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The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century


Elizabeth C. Ford

It is a generally accepted truth that the flute was unknown in Scotland prior to 1725, and that it was played exclusively by wealthy men. Upon examination, these beliefs are demonstrably false. This book explores the role of the flute in Scottish musical life, primarily in the long eighteenth century, including players, repertoire, manuscripts, and instruments. Evidence for ladies having played the flute is also examined, as are possible connections between flute playing and bagpipe playing. Reasons for the flute’s disappearance from the pantheon of Scottish instruments are considered, and interviews with contemporary flute players in Scotland depict flute playing in contemporary Scotland. This work fills a major gap in knowledge of Scottish musical life and flute history.

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Chapter 3 Professional musicians


Chapter 3

Professional musicians


Professional flute players active in Scotland in the eighteenth century tended to be generalists, rather than specialists, unlike professional flute players in France and Germany, who were nearly always specialists on the instrument.1 David Johnson classified the flute, and the recorder, as amateur instruments,2 but the actuality was more nuanced. The professional musicians known to have played flute can be broken into two primary categories: teachers and performers. Other than the few travelling virtuosos who passed through Scotland, the flute in the concert halls of the Edinburgh and Aberdeen Musical Societies was almost always the territory of either local amateur musicians or non-specialists. Regionally, most professional flute players were not surprisingly based in greater Edinburgh,3 with Aberdeen and Glasgow having smaller numbers of flute teachers and concerts featuring the flute.←67 | 68→

Music teachers

Mr McGibbon

In 1711 and 1712, Lady Grisell Baillie,4 wife of George Baillie of Mellerstain House in the Scottish Borders, employed a music teacher variously called Mr Mcgiven or Mr Mcgibber to teach her daughter Rachel the flute.5 This was almost certainly Malcolm McGibbon, the Edinburgh-based relative of the composer William McGibbon.6 Malcolm McGibbon was a prominent musician in Edinburgh: he was the oboist who performed in the St Cecilia’s Day concert described by William Tytler in his essay in the Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; on 17 April 1696 he received permission...

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