Gordon Forum for the Arts


Autumn 2011

Dorothy Ferguson

A local hero

Dorothy Ferguson is well known in music circles as a founder member and musical director of the Garioch Fiddlers.

This year she has already received the prestigious Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Club of Inverurie, and in July she represented Aberdeenshire East constituency as a 'Local Hero' at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament. Dorothy has recently retired from directing the Garioch Fiddlers, so here is an opportunity to reflect on the career of this quietly spoken but remarkable musician who has influenced so many.

Dorothy Ferguson

Dorothy was part of a musical family in which both her parents played piano, her elder brother played violin and elder sister played piano and sang. From the age of seven she took violin tuition through the Dundee School of Music and later played with Dundee Orchestral Society and in various orchestras accompanying musical societies' productions and the like. After marrying Wilson, they moved to Perth where Dorothy became a member of the Perth Orchestral Society. However another move was afoot and to the good fortune of the Garioch, Wilson's job took them in 1971 to stay in Inverurie. Family musical traditions continued with daughter Shona and son, Craig, playing violin, viola, piano and cello.

The opportunity arose for Dorothy to teach violin firstly at Market Place and eventually at all the primary feeder schools for Inverurie Academy where she also became the main violin and viola instructor. In 1982 an inaugural meeting took place to form a local Strathspey and Reel Society. Dorothy felt that this was an opportunity for her to return to playing along with other instrumentalists and happily became a founder member. She became leader of the then small group of around fifteen players. She took over as conductor and musical director in 1986 upon the serious illness of the late Alex Garden just prior to the third Fiddlers Rally in the Town Hall. As such she has continued, conducting her 25th and last rally in April of this year. She was overjoyed when daughter Shona returned to Inverurie from Liverpool as an ex-member specially to play on this occasion.

During these years the Garioch Fiddlers Strathspey and Reel Society, as it is correctly known, has grown immeasurably both in its Senior Section and in the Junior Section, which Dorothy had started. The importance of this young group developing and moving up to the Seniors gives strength to the society. Others would say that such growth in the society is mainly due to Dorothy's gentle personality, style and approach in which all are welcome and are given her support. Past pupils and players from the Garioch Fiddlers are to be found both playing and teaching music in the UK and overseas.

Dorothy's commitment is not limited to the weekly practice and a couple of concerts each month. Many hours in the week are occupied in programme planning and preparation and she has written the harmony parts for some 300 sets of tunes in the Fiddlers' repertoire — this providing the distinctive sound for which the society has become well known. The Fiddlers have also produced several CDs, about one every three years, all but the last being conducted by Dorothy.

Personal highlights include the recording for Grampian Television of the Ceol na Fidhle programmes, entries into the Aberdeen Music Festival, and, most memorably, playing in the fantastic ambience of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, at the Sunday morning service.

Whilst local people will associate Dorothy's name with Scottish music she was, however, classically trained and perhaps her main love remains with classical music. She was invited to join the Aberdeen Sinfonietta and has played with them in numerous performances over several years in Aberdeen Music Hall, has played in the Grampian Sinfonia Orchestra accompanying Aberdeen Choral Society in two performances per year, and by invitation has supported the Inverurie Orchestra in a couple of its performances. Through these Dorothy has maintained the classical aspect to her playing.

The Garioch Fiddlers, 2008

Now at the end of an era as conductor and musical director, Dorothy, who had previously received an award from Gordon Forum for the Arts in 1995, was this year recognised through the local Rotary Club by being awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship. She felt deeply honoured in joining an elite group of non-Rotarians in receiving this prestigious award which is presented for making an outstanding contribution to the community. Dorothy, accompanied by Wilson, was subsequently invited by Mr Alex Salmond to participate as his chosen 'Local Hero' in the Ridings at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. She would say, however, that such recognitions are not to be seen solely for herself but for the hard work of the Garioch Fiddlers and the tremendous support she has been given by them.

In reflecting on the importance of music Dorothy believes strongly that learning to play an instrument instils in and requires of the player a high degree of attention to detail and the ability to learn a disciplined approach. It provides opportunities in building self-confidence, in team working and developing social skills through the satisfaction and delight in playing with one's peers in a co-operative way. It is a skill which once learned can be pursued and returned to as life's cycle permits.

She looks forward now to simply playing violin and viola for her own pleasure and to support others as they have supported her. Many people have cause to thank Dorothy and to wish her well in her retirement.

For further information on available CDs visit: www.gariochfiddlers.com

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