I booked a day of workshops months ago. So its off to The Sage in Gateshead.
For the first workshop I played fiddle with Lori Watson.
She specialises in Border tunes and I learned a James Hogg tune called the Tussielaw Lines and another attributed to him - or possibly collected by him, Johnny Faa. Great tunes which have been recorded by Rule of Three.
James Hogg was a shepherd in Borders area. He taught himself to read music and play and became a writer, poet and musician. He is sometimes compared with Burns. Its interesting that in the borders there are a lot of fiddle tunes which have several lines of rhythmic fiddle accompaniment. This was because the fiddle was often the only instrument around. James Hogg's violin is in Edinburgh at the University's museum.
I then went to Bella Hardy's workshop on fiddle singing. She uses three techniques to sing with the fiddle. One is to play the tune, another is to chug/double stop, and the third is harmony. We had a go at this - its quite difficult. It takes a while to work out in your head.
The last workshop was with Calum MacCrimmon - the Breabach piper and whistler. His workshop was on Scottish session tunes which was great too. Breabach are playing everywhere at the moment since Meg Henderson joined them. Fantastic band.
All of the workshops were enjoyable. The standard was very high with most participants playing with bands, or on the folk degree course in Newcastle which was good.
Newcaste is easy to reach by train and its worth keeping an eye on. I booked another workshop in February for my daughter and I - ukelele! Looking forward to that.