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Sunday, July 5, 2015


Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the 2015 National Arts Festival

One of the most talked about and remembered performances of the 2015 festival. (Review by Keith Millar)

Visiting the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown this year is the delightful Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra all the way from the west of Scotland.

The orchestra was founded in 1982 with the aim of encouraging and developing the playing of traditional Scots fiddle music amongst the young musicians of Ayrshire. It has grown since its humble beginnings and now has over 100 members, aged from 10 to 18. Among them are violinists, cellists, bassists, accordionists, guitarists, percussionists and one bagpiper.

The concert took place at the Transnet Great Hall at the festival. Greeting the audience on arrival at the venue was a lone piper playing iconic tunes such as Scotland the Brave and The Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond. This certainly stirred the soul of those who claim a measure of Scots blood in their ancestry – and in South Africa, there are many who do so – and set the tone for the festivities to follow.

Some 80 young musicians took part in the concert, and they were a splendid sight. Dressed in their tartans and all fresh-faced and rosy cheeked, and an abundance of striking redheads.

The performance of the orchestra was astoundingly good considering the age of the artists. They treated the audience to a large selection of Slow Airs, Jigs, Reels, Waltzes and even a medley of Irish tunes. They have a rich and warm sound and they play with great panache, enthusiasm and skill. The music is exciting, energetic and soulful.

Members of the orchestra also gave entertaining demonstrations of Highland and Irish dancing.

Conducting the proceedings was the Musical Director of the orchestra David Moore. He is blessed with more than a little showmanship and conducts with great energy and animation. He also charmed the audience with his explanations and anecdotes about the music.

At the beginning of the programme, Moore explained that Scottish music is not only for listening to but is also for dancing, singing and clapping along. The audience entered into the mood of the event and it proved to be a glorious and joyous celebration of music.

Tickets for the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra sold out very quickly. An extra show was added on July 4, but that too sold out. After the festival, the orchestra is touring to George, Cape Town, Hout Bay and Johannesburg. Catch it if you can – it is an outstanding, heart-warming show.

The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra concerts will be among the most talked about and remembered performances of the 2015 festival. – Keith Millar

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