Author Archives: Charlotte Murray


rhythm workshop2

summer music flyer

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Guest blog by Jack Wilson

10420232_10153009660108298_8400576614051958653_nI am fortunate to be spending 3 months here in Scotland escaping a usually dreary winter in Melbourne, Australia, to work with Fèis Rois and take part in this year’s Commonwealth Ceilidh Trail.

I have grown up playing Scottish and Irish music in Australia, playing in community music groups, going to folk festivals and playing in pub sessions long before I was old enough to be in a pub. In 2013, I was named the Face of the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria and have had the opportunity to work closely with the festival director, Una McAlinden, to develop an international partnership with Fèis Rois to foster cultural exchange between Australia and Scotland.

Thus far, Fèis Rois has visited Australia twice, in 2013 and 2014, with CEO Fiona Dalgetty leading two groups of past Ceilidh Trail participants to perform at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington and at a number of events with local groups and organisations in the lead up to the festival in June. Under the musical direction of James Ross and John Somerville respectively, Fèis Rois also collaborated with young local musicians in group work-style workshops in the lead up to the festival, culminating in feature performances at the festival.

In January 2014, five young Australian musicians representing the National Celtic Festival performed in collaboration with Fèis Rois’ 2013 ceilidh trail groups in a sold-out gig at Celtic Connections. We then spent a week in the Highlands, learning about the work that Fèis Rois does in schools and communities throughout the region.

My time here at Fèis Rois is a new stage in this partnership. I have the fantastic opportunity to go on tour with the Commonwealth Ceilidh Trail and perform at Cambridge Folk Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in many different communities around the UK. Australia has a lot to learn from models of community music-making and engagement in Scotland, particularly that of the fèisean movement, which Fèis Rois exemplifies. We hope that through my experiences here in Scotland we can pilot new ways to develop traditional music and strengthen the community in Australia.

My internship with Fèis Rois also has a language focus, which relates to my university studies. I am currently in my final year of the Bachelor of Arts at RMIT University in Melbourne, majoring in International Studies and focusing on languages. I have studied French and Italian in my degree, and I will complete my Diploma of Languages (Chinese) at Tianjin Normal University in China later this year. I have taken a particular interest in language policy and planning, looking into managing language diversity in organisations and language policy and planning for minority languages.

In my first month at Fèis Rois, I have been working on a number of language and music-related projects. I have been reviewing the organisation’s Gaelic Language Policy, looking to develop a strategic plan to strengthen our work in promoting the Gaelic language and encouraging its use at Fèis Rois into the future. I have also been working with  Fiona Dunn, the Gaelic Officer at Oilthigh Ghlaschu to co-ordinate an upcoming Gaelic immersion fèis weekend for university students across Scotland, which allows fluent speakers to come together to hang out, speak Gaelic and take workshops in Gaelic song, drama, step dance and group work.

The Ceilidh Trail also plays an important role in language promotion; in addition to its role in young musicians’ professional development and growing Scotland’s cultural tourism, it is a great way to showcase Gaelic language and culture on a national scale.

The centrepiece of this year’s Ceilidh Trail programs will be our performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where the 3 trails will come together on the 5th of August to perform the new piece of music Fèis Rois commissioned John Somerville to compose in celebration of this, the 15th anniversary of its ceilidh trail program.  The suite of music is inspired by themes of emigration and homecoming, and commemorates the journey of the Hector, which sailed from Ullapool to Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1773 carrying 189 passengers. We performed the piece just a few weeks ago in its world premiere at the National Celtic Festival in Australia, and it will be performed again in Pictou, Nova Scotia, in the very harbour where the Hector landed, as part of Celtic Colours International Festival.

Celtic Colours joined the partnership in January 2014 after festival director Joella Foulds saw the joint collaboration at Celtic Colours. Two young musicians from Cape Breton Island joined the musicians from Fèis Rois at the National Celtic Festival in Australia this year, and one of those participants, guitarist Maxim Cormier, will also be taking part in the Commonwealth Ceilidh Trail this year.

I have learned so much already in my first month of the internship. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the Gaelic Officers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and with the Arts and Culture Development Officer at Glasgow-based An Lòchran to discuss issues around language planning and policy for Gaelic, and I’ve jumped in the deep end at Fèis Rois looking at the work that they and the other fèisean do to get people playing and engaging with traditional music, language and culture. It has been fantastic and I can’t wait for the next few months.

If you’d like to follow Maxim and me on the Ceilidh Trail, and indeed the development of this exciting international partnership, please check out our website at

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By Charlotte Hathaway


© Alexander Basta

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the 4th European Forum on Music in the Swiss capital of Bern. Lucky not only to take part in an exciting international conference, but also because the weather was glorious and Bern is a beautiful city. The Trad Music Forum are not members of the European Music Council who organise the conference, but a number of Scottish organisations are (Creative Scotland, Live Music Now Scotland and the Scottish Music Centre, for example) and I believe that it is valuable for Scottish traditional music to take part in the international conversation.

The theme for this year’s forum was ‘Music and Politics’, and featured a range of speakers from the Ambassador of the European Union Mission to Switzerland, to the composer-turned-Croatian President Ivo Josipovic. Music in politics is obviously a huge topic – there were discussions on how music has shaped political events, how musicians have themselves been involved with politics (not only in the form of protest singing, but also as politicians, as activists for change, and how communal music making in itself can have political consequences), and how musical issues are represented in political debate. President Jospovic noted that it is the musician’s ability to connect with ordinary people that makes them ideal political candidate material. You only have to look to the Scottish referendum and the use of music in campaigning (see Yestival) to realise how powerful a unifier and tool for connecting people it can be. Music can be the ideal medium through which to speak to people as it can be far more accessible and emotionally evocative than complex discussions.

© Alexander Basta

© Alexander Basta

A key issue that was raised during the discussions that followed was the shared responsibility between the musical world and political world. Creative Europe’s Karel Bartak noted that an important way music and politics are interacting at the moment is in copyright laws. “Laws have not been adapted to the digital era. Europe is producing quality cultural content but the money ends up in the pockets of multi-national companies who make the tools to distribute the content.” Essentially, it’s easier to get your music out there and to potentially reach new audiences, but at what cost to your ownership of the music and your ability to make money from it? Karel also noted that young people are not going to concert halls but are open to viewing 5 minute YouTube clips, which of course they don’t need to pay for. If the consumer isn’t in favour of paying for cultural content, then the provider (like Google) must pay (says Karel). Otherwise the artist is providing content for nothing. This could become complex, because how do you define what should be paid for? How does this affect everything else and the way consumers use the internet?

The idea was then raised that governments need to do more to support music and musicians, like the Swiss government which has recently voted in an act to provide universal music education in schools. Swiss Parliamentarian Christine Egerszegi said that musicians must engage themselves with politics. “Compare the situation with sport – everyone must do it because you must be healthy. Musicians must fight for music and declare it for the people. Politics isn’t just taxes and health insurance, but how you feel every day. Everyone must have access to culture and participate – this is politics.” The rights of musicians to be paid is therefore a political issue. Swiss singer songwriter, satirist, and comedian Lisa Catena noted, however, that what artists need is a functioning market. She suggested that musicians also need to be business people because they have to be interested in their audience to expect to make a living out of it. Artist-driven activities are therefore “cultural” and audience-driven is “business”. Christine argued that the government should do everything it can to support talent, giving artists the opportunity to have their voices heard. It shouldn’t be about money. The problem then comes as to how you decide who should be government supported. Take a look at the overwhelming amount of competition for artists’ bursaries in Scotland and you’ll realise that not everyone is going to be the lucky recipient of government support. Lisa said that musicians should be creative entrepreneurs: it’s not about selling out, it’s about finding your niche and addressing an audience.

© Alexander Basta

© Alexander Basta

This is something that the traditional music scene is very familiar with already. Because it is somewhat of a niche genre (although I am keen for the music I am involved with to move out of this niche), artists are used to the idea of also being teachers (which is a natural idea in a tradition born in community music), and business-people where recording comes not from labels but from self-production. Trad music is in a fortunate position to have some specialist funds dedicated to it and a fair amount of government support – does it have enough (especially compared to other sectors)? Is it dangerous to rely on that when funding is unpredictable? Should we be more entrepreneurial in our approach to it or should we be more political in our demand for more support?

The intention of these panels and talks was to highlight the different areas that music and politics interact, and what the European Music Council (and individuals) can do to influence the things that affect musical concerns. I hope that Scottish traditional music’s voice is as valid in the discussion as other genres, and I hope that people working in the scene will continue to look for international partnerships (because that’s where all the fun starts). It was a busy conference with more practical sessions like a speed-dating style session on finding European project partners and working groups on developing a European Agenda for Music. In other news, Creative Scotland’s Ian Smith was elected President of the European Music Council Board which is excellent news for Scottish music.

Charlotte Hathaway works for the Traditional Music Forum and members Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin and Unroofed Records. Opinions are her own. The visit to the EFM was funded by Creative Scotland’s Professional Development Fund.

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You must be:

·         Grade 6 standard or above (or relative skill level)

·          Aged 13-18

Audition for the main band. We are looking for young musicians from all over Scotland for the 2014/15 season. Please note that applications close on Fri 18 Jul.
Contact: or ring 01738 477730 for further information.
You must be:
·         Grade 3 standard or above (or relative skill level)
·         Aged 12-16.
Join our new non-auditioned band – the Gordon Duncan Experience Training Band.
To book places in this band you will need to apply directly to Horsecross Arts Box Office (01738 621031) or in person at Perth Concert Hall from Sat 1 Jul. For more information please contact  or ring 01738 477730.
The Gordon Duncan Experience is a unique youth trad orchestra as at home playing trad tunes by ear as it is in working on complex scored arrangements and although the style is based in the Scottish tradition it also draws from other musical genres such as jazz, classical, and rock.
The band, which is based at Perth Concert Hall and run by Horsecross Arts, is named after innovative Perthshire piper Gordon Duncan. Musical Director, David Milligan, is supported by a range of young tutors who are making their own mark in the traditional music world including Steven Blake, Patsy Reid, Mairearad Green, Anna Massie and James Lindsay.
All instruments are welcome and although the current line-up includes one or more of the following instruments; fiddle, cello, bass, guitar, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, tenor and alto sax, trumpet, accordion, piano, kit and of course pipes, the band is keen either to have more of the above or instruments not on this list. So if you are interested in a range of musical styles and trying something a bit different, then the Gordon Duncan Experience is for you.
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The Horizons partnership (a partnership between Creative Scotland and arts councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) have secured a WOMEX registration discount for Scottish music organisations and artists of €205 plus VAT until the Guide Rate deadline of August 29th. The price will then go up to €270 (plus VAT) until the Late Rate deadline of September 26th and the onsite Walk Up Rate will be €295 (plus VAT). This is a limited offer so please register early. Apply here.

WOMEX is the world music expo showcasing brilliant artists and hosting a busy trade fair. For more information on Womex see:

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