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SPEYFEST: Inverness-born fiddler, composer and broadcaster Bruce MacGregor looking forward to Scots traditional music festival

By Chris Saunderson

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INVERNESS-BORN fiddler, composer and broadcaster Bruce MacGregor is relishing being part of the 25th anniversary Speyfest.

He was taught music by the legendary Donald Riddell.

Most recently Bruce’s role as a composer has come into the spotlight with the launch of the “Highlanders Revenge and other tales” in January 2020. The book is a collection of 50 compositions with the story and inspiration for each tune alongside photographs from over 20 years touring with Blazin Fiddles.

Fiddler Bruce MacGregor.
Fiddler Bruce MacGregor.

Bruce said: “It’s incredible to be able to get back to playing music festivals again, but to play Speyfest this year is without doubt, a truly special occasion.

"I’m sure every musician, organiser, and music fan will want to make this a fitting tribute to the wonderful James Alexander, a man who put his heart and soul into the traditional music of this area and ensured it is thriving today.

"So whilst the weekend will be tinged with sadness we want to make sure we celebrate the man and his music - it’s what he would have wanted."

Bruce hosted Travelling Folk on BBC Radio Scotland for many years. He is an award-winning producer with his programmes on Scottish music including “The Strathspey King – the life of James Scott Skinner” and “The Captain’s Collection” both awarded Celtic Media Awards.

In 2001 he founded Blazin in Beauly a week-long musical extravaganza making the Highland village the “Fiddle Town of Scotland” for a week every October. The music school now attracts lovers of Scottish Fiddle from around the world.

Bruce has also played for Sir Billy Connolly, Sir Sean Connery, Prince Edward and accompanying Ewan McGregor and Sharlene Spitteri, Eddi Reader, Justin Currie and duetting with world renowned violinist Nicola Benedetti

The Fochabers Fiddlers aim to do their founder and mentor, James Alexander, very proud when they take to the stage at Speyfest later this month.

Mr Alexander formed the group in 1980 for pupils aged 12-18 years at Milne's High School.

His death earlier this year was felt keenly among the Scottish traditional music scene, and acutely by the fiddlers.

James Alexander at the end of the Sunday session from the Fochabers Fiddlers in 2019.Picture: Daniel Forsyth
James Alexander at the end of the Sunday session from the Fochabers Fiddlers in 2019.Picture: Daniel Forsyth

James Macgregor of Fochabers Fiddlers said: “We are all looking forward to playing in the hometown of the Fochabers Fiddlers on Speyfest Sunday.

"Despite missing one very special man, we hope to do him proud and have you up on the floor for some well kaint fiddlers tunes. Can’t wait to see you all there.”

In the summer of 1980, James and David Ferguson, the then minister of Bellie Church, organised a trip to the Shetland Isles for the group which has gone from strength to strength since then.

The group has a number of experienced fiddlers who lead the group and they have toured to various parts of America and Germany.

Duncan Chisholm
Duncan Chisholm

Duncan Chisholm, one of Scotland's most accomplished fiddle players, said: "Speyfest is a really unique and special festival. At the heart of Speyfest is a wonderful community of people who truly love music.

"It is festival for all the family, one that I have spent many happy times at over the years and I’m delighted to be there this year to celebrate its 25th anniversary."

Born and brought up near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, Duncan has spent most of his life developing his unique musical voice.

He was winner of the 2018 Scots Trad Music Awards ‘Album of the Year’ for his latest studio album Sandwood.

He has played throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, both through his solo work and while playing with other musicians and bands.

Duncan will be joined at Speyfest with a fantastic array of musicians including

Jarlath Henderson on pipes and whistles, Innes Watson on acoustic guitar and viola,

Hamish Napier on piano and flute and James Mackintosh on percussion with Alan MacKinnon looking after the sound.

Another performer, singer-songwriter Colin Campbell said: "I feel very honoured and thrilled to be included in the line up for this year’s Speyfest. It's shaping up to be a very special and memorable weekend.”

Martin Gillespie can't wait to perform with Skerryvore.
Martin Gillespie can't wait to perform with Skerryvore.

Skerryvore piper Martin Gillespie is another very much looking forward to Speyfest.

He said: "Sunday night at Speyfest is going to be a brilliant night – we cannot wait to be back! It’s fantastic to see the festival return and we’ll make sure the weekend ends on a real high.

"The Moray crowd are always raring to go and the 25th anniversary celebration will be a great way to round off a jam-packed festival season. See you soon Fochabers.”

Since 2005, Skerryvore have brought their performances to audiences across the globe, from their early days in Scottish West Coast halls and bars, to festival crowds in USA, Canada, Australia and throughout the UK and Europe.

Skerryvore are looking forward to Speyfest.
Skerryvore are looking forward to Speyfest.

They won Scottish traditional music’s ‘Live Act of the Year’ twice in 2011 and 2016.

With a mix of fiddle, accordions, pipes and whistles, alongside guitar and vocals, underpinned by driving bass, drums and keys, Skerryvore represent the best in contemporary Scottish traditional music.

The band celebrated their 10th birthday in 2015 by launching their own 6000 capacity ‘Decade’ festival, following this up with successful Oban Live’events over each of the next four years.

The band explored live streaming and virtual performances in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

The band’s single, ‘Everyday Heroes,’ recorded from home, and aided by a variety of musicians from across the country, reached number one in the official Scottish charts and, so far, has raised several thousands of pounds for NHS staff charities.

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