Author: Solem Quartet

Solem Quartet Blog No. 3

Our final post…we arrived home and back to city life yesterday after travelling by ferry, car, plane and train, and we’re already missing the landscape that’s surrounded us for the last ten days.

Our last concert of the tour was on Sunday afternoon for Cowal Music Club. We played Mozart, Haydn and Bartok at the newly refurbished Dunoon Burgh Hall – a really enjoyable acoustic to play in and a very well attended concert!

On the way to Dunoon we stopped at the magnificent Loch Eck, to take in the views and for an unplanned photo shoot. Following several unsuccessful attempts negotiating the self-timer function on the camera, we came out with a few good ones! We also had a delicious lunch and fascinating studio tour at the home of artists Don McNeil and Jean Bell. For some incredible paintings of the rugged Scottish landscape have a look at their website:

So all that remains to say is a huge ‘thank you’ to all the people who have housed us, fed us and entertained us along the way! We’re constantly impressed by the dedication of music societies and the people who are passionate about bringing classical music to their part of the world – we are very grateful for your commitment. And, of course, to the Tunnell Trust for supporting this tour which has provided us so many memories.

To stay in touch with us, find us on twitter @SolemQuartet, or sign up to our newsletter via our website: Thanks for reading!

Solem Quartet Blog No. 2

We’ve arrived at our final destination for the week! While rehearsing Ravel, we’re struck by the incredible views of the Firth of Clyde and enjoying watching the ferries go past. In fact, throughout this tour the views have been immense! Since our last update we’ve taken in Islay, Bute and today have arrived in Dunoon.

On Islay, we visited the Bruichladdich Distillery. As beginner-level whisky drinkers we all enjoyed learning about the distilling process, the history of the distillery, and (of course) tasting the finished product. The sampling included the most heavily peated whisky in the world, the Octomore. Verdict: delicious. A trip to any of the island’s famous distilleries is highly recommended! And if any anyone from Bruichladdich is reading this, we’d love a souvenir bottle…

We really enjoyed playing to a wonderfully warm audience at the Gaelic Centre on Islay, and loved our Valentine’s Day at the Lochside Pub with Stuart and Celia Todd! We stayed with Mrs McNeil at the Lambeth Guest House, where we enjoyed delicious food, extremely comfortable beds and watching the Winter Olympics Skeleton into the early hours of the morning.

From Islay to Bute was not the easiest of trips: on top of the driving we took three ferries, and encountered a flock of sheep and a pair of deer in the road. Just a normal journey in this part of the world! On Bute we played at the Rothesay Academy, and performed Bartok for the first time this week, to a very appreciative audience. Playing in a school can sometimes feel slightly alien as a concert environment, so we made some acoustic adjustments using school dining tables (see picture below)! Another entertaining trip to the pub followed, this time with Russell Philips and some delicious Bute beer.

We’re looking forward to what will be (sadly) our final concert of the tour tomorrow. We’ll be sorry to be leaving this incredible landscape and warm-hearted people behind!

Solem Quartet Blog no. 1

We’re writing this blog from an amazingly isolated farm house on the outskirts of snow-covered Oban! At the time of writing, Monday 12th – we are only four days into the tour but have played half of our concerts.

We met in Glasgow on Friday afternoon and following tetris-style packing of the hire care, we drove to Campbeltown for our first concert of Haydn, Beethoven and (our very own…) Vennart! There we stayed in a lovely hotel which specialised in whisky, including one bottle that is roughly valued at £25,000! We didn’t taste that one…but we did enjoy a delicious and much-needed curry at the local Indian restaurant.

From there, we travelled North to Lochgilphead for Saturday’s Mid Argyll Arts Association concert at Kilmory Castle. Playing Haydn and Beethoven but also our first full run of Thomas Ades’ The Four Quarters. We’ll be playing this work to the composer in March when we travel to the International Musician’s Seminar at Prussia Cove, and following that at the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in April. We were happy with our first complete attempt at this technically and musically very challenging piece – but still plenty of work to be done!

A perfect stay with Philip and Sarah Brae (and their spaniels, Tyke and Benny) provided us with incredible views of Loch Awe and the blanket of snow covering the surrounding area. Picture-postcard stuff. We were enthralled by the Brae’s incredible conservatory (see below) and entertained by Amy and Philip playing Schubert piano duos into the small hours, on one of two grand pianos!

Our third concert in as many days was on Sunday afternoon at St John’s Cathedral in Oban. Again we played Haydn and Beethoven, but this time with both the Ades and the Vennart – two contemporary works completely different in style but equally impactful for audiences. Our wonderful hosts in Oban, Jeremy and Carol, last night treated us to a delicious dinner complete with plenty of wine, and also our first taste of Scottish whisky this week. We’re looking forward to a distillery day on Islay in a few days…

Thanks so much to all the people involved in making the concerts happen, the various music societies and our hosts – all of whom have made us feel entirely welcome and been enormously generous. We’ll be back with more later in the week!

Solem Quartet