There are many music workshops around the country all year long. Some have been long established and attract the same players every year, others come and go. Dunoon on the coast of the Clyde has for a hundred years been a popular holiday destination for Glasgow folk. It has a reputation as a friendly town, and to many it is the gateway to the West Highlands. Gaelic is taught in its schools, though generally not spoken around town. Because of its geographical position, many of the local customs are more influenced by the Scottish Isles than by the mainland. Its music in particular is influenced by more than a century of Highland Games and piping competitions.
Traditionally the Scottish Fiddle was handed down from generation to generation and taught by ear. During the period of the prohibition of the pipes much pipe music was played on and saved by the fiddle and handed down in the repertoire. As a result of this most fiddle workshops around the country teach by ear and reference to sheet music is scant. There are however a number of good fiddle players who have learned the instrument by reading music and the Dunoon Workshop is structured with these people in mind. Often workshops are spent learning a simple tune by ear, when the pupils are eager to learn techniques to improve their playing and not just to increase their repertoire.
With this in mind, we send out the sheet music and recordings of the pieces in mp3 format a month before the workshop begins so that the players at least know the tunes we shall be playing and can concentrate on what they want to learn. The musicians are free to refer to the music or to play by ear as they choose.
We also put emphasis on listening to others whilst playing so as to play better as a group or orchestra. The Tutors make arrangements of various tunes for the three instrument sets to play together, acting both as lead melody and as harmony to the others.
In addition to the formal classes we have evening break-out sessions in a local pub where we can play together tunes we know into the night. This is a welcome addition to most people’s day and gives more a holiday atmosphere and the ability to relax among new friends.
The music workshop is important to Dunoon in its revitalisation programme as it shows that the town is serious about its traditions and heritage, and it encourages the playing and enjoyment of live music from past and present.