The Fiddler of Strathspey Festival
The Fiddler of Strathspey Festival was first held in 2015 as part of Grantown’s 250th anniversary celebrations organised by The Grantown Society. The concert that year took place in the grounds of Castle Grant and featured Donnie Munro of Runrig, Maggie Adamson and Ailsa Hepburn, the first winner of the Fiddler of Strathspey trophy. Read on to discover more on the festival’s history as well as this year’s line-up …
Subsequent concerts included numerous instruments from Clarsach to Carnyx and Sandy Battan’s “Rondello” and the performances ranged from Sacred music to Strathspeys. Covid put an end to that. In 2023, the Festival starts again.
Performers include two internationally renowned fiddlers, Paul Anderson and Charlie McKerron, an equally famous singer, Shona Donaldson and a well-known clarinetist Andrew Harden and his accompanist Catherine Cargill … and no less than three traditional bands. The festival celebrates Sandy Battan and the music of Angus Cumming who built a house in New Grantown and whose Collection of Strathspey or Old Highland Reels was published in 1780.
The Fiddle in Strathspey
The Strathspey or ‘Strathspey Reel’ originated, it is said, from Strathspey. It was originally written for the fiddle and used for dancing. It is actually a slow and stylised form of reel while the standard reel was known as an “Atholl Reel’.
According to tradition, the first who played Strathspey Reels were the Browns of Kincardine, later, the Cummings of Castle Grant, who “were in the highest estimation of their knowledge and execution in Strathspey music“, including, amongst their descendants, Angus Cumming.
The Cumming tradition was carried on by William Marshall of Speyside. Through his (likely) pupil, Charles Grant, Schoolmaster of Aberlour, something of his style of playing may have passed on to James Scott Skinner “The Strathspey King”
Since the 1860s there have been fiddle concerts and competitions in Grantown. This 2023 concert is one which it is hoped “will inspire others”. Click on the image below to visit the Festival website …
The line-up is take from the Festival programme …
The Concert Musicians
- Paul Anderson: Already something of a legend in the time honoured fiddle tradition of Scotland; Paul Anderson is one of the the finest Scots fiddlers of his generation with a vast knowledge of Strathspey music. He is already something of an icon in Scotland, a fact duly recognised by two specially commissioned portraits of him, one in Aberdeen Art Gallery and one in the care of the National Portrait Gallery.
- Shona Donaldson: Shona has a pure voice that tells the stories of Scotland with clarity and brilliance. Now also from Tarland, she is the best of the Highland traditional singers and
has won universal acclaim.
- Feis Spe Junior Band and Senior Band Monadh Ruadh: Fèis Spè provides group playing experience and performance opportunities for young people who are keen to develop their skills. The Fèis Spè junior and senior bands are made up of musicians from Badenoch and Strathspey between ages of 1 and 18. Both bands have played at many popular and successful events.
- Charlie McKerron: Fiddler CharlieMcKerron, tutor and mentor for the Feis Spe bands is not only a member of Scots supergroup Capercaillie, but he’s an award-winning performer in his own right, with his own band, fiddle group Session A9. He is also an accomplished composer and his music has been widely recorded. Charlie also co-produced the album “Big Sky” which involved some of Scotland’s top contemporary Celtic musicians.
- Andrew Harden: Andrew Harden, clarinettist, is the Catholic Parish Priest of Aviemore and Grantown. He graduated in music from the Music University of Warsaw, Before becoming a priest he was a member of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
- Catherine Cargill: Catherine is an accomplished accompanist. She grew up near Maldon in Essex and worked there as a GP until 2017. Now she enjoys having more time for classical and also traditional Scottish music.
- Belle Voce: This Community Choir for over ten years has been freely open to all. They prefer accessible modern music It’s led by Kirsten Shearon, PT Music at Grantown Grammar. They were the last choir to win the Badenoch and Strathspey Music Festival choir competition.
- Forres Accordion and Fiddle Club: The Group play together as the house band for the Club at their monthly meetings.
- Chris Steplan has an extensive background in music, playing the accordion as a solo artist and with various duos and groups. He is an accordion teacher and is involved as a tutor for the Feis movement.
- Willie James is lead fiddler with the Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society. He has had a long career in the Scottish Dance Band scene and played for many years with Drummond Cook and his Scottish Dance Band.
- John Brander has played drums for many years in military and pipe bands and with numerous dance bands. John has alsotaught many youngsters who have since gone on to have their own successful careers as drummers.
- Ranald McConnachie started playing piano in the 1980’s with his father’s band, the Dunphail Dance Band. He is accompanist for the Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society and for the Forres Accordion and Fiddle Club.
Friday 15th & Saturday 16th
- Festival Heritage Walks
- With Guide and Musicians
- Friday 2.30; Saturday 10.00, 1.30 and 2.30
- Open Sessions
- Friday and Saturday – post concert and ceilidh
- Friday 4.00 Ben Mhor
- Look out for further opportunities during the weekend (eg Sat 10.30 in the Square and Sun 2.00 in Grant Park – see local notices)
Saturday 16th – Workshops
- Event: Workshops from 2pm – fiddle, singing, moothie for all ages and abilities; and drumming for under-12s.
- Where: Ben Mhor Hotel, High Street, Grantown.
- When: Saturday 16th September – from 2pm
- What to expect: Fiddle workshop led by Paul Anderson, Singing workshop led by Shona Donaldson, Moothie workshop led by Neil McGregor and Drumming for kids led by Sam Fry.
- Tickets/entry information: No charge for workshops but donations very welcome. Moothies in key of A – bring your own but can be provided. Price £7 if you wish to take one home. Drums (for hands, not sticks) provided or bring your own. NB not drum-kits.
Sunday 17th – Family Ceilidh
- Event: Family Ceilidh with the Dunphail Ceilidh Band
- Where: Ben Mhor Hotel, High Street, Grantown
- When: Saturday 16th September – from 7pm
- Tickets/entry information: Tickets £7 available (for cash) from Fiona’s Wholefoods, High Street, Grantown and from The Ben Mhor Hotel, High Street, Grantown. Contact Jo Fry, 07551189580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to pay by bank transfer.
- Berry Burn Community Fund
- National Lottery Community Fund
- Rotary Club of Spey Valley
- Ben Mhor Hotel
- Anonymous Donations
- Caorunn Gin Distillery
- The Bowler Family
- YM Community Centre
- Walkers Shortbread Aberlour
- Marion at the Grant Arms
- Fiona’s Wholefoods
- The Grant Arms Hotel
- Macleans Bakery
For further information and details of other festival events go to, please visit the Grantown Society’s website via this link.