Concerto Caledonia reimagines the 18th-century ceilidh

Published on: Author: Eva Moreda Rodriguez Leave a comment

Led by Dr David McGuinness, a Senior Lecturer in the Music subject area, early music ensemble Concerto Caledonia delves into the roots of Scottish dance music in its recently released 13th album, Nathaniel Gow’s Dance Band. The crack team of stars fiddlers – including PhD student Aaron McGregor – looked together at some of the hundreds of music books published by 18th- and 19th-century fiddlers, and hosted a 1780s ceilidh as part of last year’s Cottier Chamber Project in Glasgow.


The album is one of the outputs of The Bass Culture Project, which David McGuinness has directed over the last three years with a team drawn from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The album release coincides with the official launch of, a digital resource for the Historical Music of Scotland. Phase 1, already available online, contains printed fiddle books from 1750 to 1850: 22 books are digitised in its entirety, with details of over 200 others, representing a huge and largely unexplored part of Scottish culture.

David McGuinness sais “It’s like finding out unexpected secrets about an old friend: the original versons of well-known tunes like The Fairy Dance or Neil Gow’s Lament for Abercairney are quite different from the ones we know now. And dance bands then generally didn-t play tunes in sets like we’re used to: they’d repeat the same tunes until the dancers were finished. That gives you a chance to really settle into a groove and then respond to what the dancers are doing.”

A recent interview in the Herald with David McGuinness provides more details about both the album and the Bass Culture project.

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