Fiddlers refuse to lie down in the face of coronavirus pandemic

Riddell Fiddles have reason to be cheerful, even in these testing times.

Riddles Fiddles members at Edinburgh Castle for the Tattoo.
Riddles Fiddles members at Edinburgh Castle for the Tattoo.

This week, the local traditional music outfit was awarded £6,300 by the National Lottery Community Fund (see story on page 5), which will go towards extending its online abilities.

However, the group has also accessed funding during the lockdown from various grant funding bodies, as well as Galashiels firm Holequest, all of which will allow them to look at new ways of engaging with people musically.

Organiser Sheila Sapkota said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has hit hard everywhere ,but live music has proved especially challenging – just when it is needed most.

A happy Riddell Fiddles member, John McIlroy, with his copy of the new tune book, which was sponsored by Holequest.

“Riddell Fiddles, in it’s 19th year, has no intention of letting the virus thwart the playing and performing of music and have adapted accordingly.

“The power of music as a means of creating a feeling of ‘sense and belonging’ and its ability to overcome social isolation is well known.”

With this in mind, the ever-creative musicians immediately moved online and joined the Zoom revolution.

Every week brought new discoveries – the chillout breakout rooms offered a respite from the virtual tune learning focus.

A tunebook for members – sponsored by Holequest – was worked on with the notation skills of guitarist Donald Knox, allowing a fantastic teaching document to be produced.

Sheila said: “Musicians were hand-delivered a personal copy to help them continue to play during lockdown. A post-pandemic playlist for the post-pandemic event (PPE) is planned.

“Small group performances outside windows as permitted, were instigated.

“External tutors were brought in to boost the resident tutor team.”

The group also gained funding funding from the Open Fund of Creative Scotland which has made up for the hundreds of lost gigs and performances and lost fund-raising opportunities and has allowed the digital and physical adaptations needed.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, in conjunction with Creative Scotland, has provided funds for a project in Bannerfield, Selkirk.

This Battle of Philiphaugh soundscape will be compiled by the youth sub-group, the Bannerfield Buskers, using Sir Walter Scott’s ballad of the same name as inspiration for what promises to be a noisy, fairly realistic and rememberable auditory musical history lesson.

Sheila said: “Funding for this from the Edinburgh Tattoo is particularly welcome as four members from Riddell Fiddles performed there in August 2019.”

The Bannerfield Buskers will perform – socially distanced and outside – at Selkirk’s Cricket Club on Sunday, September 13, in a sort of mini project launch.

Sheila said: “It’s the 375 th aniversary of that pivotal battle between the Royalists and the Covenanters which saw the Royalist cause completely squashed and the course of Scottish history changed forever.”