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March, Strathspey & Reel On A Scottish Gola


Dec 19, 2021
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Highlands of Scotland
Many, many Hohner Gola accordions are played in the Scottish traditional music. I used to have one myself a few years ago. It had two additional musette reed blocks made specially for it, so that the accordion could function as a true musette instrument or as a double octave accordion. The popularity of the Gola in Scottish music is partly down to the unparalleled handling characteristics and lightning-fast keyboard. However, the Gola also allows a remarkably rich musette to be achieved and wonderful punchy basses (6 voice bass) - something with a real bite and power.

One of my favourite Scottish traditional forms is the March, Strathspey & Reel set. I really enjoy playing them and they are an art form in my opinion. There are Traditional MSRs (March, Strathspey & Reels written specifically for the fiddle or accordion) and there are Traditional Pipe MSRs.

I enjoy MSRs played on fiddle, accordion or the bagpipes. The style of the Pipe variant is really different to a fiddle or accordion MSR. Perhaps more restrained and wonderfully disciplined, due to the more compact range of notes, but subtly brilliant due to the inimitable grace notes and legato sound generated by the instrument. The fiddle tradition built upon the genius of Skinner, Marshall and Gow etc. gives some marvellous tunes - many of which are remarkably technical, such as the march, King Robert The Bruce etc..

However, I would say the MSR written or arranged for accordion has its own character. The accordion MSR is often very complex, more so than the classic fiddle MSRs. However, the accordionists will often play fiddle tunes too (in a Traditional set) and will also attempt to emulate the traditional Pipe MSR (in a Pipe set) - it is a real skill to capture the nature of the Pipes on accordion.
Here's a set of Traditional MSRs on accordion, by the terrific box player Liam Stewart.

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Liam is certainly one of the best in Scotland at the moment. Some of the band stuff recorded with Leonard Brown and Malcolm Ross raises the bar ever higher.
In the Scottish competition scene tunes are being composed specifically for that genre to fully exploit the players technical abilities and it is the feelings of some that music is being left behind in favour of ‘a lot of notes’. It’s the age old argument; do we stick with ‘tradition’ or do we ‘adapt’ and move on? Personally I’m in favour of both provided one doesn’t crowd out the other.