve your playing and to build up a personal repertoire of tunes. We rarely have BFG sessions these days whereas we used to go to the Allanbank in Greenloaning every Friday. Over the summer there are a few good opportunities to go to open sessions. Some of us go to the Tappit Hen in Dunblane on Tuesdays from 9pm onwards. There is a new monthly session at the Caledonian Bar in the square in Crieff (next on is Tuesday 28th July) and then there are festivals galore which are worth a visit. (See the TMSA web site and look in their events calendar for details of most.)
BFG has a healthy bank balance right now and will be using some of this to bring in tutors. We also gained some additional funding from the Ochil Developments Blackford Community Fund. In total therefore we have enough money to do several Fridays and a whole day Saturday event with professional tutors, not just for tune learning, which we are pretty good at, but to do stuff with technique and performance.
What your executive committee thinks and other stuff
The first response to this might be "who cares". Well we think you do and we met recently to consider a few things.
Isobel is organising these and dates have now been fixed as follows.
Young people (under 20) plus helpers - 22-23 August
Older people (18 and over) 5-6 September.
Both events are at the Blackwater Centre near Bridge of Cally. We will be trying to provide transport. Kids are free (£5 for food only), adults will be £15-20 plus food and drink. We already have quite a few places booked but there is still space for more. Sheets will be available every Friday at the hall if you want to sign up.
Closed on 3rd and 10th July. We are still using the monthly tune list on the members page. Don't forget, if there is something you want to learn or revise, just let us know.
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Over the years BFG has attracted players, learners and people who want to hear it in action. We have done little to promote ourselves but perhaps that time has come to consider taking the message out in a more organised way. Why not look at this video clip to see what might be done.
But seriously, we intend to do a few school visits in September, Blackford and Greenloaning to start with, with the purpose of encouraging a few new ypunger players. For this we will need a few volunteers to go and play and explain why BFG is such a good thing to be part of. Can you spare an hour or two for this?
It has been the season for summer ceilidhs - three very different ones in July. The first was at Ochil Towers School in Auchterarder and we had several players who don't do many ceilidhs. It was a great gig, lots of enthusiastic dancing and very good playing from everyone. All in all a success. Then there was the Summer School for foreign students at Stirling University. They didn't know the dances but that was not a problem and we taught them a few and despite the fact that is was a very hot and muggy evening (equals a lot of sweaty people) there was no shortage of willing dancers. The only near disaster was the lack of a guitar player. Someone (me) had forgotten that the guitar players (unreliable lot) couldn't come. But someone (me again) came to the rescue by bringing a guitar just in case (the old sixth sense working when memory failed) and played for the gig. I can't remember playing for a whole ceilidh before and not being a regular guitar player I was slightly concerned that things wouldn't go to plan. As it happens, it was "alright on the night" once again. What does this prove? Nothing. But it does sort of confirm the BFG approach to things and that even a little experience can be enough and we can all probably do more than we think . Of course the rest of the band were excellent and that helped and I wouldn't particularly recommend that we try this sort of thing too often. And so to the third ceilidh, a memorial event in Dunning on another warm evening. Here we definitely had the most experienced dancers but not the most enthusiastic at first. In the end though, it was another very good night.
Are you a caller?
An essential job at ceilidhs is calling the dances. This can simply be reminding the dancers of the moves or it might involve teaching them the dance from scratch. It is not as difficult as as you might think and we really need a couple of people who are prepared to learn how to do it. There really is only one way to do this - to come to ceilidhs and have a go. You would not be on your own though. We would have a more experienced caller with you and BFG is also the owner of a DVD which shows you the basics. Why not give it a shot? It is a really good way of participating in ceilidhs. If you already play in the band, that's fine as it is good to share the calling job with others.
Two sets of dates have been fixed. 22-23 (younger folk) August and 5-6 September (older folk). These are only open to members of course (and their families if there is room.) Details will be on the member's page or from Isobel.
We didn't meet one the first two Fridays in July and the other evenings were quieter than normal. As a result we have gone back over some of our newer tunes and learned a few more as a smaller group. The rest of you will have to catch up when you come back from your holidays.
Sessions in August will be based around a new tune learning list (see members' page) and we will start to gear up for the annual ceilidh.
Earlier in the year we included tips on playing. I know that one or two of your found this useful, but overall there wasn't a big response. What we are going to do soon is to have a lot more help on the web, help about playing, practicing, how to look after your fiddle, where to hear good traditional music and so on. It would be very helpful if you could tell us what sort of things you might find useful. There will be a free gift for every member who makes a serious suggestion. Email them to the usual info@ address.
New web site
Go and have a look at www.scottish-folk-music.com It is a really good new web site and it mentions us.
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Cripes and begorrah - its September already and I hadn't got used to it being August yet. Must be the weather. Anyway as a result of being ill-prepared for the change of month the news page will evolve slowly over the next few days. Of course, no one will ever notice as I don't think anyone reads it.
We had three gigs in August. The first was a Stirling University International Summer School event at the Stirling rugby club. I am sure that the highlight for the visitors (mainly yonug women of around 20 plus or minus a few years) was the high quality of the ceilidh band and not the streaking rugby player who intriduced them to the charms of .... well I'll leave that to your imagination. The things you see when you don;t have a gun!
The next ceilidh was for a wedding in a nice but reasonably large private house. We have done such things before and by and large these work out well and perhaps we should be doing a few ceilidhs for ourselves this way. There is a long standing tradition of msuic sessions in private houses and no reason why we shouldn't have a few dances too.
The final gig was a double session at the Baxters complex in Blackford. It was a Children in Need event (see photo below). Thanks to everyone from BFG who came. It was a good session for us and fro the few customers that Baxters managed to get in. Publicity could have been better. Anyway we are going back to do another bigger event in October - on one condition. Baxters have to provide tea / coffee and cakes. The edibles were not in evidence this time - a slip up that we will overlook if good supplies are provided next time.
Are you a caller? Yes you are.
Result. Last month I asked for volunteers to learn how to call dances for ceilidhs. One member of BFG has volunteered to do some calling and a second person is thinking about it. This is great news. More on this later.
We had the best weekend away on record. On 22 and 23 August 18 BFG members had what can only be described as a fantastic time - music, games, ghost stories, a bonfire and more. A full report to follow. There is a selection of photos on the members' page.
See Friday page for venues. A new tunes list for September - December will be availbale at the hall on Friday 4th and should go on the members' page soon.
Last month I asked for your ideas for a tips and help page. PLease keep them coming in - at this rate I'll have two suggestions by 2010! Email ideas to the usual info@ address.
New web site
Go and have a look at www.scottish-folk-music.com It is a really good new web site and it mentions us.
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Annual BFG Ceilidh - Friday 27th November (see below)Gigs
The highlight of September was the Leprosy Scotland Mission concert in Stirling. Twenty one BFG members were there to play and we had a good audience - well over 100 people. For once we had a programme worked out in advance and we had rehearsed the whole thing at the previous Friday sessions. We used a little amplification for the guitar - which was really handy because for once everyone could hear it. Modestly I would say it went very well, the playing was excellent, there was loads of variety and everyone was able to play a good number of the sets. We had Freya's arrangement of Midnight On the Water, a set for the adults and a couple of kids only pieces. Thanks to everyone who came and made it a success. Not only that, the organisers raised over £700 as well.
The only other everyone gig was our free concert/session at the Blackford Hotel. It was fine but the turnout was very small. Next time we'll do some more advertising and try to get folk to come.
We did a teatime ceilidh in Crieff. It was uneventful and after a slow start there was was some fine dancing. But it nearly didn't happen. We were given directions to get to the hall, supposedly at Morison's Academy, but there was no one there. How were we to know that the dining hall was not at the school, not even in the same road, not even within sight of the school? After a fruitless search we were beginning to wonder if we had the wrong day when the client phoned and asked where we were. A slight misunderstanding was brushed aside and we got to the hall, set up in 15 minutes and began playing only 10 minutes late. A lucky escape. Memo to self - always give mobile phone number to the person who books the gig - on this occasion it was a life saver.
On 12-13th September nine young members of BFG attended the Feis Fhoirt at Camelon to play fiddle, clarsach, whistle and possibly other things too. They had a fantastic weekend with other kids from Stirling, Falkirk, the highlands, and elsewhere and sessions were led by really good tutors. Thanks go to the organisers - we all really enjoyed the ceilidh and concerts too.
Fridays were much as ever in September. Some new tunes and some old ones polished up. But a few things to think about.
Are we playing too fast for beginners? Are we learning tunes at too quick a speed for most people? Answer to both questions would seem to be "yes". So we are going to do some playing more slowly. This will have the extra benefit of encouraging us all to learn to play more accurately and and by ear.
Go back into Old News to look at the hints on speed and tuning.
Go to the members' page for the tune learning list. We also need a couple of seasonal pieces (such as We Wish You a Merry Christmas) for reasons that should be fairly obvious.
It is always nice to see new faces and have new members. To encourage more young players from Blackford we are going to do a wee session at the Blackford Primary school, complete with fiddles and fiddlers, and then have two Fridays in November when we will have come-and-try fiddle sessions immediately before our normal Friday practices. We hope current members will help any new people that come along. Also you could encourage people to join us.
This year the annual ceilidh will be held on a Friday in Blackford. We cannot get the Aytoun Hall as it is being refurbished and the Blackford Hall is booked on the Saturday we were looking for. So a Friday in Blackford it will be. This does mean that we will not be able to have such a big event, but we still want as many members as possible to sell tickets and make sure the hall is full. We will be raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. All BFG members will be encouraged to play in the ceilidh band on the night.
The date for the ceilidh is Friday 27th November - Blackford Hall
We all want to pass on our very best wishes to Len who is being poisoned by the doctors in Stirling Royal Infirmary. Of course they are doing this carefully to make him well. It can't be very nice but at least he has time to practice the fiddle. Get well soon.
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Members' News November 2009
Annual BFG Ceilidh - Friday 27th November
VOTE FOR RIVERSIDE MUSIC PROJECTGigs
This year the Riverside fiddle group in Stirling have been nominated for a Traditional Music Award (we were nominated last year). To win they need your vote. Please click here and vote for Riverside - Community Project of the Year
One ceilidh in October - in Blackford for a change. It was the only gig of the month. A good turn out and high quality band with three newer ceilidh band members playing their part in making the whole thing a success. Our next two ceilidhs are also in Blackford, displaced from the Aytoun Hall which is supposed to be undergoing refurbishment. If anyone spots any work going on let us know - at the current rate we'll get back in to the Aytoun hall for our 20th anniversary in 2016.
Watch out for "everyone" gigs coming up in the next few weeks.
You may have noticed that we don't have much pre-booked for 2010. In part this is because I have not been committing to too many ceilidhs, but also because we have not been contacted by some of our usual customers. Perhaps the recession is biting harder than we thought. Just like everyone in the press and media we would have to blame Gordon Brown but for the fact that we have our very own scapegoat - give us an F, give us an R, give us an E ......... you know the rest!!
Friday nights have got busier again and we have some previously active BFG members returning to help with learning sessions. Looking back at what we have done recently there are loads of new tunes and a couple of new sets - Leezie Lindsay and Sourgrass being two. What we mustn't do is to forget all the other stuff we know. Please make sure we don't leave out your favourites - request them, or even start them at the sessions on Fridays.
Beginners Night. We are doing a recruitment session at the Blackford Primary school on 3rd November followed by a special beginners evening on Friday 13th November at 6.30. (When you think about it that is a pretty silly night to do something new. If you are superstitious we suggest you eat garlic or something before you come.) There will be a normal session from 7.00 fro everyone as usual.
We are trying to play a bit more slowly for the first hour on Fridays, so if you have found that it has got a bit fast for you, come back, we are being more civilised. It will do us all good - playing more accurately and with a more beautiful tone too. Go back into Old News to look at the hints on speed and tuning.
The tune learning list is being kept up to date and is on the members' page. We have not yet added any seasonal pieces (such as We Wish You a Merry Christmas) but we will.
A date for your diary. Saturday 5th December. I hope to have places at a workshop in Stirling concentrating on performance technique. It is aimed at everyone who ever plays a gig with BFG. There will be a small cost but if we can get enough interest the group will meet the costs. We will need some people to go to the gig that day as well though - this will need some organising.
Annual Ceilidh Friday 27th November - Blackford Hall
The annual ceilidh will be held on a Friday in Blackford. Tickets will be on sale to BFG members from Friday 6th November. We are restricted to 120 people so beware, we may sell out quickly.
We are not looking for players to do performances in groups this year, instead we want small groups to play for dances. A list of the dances and the tunes we will use will be available at the hall on 6, 13 and 20 November and we are looking for everyone who can play for a dance to do so.
If anyone wants to do a solo or perform something with a small group just say so and we'll try to fit you in.
Len is back in hospital getting his next round of treatment. Members can contact him on Facebook. See details here.
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Wishing you all a happy Yuletide
While we gorge ourselves on the fruits of the last harvest and with the re-birth of the sun we can look forward to productivity and growth in 2010
Members' News December 2009
So what happened in 2009
It is conventional to do the review of the year once it is over - and that is what we will do in January. But before then it is nice to finish the news of the year on a high note so here are a few brief observations. We have just celebrated our anniversary with a another brilliant annual ceilidh. Thanks of course to everyone who made it happen. (See the full review below). This was actually the 18th ceilidh of the year, the 14th since the end of May. We have also managed a range of other gigs, including a full concert in September. We have introduced new players and several new sets of tunes to these events and without doubt the quality has been maintained and even improved. Our customers have been delighted. I think we have just got better and better as the year has gone through. We have learned 40 new tunes at the hall on Fridays (some people did know some of them, but now we can play them together as a group) and the repertoire for ceilidhs and other events has improved as a result. We have recently gained many new members too. All in all it has been an extraordinary year and we should think now about how to keep that going in 2010. So until you get the full official review of 2009 in January, enjoy the festive season and the last few BFG sessions of the year.
A paper newsletter will be distributed to members at the hall later in the month.
Annual Ceilidh Friday 27th November - Blackford Hall
Thanks to everyone who helped to organise the ceilidh and who came and played. We had about 90 people there - not bad and about the right number for the Blackford Hall. There was dancing all night and while the band at times almost out-numbered the dancers (there were often 12 or more players) it all went well. We might have set a new record for the number of different soups available for a supper - six from the humble but popular leek and potato to the exotic (for Blackford) Spicy Thai.
This was the ninth annual ceilidh, (held for our thirteenth anniversary) and we had fiddlers and others who were there at the first one in 2001 and some who had never played at a BFG ceilidh before. Looking back over the nine anniversary ceilidhs we have gone from having a concert style to a mix of performance and dance to almost all dancing. Of course we have had big guest artists (Blazin Fiddles and the Wrigley Sisters were the first two) and perhaps we could do something like that again. But in the main, just doing our own thing and getting people to come and enjoy what we do is still possibly the best idea.
This year our chosen charity was Cystic Fibrosis Trust and we raised about £500. The final figure will be put here on the news page as soon as we have counted the money and paid the bills.
Three gigs this month - two ceilidhs,including the anniversary ceilidh and the Anderson's Silver Wedding. On St Andrew's Day there was the everyone gig at the Salutation Hotel Perth for the YMCA. (This news page is published before the last of these gigs - a full report or correction will follow.)
December sees one of our favourite everyone gigs - the Advent Fair at Camphill. Be there if you can. Directions on the web. Then we have the Kincarrarthie House gig in Perth as well. A good opportunity for all our players to entertain and get some gig experience. You can come as long as you know just one tune, including Twinkle.
We thought regular BFG Friday nights were chaotic already - but then half of the primary school decided to join, inspired by Andy, Karen, Matthew and Ailsa. We are delighted to have so many new players and I'm sure that they will all soon be on the road to BFG stardom. In the meantime Friday's will just be a little more difficult to organise than before, so bear with us.
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