Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our Trip to the Niel Gow Festival 2015

Patt and I have always wanted to go to Scotland and we were looking to combine in some traditional music and go during a less crowded time of year. Siberia being completely booked up, we decided to go to Scotland in March (it was still warmer than Chicago)! 

A quick search of the inter-tubes and we located the Niel Gow Festival in Dunkeld and Birnam in the Highlands.

Love the pants!

Gow was a contemporary of Robert Burns and is perhaps the best known and most revered of all Scots fiddlers and composers from the "olden days". You can read more about him at:

The Gow Fest was really great for a number of reasons. The location, with the events spread between the "twin cities" of Dunkeld and Birnam, is idyllic. The towns are easily accessible by ScotRail from Edinburgh. DnB are separated by the picturesque River Tay and connected by a beautiful stone bridge built in 1809. 

See below the beautiful sights of DnB -- the Kirk, bridge, fabulous gigantic trees and more. Everywhere you turn is a picture postcard view. There is a beautiful loch, just a 30 minute walk from the center of Dunkeld. And the fish smoker, the butcher shop, and on and on. What a lovely place.

If you want to immerse yourself in all things Niel Gow you can visit his grave and his home, which is at Inver, a short walk from Birnam along the Tay.

The festival itself is quite small as such things go and so there is a level of intimacy that you seldom find these days at public events. Most of the program is held at the Birnam Arts Center and includes workshops, concerts, and small vendor fair (where I picked up some very nice books on Scots fiddling that I had never seen here in the states). I heard my first Scottish orchestra in-person!

The Niel Gow Festival is the brain-child of Pete Clark, who is a scholar, teacher, performer and overall leading exponent of Scottish fiddling and the music of Gow in particular. I can't say enough about Pete's fiddle playing -- it is technically immaculate, musical, honors tradition and often gives a glimpse of his unique sense of humor. Find out more about Pete, his musical sidekick accordionist extraordinaire Gregor Lowry and the "Troot Tour" at:

There is also great jamming at the Taybank  Pub. We met a lot of fine musicians there and enjoyed great food and ale, too. Plenty of small distillery Scotch on hand, too.

Incidentally, if you're coming to this festival you have to be able to play the air Niel Gow's Lament for the Death of his 2nd Wife. Recorded at the Taybank, but I heard it everyday all over the place -- so get busy!

Hope to see you there in 2016. Here are few bonus shots including viewing a solar eclipse through a colander!