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Scotland in music

Review by Edward Scott Pearlman

Our little group of a dozen travelers was fully prepared for all types of weather as we walked the Highland hills each day and enjoyed Scottish music in the evenings. But we had beautiful weather that October week, until we visited Niel Gow (he spelled "Niel" the Gaelic way). This legendary fiddler and composer lived in the hamlet of Inver, just across and up the River Tay from Dunkeld. The day we arrived in Dunkeld, we finally had to pull out our raingear to keep warm and dry as we walked in the misty Scottish rain.

Since Gow had been dead for 202 years when we got there, the best way to say hello to him was to stop by his grave in Dunkeld, visit his cottage in nearby Inver, look at his portrait and, above all, hear his fiddle played at Blair Castle.

The tunes of Gow and his sons are still central to Scottish traditional music. Several of his sons were fiddlers, composers and bandleaders, most notably Nathaniel, who also published the Gow Collection. This series of tune books contained many tunes by Niel and his sons, as well as hundreds of other tunes popular in Scotland at the time. The Gow Collection has been republished in recent years, but also cleaned up and alphabetized, minus the curious old notations about the tunes and the arrangements of pairs of tunes for dancing.

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