Fiddle Style in the Scottish highlands and islands
There are a few early Highland collections of dance music which help to give an impression of how the music was played in the past, for example, Captain Simon Fraser’s Airs and Melodies Peculiar to the Highlands of Scotland (1816) and Patrick MacDonald’s Collection of Vocal Airs (1781). However, the style could only truly be conveyed from those fiddlers who “passed it on” since it was an aural tradition. Puirt ŕ beul is probably the closest link to the old Highland style - that and the fiddle music of Cape Breton in Canada where many Highlanders emigrated to taking their traditions and language with them.
The modern repertoire is strongly influenced by bagpipe music and by Scottish Gaelic song (particularly in the West Highlands). Many of the beautiful slow airs - or waltz tunes - have melodies which were originally songs. A good knowledge of the language can therefore enhance the interpretation of these lovely tunes.
Evidence shows that 300 years ago fiddling was popular throughout the Gŕidhealtachd (the Gaelic speaking highlands and islands). For example Mŕrtainn MacGilleMhŕrtainn (Martin Martin) reported 18 fiddlers on Lewis in his "Description of the Western Isles of Scotland".
The popularity of fiddle music declined with the disapproval by the church of dancing after the Reformation. The old Highland style was primarily dance music and this led to the destruction of instruments - although puirt ŕ beul (Gaelic mouth music) helped to preserve the tunes.
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