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Introduction to Scottish Music
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By Charles McGregor
There are several kinds of 'Scottish Music'.. First of all the Alexander brothers, Kenneth McKellar, Moira Anderson, Bill McCue type thing is IMO largely an amalgum of Harry Lauder type Coonery and a catering to Tourist tastes (mostly English coach parties) in various 'Summer' shows. Most Scots do not like this kind of thing, it makes them cringe. But if it's your thing, see http://www.sirharrylauder.com/
The Scottish folk circuit is where most Scots would look for a
real cultural night out. It is alive and vibrant, it is not just about
traditional music. There are many contemporary song-writers as well
Scotland being small, there is not a great deal of money available so
you find that often some of the folk circuit artists may leave the
circuit and go into other more lucrative areas. e.g. Gerry Rafferty,
Barbara Dickson, Billy Connolly, Eddie Reader.
Many remain e.g. Dougie MacLean, Eric Bogle, Archie Fisher, Hamish
Imlach, Battlefield Band, Dick Gaughan, Tannahill Weavers, Phil
Cunningham, Aly Bain.
Now at one time, the folk circuit consisted almost entirely of
little folk clubs up and down the country, there was not a deal of
concert hall performances except for the Corries, and this meant that
they were regarded a little apart from the general folk circuit as a
consequence of this.
Nowadays, concert hall performances are common as the folk
'revival' continues.(It seems to have been 'reviving' or getting bigger
all my life). Dougie MacLean, Dick Gaughan etc. regularly fill halls
up and down the country.
Another large part of the folk circuit that used to be almost non
existant is the 'folk fesitival'. I don't know how many there are now,
possibly hundreds. Used to be 1.. the Scottish folk festival for
years in Blairgowrie then moved to Kinross.
Folk programs or series make regular appearances on TV.
Then there is the ceilidh music. This basically falls into two camps.
First there is a fairly formal version where the musicians are
basically following a traditional trade. They are largely used for
formal or semi-formal 'occasions' like weddings or 'Dances' in hotels
or village halls. Scottish country dancing like this is regarded as a
little plastic, or perhaps formulaic is a more appropriate word.
However, Scots do go to these and frequently enjoy them, despite some
similarity to 'summer time specials' they are not an artifact of
tourism, although a lot of tourists will go as well. The Jimmy Shand
band might typify this class of music.
The Second type is the rapidly growing 'new order' of ceilidh music.
In this version, formality goes out the window. The main objective is
enjoyment, getting the dance steps wrong is almost irrelevant the
groups are expected to at least be attempting to push the envelopes of
the genre. There is a positive feedback between the audience and
group which leads to near frenzy all round. Wolfstone perhaps typify
this class of music.
Then there is Gaelic music, which again falls into two categories,
the formal and the less so. The formal consists of gaelic choirs up and
down the country with the mega event being the national Mod once a
The less formal are essentially concert hall based and consist of
groups like Runrig, Capercaillie, Clan na Gael.
Now the above are guidelines there is considerable overlap from one
genre to the other. The term Celtic music covers several of them and
indeed in some branches exchange with Irish artistes is commonplace,
indeed several groups are part Irish part Scots e.g., Capercaillie,
Some review of musicians are at
There is a tutorial article (60K) on the modes of Scottish traditional
music available via
Information on Scottish music from NA perspective - a web Site dedicated to the Preservation, Performance and Appreciation of the Traditional Celtic Music of Scotland, Cape Breton, and the United States. http://www3.atsbank.com/~tarider/tullochgorm/SCOT1.HTM
Interesting reading on traditional Scottish and Irish music
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