Mid-Armagh Community Network runs a very successful tuition Ulster-Scots fiddle class. Under the name of "Fiddle Steeks", the group has performed before the public to some acclaim.
Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.
The following information appears on the Mid-Armagh Community Network website (www.markethillulster-scots.org) and is reproduced here with permission.
"Second perhaps only to the Bagpipes, the fiddle occupies a place a central importance in the musical heritage of Scotland. The fiddle, or a crude instrument very much like it, has been played for centuries in Europe, going back at least as far as Roman times. As musicians and artisans gradually refined musical technology to produce the classical violas and violins, those instruments, favored by the aristocracy, were adopted enthusiastically throughout Scotland.
"If the word 'fiddle' suggests a proletarian or 'folk' context, it is also true that the strains on the 'sweet music' as it is known in Scotland, owe much of their status there to the fact that they also appealed to the refined tastes of the Scottish upper classes.
"Musically the term fiddle may be a bit misleading. The fiddle and the violin are after all the same instrument. What distinguishes the fiddle from the violin is technique and the attitude in playing the instrument. There are many artificial barriers between so-called classically educated musicians and folk musicians. It is perfectly possible to get people to use the same instrument to play dance music in the village hall or classical music in the symphony. In short a fiddle is a violin that plays Scottish music. The name fiddle remains with us today principally because of its associations with Scottish Dance music. Although fiddle music is played throughout Scotland, there is a wide variety of styles, and the style in the west of Scotland and the Islands is different from that in the North East, the Northern Isles and the South of Scotland. The Scottish style is generally regarded as originating in the North East, where exponents include the famous Scott Skinner and Neil Gow, however there is evidence of very early playing in the Highlands. A school of Fiddlers was recorded as existing in Torrin in Skye in the seventeenth century.
"The great Scottish Fiddle composers, Skinner and Gow, were patronized as members of the households of music loving Scottish barons, yet their music along with local favorites, was likely to be found in the repertoire of the itinerant fiddler who serviced the common folk. In Scotland the fiddle was as much at home accompanied by the cello and harpsichord in the gilded halls of an aristocrats estate, as it was in the company of a penny whistle and "squeezebox" accordion at the lowland Harvest home or humble Highland ceilidh.
"When James VI of England, formerly James 1 of Scotland, opened five counties of North Ireland for settlement many Scots who lived a short distance across the Irish Sea took advantage of the opportunities offered. Thousands of Scotland's finest brought their families to Ireland. Among these was Sir Henry Acheson from Haddingtonshire who was granted 1000 acres of land in this area. These Scottish families who came to Ulster were industrious and soon developed a flourishing economy . The flax industry boomed. The Scots had bought Sheep to Ireland and the wool industry too expanded. Every small cottage boasted a small spinning wheel and a large weaving loom, and the girls and women of the families became proficient in their use. Farming techniques of the Scots were far better than the crude efforts of the typical Irish, and the Ulster Scots communities flourished. They also brought with them their traditional fiddle music and it is no surprise as fiddle music can be taken anywhere, and kindred spirits will always be found resonating in just about any country in the world. The music itself is broad ranging , from ancient sounding to things that are harmonically complex.
"Mid-Armagh Community Network has rekindled interest in this music and currently run very successful tuition classes consisting of 16 people, both young and not so young , under the skillful guidance of Keith Lyttle from Waringstown in Co Armagh. Keith is teaching them skills which their forefathers had in abundance and we are delighted that some have brought along their own 'family' fiddles on which they wish to learn to play."