If I were to ask you whether or not you’d ever heard of The Caledonian Pocket Companion, you’d probably shake your head. As well, asked if you were familiar with the Scotsman James Oswald, you’d likely do the same. Oswald happens to have been a very prolific composer who made his fame with that very same “Companion.”
When you look for the most successful Scottish composer from the 18th century, you inevitably run into him. The Companion itself was a large collection of both recycled and newly-composed Scottish tunes with some familiar themes such as love, devotion, and daily life.
Scotland’s golden age of fiddling happens to coincide with the latter half of the 18th century—and some of its most popular music was of the dance variety. The reel, an upbeat dance, was one of the most abundant.
The music coming out of Scotland was not just made up of only dances and love songs. In fact, there were composers who focused on more serious endeavors. Thomas Erskine, the 6th Earl of Kellie, composed symphonies and sonatas. He was also a proficient violinist who was given the nickname “Fiddler Tam.”
Here’s a video of the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge performing Henry Purcell’s “Hear my prayer, O Lord”: