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The Edinburgh Highland Reel and Strathspey Society: A History
James Moray Calder
Edited by George A. Robertson

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Subject: Music
royal octavo
ISBN: 1 86232 144 2
approx 120 pages
Illustrated: 8pp b/w
Paperback £14.99


The Edinburgh Highland Reel and Strathspey Society, the first of its kind, was formed in 1881, ‘for the practice or promotion of Scottish National Music, more especially Reel and Strathspey playing in the old Highland fashion’.

Until 1949, the Orchestra was composed of violins (first and second), violas, ’cellos and double basses. Thereafter the piano was introduced. In the early days the orchestra played the strathspeys and reels as contained in the Athole Collection and other publications available at that time, together with Scots airs. With the great interest in Scottish country dancing which occurred after 1945, the Society extended their repertoire to include sets of Country Dances arranged by John Robertson and James M. Calder who were associated, in succession, with the Scottish Country Dance Players and the Scottish Country Players who broadcast regularly on BBC Radio.

From its early days, small groups of fiddlers from the Orchestra have assisted at innumerable concerts and fund-raising events. In addition to the Annual Concerts, many others have been held in the Usher Hall, such as Fiddlers’ Rallies, concerts featuring regimental Bands, the International Gathering of the Clans, etc.

Archibald Menzies was appointed conductor in 1889. He continued, with considerable enthusiasm, to promote the interests of the Society until his death in 1914. His son Ian C. Menzies succeeded him until his own death in 1949. James M. Calder was appointed as his successor, having joined the orchestra in 1931 playing violin and thereafter playing double bass. He retired from office in 1991. The Orchestra of the Society is presently under the baton of Jim Ferguson. The Society is currently in a very strong position, with able leadership and an extended library of Scottish music.