The Future of Fiddling in Glengarry

Aug 12, 2014 | Fiddling, Glengarry, News

Future of Fiddling in Glengarry

Written by Ann MacPhee
Published in the 2014 Glengarry Highland Games Program

Anyone who has attended the Friday afternoon Youth Fiddlers’ Showcase at the Glengarry Highland Games can’t help but realize that the future of Scottish fiddling is alive and well in Glengarry. The afternoon is filled with performances by young musicians from beginners whose love of the music is evident in their performances.

Thanks to three dedicated music teachers in the area, Ian MacLeod, Ashley MacLeod and David MacPhee the young people of the area have the opportunity to learn on the instrument brought here by their forefathers. There have been many teachers through the ages in Glengarry, but these three focus on the future. The majority of their students are young and thus, they are the future of fiddling in Glengarry.

Ian began playing the fiddle at a young age and began teaching in 1994. He formed the very successful MacLeod School of Fiddling and was joined in recent years by his talented daughter Ashley. While they have some adult students, the majority of their students are young people. With well over 50 students, they start out with the beginners and then work with them from year to year as they progress with their instrument. They recently held their 16th Annual Recital where the talent of their students, from Beginners to Seniors was obvious. From the Beginners’ renditions of “Boil the Cabbage Down” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to the more difficult performances of “The Church Sexton Strathspey” and the beautiful “Dark Island” by the senior players, one could see the success Ian and Ashley have had in passing on their love and enthusiasm for the fiddle. It is also a sign that the future of fiddling is alive and well in Glengarry.

Ashley on her own has started something new; she introduced the Mini Music Makers who range in age from almost 4 to 6 plus years old. Their “Open String Breakdown” brought down the house at the recital. While having fun and learning rhythm, these very young tots are also being introduced to the very basic elements of the fiddle.

While Ian and Ashley teach in North Glengarry, South Glengarry is where one could find teacher David MacPhee. David was introduced to the traditional Scottish music of Glengarry at a very early age as he sat beside his grandmother, Mary Frances MacPhee as she played the piano for fiddlers Fr. MacPhail, her brother, John Angus and other visiting fiddlers. The music is in his blood and he is passionate about the traditional Glengarry style. While at first reluctant to teach, David was finally convinced that he had the responsibility to preserve the Glengarry style by passing it on to the next generation; he could do this through teaching. He took on a few students about 7 or 8 years ago and as word got out, the requests poured in and now he has over 50 students and teaches five afternoons and evenings a week. His joy in the music resonates with his students. They appear at many local events in both North and South Glengarry and his advanced students have even played with David at weddings and funerals.

We are fortunate in Glengarry to have these three wonderful teachers who are willing and more than able to pass on their pride in their musical heritage to their students. Some of these very students hopefully will become the teachers of the future.

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