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Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

CDs by Bonnie Rideout

Bonnie Rideout
Scotland's Fiddle Piobaireachd, vol. 1
Tulloch TM504, 2010
Bonnie Rideout is the leading performer and interpreter of fiddle pìobaireachd. This historical solo high-art music is related to the music of the Highland bagpipes and also to the medieval art music of the early Gaelic harp. Now commonly referred to as ‘ceòl mór’, or ‘great music’, the art form typically consists of a slow air followed by a series of increasingly complex figured variations.
This CD is the result of years of work by Bonnie as well as by her mentor John Purser, researching, playing and finally recording these technically complex and emotionally laden pieces. Each of the 9 tracks on the CD is a substantial, intense performance - Bonnie states elsewhere that she always prefers to record these pieces as single takes. Her bowing and ornamentation is exquisitely precise and creates some extraordinary consonant-like sounds from the fiddle. Her violins and viola are tuned in unusual scordatura tunings to bring out the resonances and drones that this music requires.
To add interest and variety, extra effects are included - one track is fabulously recorded in a thunderstorm, and another includes seaside sounds. On four of the tracks Bonnie is joined by another musician - Highland pipes on one, modern romantic lever harp on another, baroque flute on a 3rd, bronze age horns on the 4th - which to me detract from the spare beauty of her unacompanied fiddle and the huge architecture of this music.
This CD is essential listening for anyone interested in the old Gaelic arts.
£13 +

Bonnie Rideout
Scotland’s Fiddle Piobaireachd, vol. 2
Tulloch TM506, 2013
Bonnie Rideout’s second CD continues the themes of the first, presenting a mixture of ensemble pieces and solo fiddle performances. A couple of the tracks on this second volumes are re-releases from Bonnie’s earlier CDs but they are well chosen and delicious performances.
The tracks include traditional fiddle pibroch, as well as other traditional tunes related to the genre, and also some of Bonnie’s own compositions in the traditional style.
The collaborating musicians do not necessarily enhance this disc; Allan MacDonald’s voice and pipes are always a delight, and Barnaby Brown’s triple pipes are just astonishing, but the modern lever harp and bodhran are less beguiling, and to be honest I truly do very much prefer Bonnie’ solo unaccompanied performances. She plays this repertory like no-one else, with powerful emotionally charged passion, which is gripping and compelling - just the woman and the fiddle and the wild wide world of ceòl mór.
£13 +

Bonnie Rideout
Harlaw Scotland 1411
Tulloch TM505, 2011
This double CD presents music and song connected to the battle of Harlaw, which was fought in Aberdeenshire in 1411. Disc 1 presents a selection of music, while disc 2 is more like a radio documentary; narrated by John Purser, it tells the story of the battle and also includes interviews and readings, all interspersed and backed up with fragments of music.
The music is quite a wide selection in a number of different styles. For me the highlights are Bonnie's fiddle solo of the Battle of Harlaw from Dow (the same tune as is on my CD), and Allan MacDonald’s singing of the Harlaw Brosnachadh as well as his piping. Scots ballads are sung by tradition-bearer Elizabeth Steward, and also by ballad singer Andy Hunter, who is accompanied by Bill Taylor. There is also some piano playing, and modern lever harp.
£13 +

 

Other recommendations...
Read more about this music on my ceol mor pages.
For more info on old Scottish fiddle music, inlcuding the fiddle pibroch, see David Johnson's book, 'Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century'. You can hear some of the tunes on Bonnie's CDs performed on early Gaelic harp on the following recordings:
'The Lament for the Bishop of Argyll' and 'The Battle of Harlaw' on Simon Chadwick's CD Clàrsach na Bànrighe.
Lament for the Earl of Wigton, on Ann Heymann's CD Cruit go nÓr and also on Alison Kinnaird's The Silver String. You can also hear a wonderful solo fiddle performance of this tune by Bonnie Rideout online at the BBC website.