Hilary Ferral: From classical violin to Scottish fiddling

Those of us who’ve been dancing for a while would have first met Hilary Ferral on the dance floor when she began dancing as a member of Tawa Club. Then in 2016 she joined Johnsonville Club, and also emerged as a Scottish Country Dancing musician in Peter Elmes’ band at Johnsonville’s very memorable 50 Golden Years Celebration

Hilary at the rear with Lynne Scott, Don McKay, Peter Elmes and Aileen Logie playing at Johnsonville’s 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

Despite the fact that Hilary has continued as a dancing member of Johnsonville Club since 2016, we don’t get to see her very often on the dance floor. She has standing musical commitments on many Mondays, and only makes it to Johnsonville when they permit.

As with Aileen Logie, Hilary has been encouraged and influenced by longstanding Wellington Scottish Country Dancing musician Peter Elmes who played for Johnsonville events from at least 1984 until his retirement in 2018. You can see photos of Peter across the decades in the photographic history Loralee Hyde put together.

Find out more about Hilary’s Scottish Country Dancing journey below.

Kristin Downey

I’ll never be a fiddler!

As a child I learned piano initially, and then added violin lessons a few years later. The violin took over, and eventually I got the hang of practising properly, moved on to music college and acquired a degree in violin performance. So I am unashamedly a classically trained violinist, and will never be a fiddler!!

I have found my ‘calling’ in teaching and have always taught music/violin while attending to various concurrent distractions such as raising children, and adding another stint of study followed by a job as a statistician. I have now (happily) retired from the job in statistics, which gives me a little more time for teaching and spending time with my grandchildren.

I took up Scottish Country Dancing about 10 years ago as a response to a fast emptying nest. Like many people who start Scottish Country Dancing late in life I wished I had started very much earlier. I was, however, hooked within a week of starting!

I have been a member of Tawa Club since then, and have made some very good friends – just one of the happy side-effects of Scottish Country Dancing. I realised fairly soon that dancing more than once a week was a good idea if I wanted to acquire the skills needed, and look like I have the right amount of intelligence that Rod often refers to. So I have also been a member of Johnsonville and Lower Hutt clubs at various times as well as joining classes, schools, and annual dances.

I was very fortunate that long-time member of Tawa Club, Kath Ledingham (Elmes), asked me at some point whether I was interested in playing music for Scottish Country Dancing. She knew I played but had never heard me, so I will always appreciate her leap of faith!

I was pretty diffident to begin with, knowing that classical violin doesn’t sound anything like Scottish fiddling. After a little gentle persuasion I cautiously joined Peter Elmes’ band for about five dances at the Johnsonville Annual Dance celebrating 50 Golden Years in 2016.

Peter, Don McKay and Aileen Logie have been nothing but welcoming and encouraging in the process of inculcating me into the ‘idiom’. I do feel especially grateful that I have been able to play with Peter and learn from his huge experience and expertise for those few years before his retirement.

Hilary at the left acknowledging Peter Elmes at his last time playing, along with Don McKay, Aileen Logie and Kristin Downey

I have no previous knowledge of Scottish dance music, no Scottish blood, and no previous fiddling experience. However, I do love the dance music (and dancing), and it’s been an enormously entertaining learning curve that I’ve been travelling on.

Don McKay, Aileen Logie and Hilary playing at the Johnsonville/Capital City Annual Dance in 2019

Since Peter Elmes’ retirement in 2018 I have continued to play with Aileen on a regular basis, and last year we formally named our duo The Cranberry Tarts. This was announced at the Waikanae final night in 2019 and was received with hoots of laughter and many smiles. I really appreciate Aileen’s deep knowledge of the repertoire and playing, and her limitless enthusiasm.

The Cranberry Tarts: Hilary with Aileen Logie

It’s great that the local Wellington clubs support live music – not just for the big annual dances, but also for their Tartan nights, and other special occasions. The live music really does bring its own special atmosphere. It’s always a joy to play the music, but also good to get up and dance when other bands are playing.

from Hilary Ferral
29 July 2020

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