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Just As It Was 3

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Alasdair Fraser and Muriel Johnstone

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17-03-2015

Just as it Was: Three CDs of Scottish Country Dances

Alasdair Fraser and Muriel Johnstone have produced a splendid trio of Scottish Country Dances CDs, a compilation of live recordings made at many venues in Scotland and North America during the last fifteen years.

One well-known teacher from the west coast of the US, when asked what it was like dancing to them ‘live’, responded in one word: FANTASTIC!

There are thirty three dances in all, together with a very stately Grand March, a couple of waltzes, and an emotional performance of Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife.

The dances are predominantly traditional and are published by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, though two are recently published by Jennifer Kelly, The Laird of Atherton, and Bill Zobel, McLaughlin’s Reel.

The recordings give new life to traditional dances such as The Flowers of Edinburgh, The Hollin Buss, and a quite brilliant Dalkeith’s Strathspey.

Tune selection is faultless. Each merges gracefully into the next, and it catches the ear when a familiar tune appears in an unfamiliar setting, like The Duke of Gordon (The Shepherd’s Crook) in Monymusk, or Dovecote Park (MacDonald of Sleat) in The Hollin Buss.

The playing of both performers is outstanding. Alasdair Fraser ornaments his playing with wonderful flights of fancy and stylistic variation; Muriel Johnstone puts great depth and sophistication into the harmonisation. There are delightful passages in unison in, for example, Jubilee Jig and Hooper’s Jig.

Although the tempo seems lively enough, in fact it is almost always, though not in Sleepy Maggie or Cadgers in the Canongate, comparatively leisurely. Jimmy Shand once remarked that he took his tempo ‘from the best feet on the floor’, and that clearly happened when these dances were recorded.

They are a joy to dance to.

Don Andrews

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Just As It Was 3

Just As It Was 3

Alasdair Fraser and Muriel Johnstone