The Fiddler of Strathspey Festival.

8th to 10th June 2018.

Grantown, Capital of Strathspey

Angus Cumming, piper and fiddler for Sir James Grant of Grant,  unfortunatelydid not live to see publication in 1780 of his Collection of Strathspey or Old Highland Reels.  That he was not alive then is attested by a receipt dated 30th October 1779 and signed by his son John for “the Wages allowed his deceast Father from Marts  78 to Marts 79”:  Martinmas being the November quarter day and Angus was plainly dead by October 30th 1779.  Despite this we find his signature almost a year later on receipts dated 6th April 1780 for subscriptions to his book.  Whilst the book was published posthumously we must assume that the, genuine, signatures, were “ante mortem” in anticipation of  the subscriptions later completed.  Such supporters were, for example,  Lewis Alexander Grant of Grant Son of Sir James  and Anne Margaret Grant for whom the fiery cross was raised for the last time in the Highlands resulting in the Grant Raid on Elgin in 1820.  

Angus Cumming signature

The Cumming or Cumine family had a long history as hereditary pipers and fiddlers for the lairds of Grant. William Cumming’s fame is secured through the iconic Richard Waittfull length 1714 portrait now hanging in the National Museum in Edinburgh.  Angus, himself took part in the ’45.  Sometime prior to 1769 he moved to New Grantown (founded 1765) to Lot 18 South Side where the Grandview care home now stands.  The lot was “set to Angus Cummine, Musician in Grantown who built thereon …”  In July 1770 his young son, John Cumming, was sent by James Grant of Grant to be “finished” as a piperat the McArthur College of Piping at Kilmuir in Skye.  His chief paid for his tuition, board and lodging and other expenses for a period of four and a quarter years, in order to encourage the finest piping in Strathspey upon his return.  A set of six contemporary accounts, unique of their kind in the history of Highland music chart the costs of this training from tuition to tartan for a short kilt.


   Disbursements for John Grant for his teaching, 1770

The Fiddler of Strathspey Festival, now in its fourth year,is a celebration of the work of Angus Cumming and the rich Strathspey tradition.  It promises to provide a stage for musicians young and old, novices and masters.  Fiddlers and other traditional musicians are invited to take part in a celebration of “the strathspey” in all its forms, its music, its songs and its dance.  

There is an opportunity to showcase talent and enthusiasm  in the Saturday morning’s competitions, climaxing in the presentation of the Maggie Adamson Goblet to the “2018 Fiddler of Strathspey”and an award for the 2018 Junior Fiddler of Strathspey.  As well as this prestigious award there are fiddle classes for 9 and under, 12 and under and 16 and under.  Open trophies also include the Reidhaven Quaich and the John McGregor Memorial Trophy.  The Imray Trophy will be presented to the fiddler whose enthusiasm and potential most impress the judges.   St Columba’s and the Wheatley Hall provide a most attractive venue for audiences and the competitors, challenging their peers, playing well rehearsed pieces and gaining valuable experience under the watchful eye of our very supportive and knowledgeable adjudicators.  

Musicians gather at the Regality Cross in June 2017   

Paul Anderson, this year’s leading fiddler, acclaimed as “one of the most respected exponents of the Scots fiddle tradition today” will play a major part throughout the festival.  He will open the festival on Friday night in the Ben Mhor with a  unique concert featuring “the Strathspey” .  In this he will be aided by piper, dancers and other fiddlers and of special note, singer and fiddler Shona Donaldson.

Paul Anderson playing in St Columba's   Church

Once again the Grantown Community Centre will convert into the Fiddlers’ Café and Music Rooms where musicians of all ages and abilities can join the afternoon’s “mastering the Strathspey” which will include sessions, rehearsals and workshops with a memorable finale.  Meanwhile the Café will serve soup and sandwiches lunches and afternoon teas with home-made pancakes, scones, and cakes all the while with a chance to enjoy “The Music of Strathspey”. No such festival would then be complete without a ceilidh or at least a ceilidh dance, and the Saturday evening in the Ben Mhor will witness such an experience following last year’s sell-out evening.

Back in the early nineteenth century, Pastor Peter Grant, PadraigGranndnan Oran (“Peter Grant of the Songs”) broke with tradition and led singing in his services with his fiddle.  With this in mind some of our fiddlers have offered to accompany singing at a Festival Sunday Service. There may well be further pub sessions at lunch time!

Strathspey has given its name to a unique music and dance tradition which is now celebrated and performed across the world.  There is no more appropriate venue than the capital of Strathspey for The Fiddler of Strathspey Festival and it is hoped the event will continue to flourish and go from strength to strength.

2018 young fiddlers by the Spey enjoying a lesson from

Paul Anderson and festival organiser Paula Starritt

 To find a copy of this collection simply click the link below.

• Angus Cumming Collection