Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra

Musical Director, David Moore, talks to AM

By Gill Sherry

Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra was founded in 1982 by Wallace and Lex Galbraith with the aim of encouraging and developing Scots Fiddle Music among local young musicians. Forty years later, the orchestra is still going strong.

“We really felt it was worthwhile celebrating it,” says David Moore, the orchestra’s Musical Director. “We called the year the ‘Salute to AFO’. Myself and Wallace Galbraith wrote a piece of music to celebrate and it’s called ‘Salute to AFO’ in recognition of the year.”

He goes on to tell me about the various events that took place to mark the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

“Players and former players took part in a 40-day 40-piece playathon. The next big event was a 40-hour play-in at Troon Old Parish Church where we had music playing constantly for 40 hours. We also did a video recording of a piece of music called ‘Fiddlers to the Fore’ which was the first piece of music ever played by the Fiddle Orchestra.”

The events were all sponsored with the aim of raising funds for the orchestra’s next international tour, its first since the pandemic in 2019.

“We also had 40 people that had been involved in the orchestra over the last 40 years doing 40 seconds of a video… about something they remembered… or what the orchestra means to them.”
All of these commemorative events led to the big Christmas concert in Ayr Town Hall.

“We had a huge number of fiddlers on stage,” says David, “literally the largest orchestra I would imagine that’s played in Ayr Town Hall. That big wall of sound and noise that we got was really quite exciting.”

And that excitement has continued into 2023 with plans in place for the orchestra’s summer tour.
“The tour starts in Atlanta,” David confirms. “Then we’re going down to a small community called Newnan which is in Coweta County. The orchestra has been there a number of times and they’ve asked us to go back because it’s the 25th anniversary of the signing of the sister cities agreement between Ayr and Newnan.”

After that, the tour will head to pastures new with visits to Memphis, New Orleans and Houston.

“We’ll take the orchestra to the NASA Experience,” says David. “With Prestwick’s space links… it’s a nice thing to be able to do.”

But don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a holiday. Those lucky enough to take part in the tour (56 youngsters with 12 adult chaperones) will be expected to perform and participate.

“In Newnan we’re doing a concert,” says David. “In Memphis we’re doing a concert but we’re also meeting up with a local percussion group… and we’re going to do some workshops with them. We’re hoping to do something similar with an orchestra in New Orleans… sharing ideas with their younger people.”

It’s an amazing opportunity for the youngsters and one David firmly believes in.

“We’re not just taking these young folk from Ayrshire to go and see different parts of the world but getting them to meet young people and make friends and connections. It’s not just a holiday… it is a real cultural exchange.”

David himself was able to take part in these adventures himself when he played in the orchestra, visiting the US, Canada and China. Since taking over as Musical Director he has taken young musicians to Europe, America, China, South Africa and Japan.

“The majority of the places we go and visit are not necessarily the big places. If we’ve got a local connection – maybe a twin town or a Burns Association or Rotary club – and we can link up, it makes life really exciting.”

Being able to perform Scottish music to audiences worldwide is not just a fabulous experience for the members of the orchestra but also immensely satisfying for the team of volunteers behind the scenes.

“We’re absolutely focused on youth,” David enthuses. “The idea is to let young people of Ayrshire experience the Scottish music, which is quite different from classical violin playing, and to experience that different audience reception.”

They are also keen to encourage the young musicians to continue playing when, ordinarily, they may be tempted to give up.

“When young folk move from junior to secondary school, it becomes less cool to play, but the purpose of Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra is to keep folk playing. That has really worked and is still working today.”

David goes on to tell me there is a huge representation of players from Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra in a lot of the national youth orchestras, a fact he is clearly very proud to share.

“Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra punches hugely above its weight in terms of young folk still playing string instruments.”

The mention of string instruments is actually quite important because although the name may suggest otherwise, there’s a lot more to the orchestra than just fiddles.

“The masses are the fiddles,” David clarifies, “but to make it sound more interesting you need other instruments around you… cello, double bass, percussion, guitar, accordion and bass guitar.”

David himself joined Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra when in Primary 7 and says it’s a real privilege to be able to give something back.

“I was a classical violin player. I would never have had the introduction to fiddle music if it hadn’t been for me being in the Fiddle Orchestra. I went on to study traditional fiddle as my major study at university… and if it hadn’t been for the Fiddle Orchestra I wouldn’t have gone on to do music teaching. I’m so indebted to it for having done that.”

David has lived in Prestwick all of his life and now teaches at Belmont Academy in Ayr. His commitment to the orchestra, however, remains a priority.

“The orchestra is run by a team of people,” he says, keen to recognise the contribution of others. “Our Assistant Musical Director is Neil Eggo, and the wider team of directors includes Euan Terras, Kathleen Terras, Ellen Martin, Beth McClymont and Wallace Galbraith. We are all volunteers, there are no paid staff at all. Euan, our chairman, is the mastermind behind the tours.”

He concludes with one simple statement:

“We all do it for the love of it.”

For more information visit www.fiddleorchestra.com or find Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra on Facebook.