The Celtic Fiddler | Colin MacLeod




Colin Macleod at the Resipold Fiddle Fest 2015. Photo courtesy of Colin MacLeod.

“Music’s actually a bit more than just playing music. It can touch people’s hearts.”

 

The fiddle itself began its life as a tree in North America. There, once it had grown to the proper age and height, the hardwood was harvested. Then the raw material was bought by a violin craftsman in Shanghai, China named Ling Hue and crafted into a violin at his shop - one of the first he ever made. 

 

Ten years ago that violin was purchased by Colin MacLeod. Colin is a Celtic fiddler in Edinburgh, Scotland. He’s been playing Celtic fiddle for over 40 years. 

 

Celtic fiddle is a traditional style of playing violin from Scotland and Ireland that is passed down “from generation to generation.” Colin explains that when Scottish highlanders first emigrated to the new world, many of them landed in Wilmington, North Carolina bringing with them their music, language, and cultures. “People learned to play Celtic fiddle by ear.” 

 

“It used to be a great thing,” Colin says. He shares about a Ceilidh (a Gaelic word pronounced like Kay-lee), an old tradition of coming together for a night of music and dance and conversation. 

 

“Music is such a great way to bring people together. There’s a connection, you don’t have to worry whether you’re a CEO of a company or a nurse or a doctor or a teacher, it doesn’t matter. Everyone can join together, regardless of where they come from,” he says.

 

Colin has taken his Celtic fiddle all over the world. “It’s the most beautiful violin I’ve ever owned, I’ve played over Mount Everest at 33,000 feet with that violin,” Colin says.

“I’ve played for the jungle elephants in Sumatra, played them ‘Jungle Bells’ on that violin, I’ve had 2,000 or 3,000 students anywhere from five up to maybe slightly older, like 70 or 78 have a go at playing the violin. This violin has been around the world somewhere between five and seven times.”

Colin playing for the elephants in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Colin MacLeod.

Colin also teaches fiddle under the name The Celtic Fiddle Guru (CFG) in his online school where he passes on this style of violin. On teaching, Colin says “It’s made me more aware, and with that, it’s increased the level of respect that I have for each note that I play.” He continues by comparing the notes in a song to the people in the room when he plays. “Giving each person in the room a bit of attention just to make their experience special for that moment.” 

 

Colin chose the name Celtic Fiddle Guru because CFG also stands for a different phrase, Creativity For Growth. He affirms that creativity is incredibly important. “Putting something of yourself into what you’re doing makes it something special,” he says, “that’s what really makes something stand out.”

 

Colin takes his violin out of its case. “We’ll give it a go and see how it sounds.” He then tucks the fiddle under his chin, as he has many times before. Tuning is a very quick process. He runs the bow across multiple strings at once, his expert ear distinguishing between discrete notes and tuning individual strings accordingly. 

 

He wastes no time before he begins to play. 

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