Playing a fiddle tune

At today’s concert in All Saints Church Hall, I played Cumha Raonuill Mhic Ailein Òig on the fiddle, as part of my new programme “The contest betwixt fiddle & harp”. I was very nervous to present the fiddle in public but it seemed to go down very well.

I have posted about this tune before: here and here, and I made a Youtube of it a while back too. I find the fiddle very hard to control, to get a good tone out of the strings, to keep the bow moving smoothly, to get a clean attack, and to keep the tuning and intonation right. I also worry about the fiddle itself – it was a fleamarket find, and though I like it and am used to it, I worry what violin connoiseurs would think of it!

I have gut strings on it that I got from Ephraim Segerman at NRI, but I usually keep the top string with nylon fishing line because the gut does not last very well in that position. Yesterday I took the nylon off and put the gut back on but after playing it for a while I thought I preferred the fishing line, and swapped it back!

Ranald’s lament is a fascinating tune to play, full of grandeur and pathos and formal structure, and is the only pibroch I have found that has a genuinely minor sonority (though actually according to my modes system I would categorise it as a neutral scale with a weak minor 3rd).

The audience applauded well after it and seemed to enjoy it. I thought it was a good complement to the harp tunes on fiddle themes and was glad I have chosen to include it in this new experimental programme after all my misgivings.

DSCF3833 Simon_fiddle_concert

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