Last we night we performed out final concert of the tour in Melrose, a historic town with impressive abbeys all around. Now we are sat at Edinburgh Waverley Station, waiting for our trains to London and York. We can’t quite believe that our Scottish adventure has come to an end! From Banchory, up to Inverness and down to Penicuik, New Lanark and Melrose we have seen incredible scenery, beautiful towns, venues ranging from the impressive Inverness Town House to the charming and intimate Penicuik Arts Association. Most appreciated of all, we have had generous hosts who have made us feel comfortable and at home, which makes all the difference when moving to different locations each day.
All that remains to say is thank you to all the hosts for looking after us, to the Music Societies and Associations and their audiences for having us, and to the Tunnell Trust for organising everything and giving us this opportunity. We have every hope of returning in the future, both to explore more, and also hopefully to play again!
We started the day yesterday with a short walk to see Penicuik House – it was great to get some fresh Scottish air and stretch our legs. Our descent down into New Lanark brought more beautiful Scottish scenery, as we entered the UNESCO World Heritage Site. New Lanark is a restored 18th-century cotton mill village on the banks of the River Clyde. The mill was famously transformed under the management of the philanthropist and utopian idealist, Robert Owen. In fact in his time, ‘The Institute’, which is the venue in which we were playing, was used by him and the villagers for music and dancing – or, as he regarded it, the cultural education of his mill workers.
We arrived in time for a rehearsal and tour of the museum and then, as has been the theme of this whole tour, we were warmly looked after and treated to a meal in the hotel next door. When we returned to The Institute, the Music in Lanark Committee had set up some fantastic atmospheric lighting for us, which they then perfected with us in position.
It was a fantastic turnout despite the cold weather and heavy snow which had been falling all afternoon and a pleasure to perform on Ruth the piano (named after the Head of Keyboard Studies at Yehudi Menuhin School). It was also heart-warming to hear of the generous support of Border Biscuits who helped fund the purchase of the piano.
We are currently on our way to Melrose and have just stopped in a Forestry Commission cafe for some lunch surrounded by mountain bikers! Looking forward to our last concert of the tour and to coming full circle as we play the programme which we last played on our first night of the tour, ‘Across the Pyrenees.’
Yesterday marked the half-way point of our tour. We had our last long drive, from Inverness to Penicuik, travelling through the Cairngorms. Writing this now with the sun shining in Penicuik, it’s hard to believe the blizzard that we encountered during that drive!
Last night’s concert was for Penicuik Community Arts Association. It was in an upper room, above a cafe, the perfect size for a chamber music concert with an intimate audience and decorated with pictures which had been painted by members of the Association – many of whom were in the audience for our concert! Another highlight of the room was the open fire which members of the Association ensured was fully blazing by the time the concert started.
The sense of community was palpable and it was a pleasure to see everyone chatting and having a drink around the fire in the interval and to join in ourselves, chatting about music, paintings and where to find the best pubs with live folk music!
Today we are going to New Lanark so have a much shorter drive of just under an hour. With a bit more time on our hands, we are planning on being tourists a little and enjoying the weather before the forecast storm blows in tonight. Tonight will be the last time we play our Debussy/Schumann/Bernstein/Yoshimatsu/Piazzolla/Gershwin programme and then our last concert will be in Melrose tomorrow. Can’t believe it’s coming to an end already!
We weren’t off to the best of starts yesterday, as just one hour into our journey the car broke down… An hour and a half after pulling into a conveniently placed lay-by, Rob from the RAC arrived – he loaded the car onto the truck, we hopped in the front with him and he brought us back to Aberdeen where there was a branch of our hire car company. Thank you for rescuing us, Rob!
Finally on the road for good, in a different car, we arrived in Inverness just in time for half an hour to get used to the hall and the piano and for a bowl of soup (thanks to our lovely host, James). We caught our first glimpse of Inverness Town House looking in through the window from the outside – seeing the chandeliers shimmering we could tell it was going to be grand!
We performed a different programme last night, having offered all of the music clubs two contrasting options. Music Inverness chose the concert including works by Debussy, Schumann, Bernstein, Yoshimatsu, Piazzolla and Gershwin. We particularly enjoyed the humour of the programme notes written by Ian Sharpe, ‘[in the arrangement of West Side Story we will hear the] Mambo – with or without the words?’ – of course we can’t tell you whether we did shout Mambo or not, as we have two more performances of that programme coming up!
After black pudding and haggis for breakfast this morning, we are ready to travel south to our next stop: Penicuik!
Our first day took us 395 miles, as the crow flies, as we travelled from London to Banchory – taking the train to Edinburgh and then driving north through the stunning landscape of Scotland, over spectacular bridges and through mountain snow. This seemed very apt ahead of performing our programme last night which we had titled ‘Across the Pyrenees!’
Members of Woodend Music Committee welcomed us at The Barn – a multi-arts centre which, over the last 25 years, has grown to become the largest arts venue in Aberdeenshire. We were immediately taken by the warm, generous acoustic and settled into the afternoon’s rehearsal. Then it was time for a short break and for making the most of tucking into local Scottish food before starting the concert. Thank you so much to Woodend Music Society for our Scottish duo debut!
Today we travel to Inverness. We’ve been warned that a road closure will prevent us from taking the most picturesque route, but even so we are sure we aren’t going to be disappointed by the scenery – everywhere we look on our journeys could be a painting!