Day 3 saw us travel south from Ayr to Gatehouse of Fleet, after a morning spent sampling the local delights of Pirate Pete’s mini-golf and the amusement arcade, in less than tropical weather conditions!
Having left plenty of time for the picturesque drive down, we decided to spend a couple of hours having lunch and looking around Kirkcudbright – a small harbour town just a few miles from Gatehouse of Fleet – which is renowned for it’s popularity amongst painters even to this day as an inspiration for many of their works of art.
Upon our arrival at Gatehouse Parish church, we received a very warm welcome from the hosts (complete with soup, sandwiches and quiche!) and put in the usual tweaks to our set to deal with the difference in staging which the platform posed us.
A compact yet responsive audience took their seats across the two-tiered hall as we embarked upon the first half – featuring the same programme as our first concert of the tour in Melrose on Friday evening, before our ‘Alone at the Opera’ set closed the concert in the second half. At both the interval and the end of the concert, it was great to talk to a number of members of the local Solway Symphony orchestra who had come to listen to the concert!
After a lovely breakfast we said goodbye to our hosts and headed into Melrose town centre to have a look around. We discovered the very impressive Melrose Abbey and enjoyed walking around Harmony House and Gardens before setting off to Ayr.
Upon arrival in Ayr we were met by the president of Ayr Music Club, Isobel McIlwraith, who opened the church for us to set up. After a short rehearsal we were taken for a lovely meal at a local hotel, The Chestnuts, where it was great to get to know Isobel and learn more about Ayr Music Club.
A healthy audience of 70+ were in attendance at our concert including a few of Chris’ friends from Dalmellington Band which was great to see! At the interval and post-concert we received very positive feedback from the audience who thoroughly enjoyed our varied programme, especially the 2nd half ‘Alone at the Opera’ set!
Time to rest now before travelling to Gatehouse or Fleet tomorrow for concert no. 3!
Day 1: Melrose
The tour started with the long drive from Manchester to Melrose on Friday 22nd March. This is only the second time we have been north of the border as a group and we were looking forward to performing five consecutive concerts around the Borders and South West of Scotland.
Melrose was the first stop and after arriving at 5.30pm we found the church hall in which we were to perform. Jonny Bates, our tenor horn player, has come up with a brand new concept for our concert’s second half, breaking away from our more traditional format. The “set” is a through composed quasi-operetta titled “Alone at the Opera”. It features music from classic opera as well as popular music and a touch of Argentina for good measure.
Upon arrival to the hall we found minor logistical challenges relating to the set! We had trialled the concept in our two previous concerts in Helensburgh and Abergavenny and whilst both venues were quite different, they had plenty of space and good access on and off stage, which we have incorporated into the half. In a church hall there is very little room to manoeuvre! Fortunately the hall had some big pinboards we could use as “wings” alongside our A4 banners to create an offstage section on each side of the performance area. After rehearsal, quiche and sandwiches, the hall was opened for the audience to take their seats.
With chamber music you never know how many you might get attending your concerts, especially in a brass group! This was the final concert in the Melrose Music Society’s series, and after extra chairs being found, the 82-strong audience packed into the Parish Church Hall.
We began with our signature opener Toccata and followed with the Scottish-inspired South Uist Variations by Oliver Waespi, both of which feature on our debut album that is available on our merchandise stand. The audience was very close to us throughout the concert and this created a really strong and positive link between performer and listener. This was also one of our most receptive and welcoming audiences, which bodes well for the rest of the tour! Jonny was our first half soloist, playing Concert Étude and we also featured choral music from Kentaro Sato, traditional Scottish music, and the Finale from Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony.
The second half went down a treat despite the initial problems! Having the audience so near gave us lots of energy to feed off, and was encouraging that our comedy was well received! This concert was extra special for me as it was the first time my mum and two brothers had heard the quartet live, whereas the parents of the others have been present at many of our concerts. It was also fantastic to go to a local pub with the three of them and the rest of the quartet to relax after a day of travelling and playing. We were staying in host’s houses and were treated to a wide variety of local beers, lamb casserole and great company, before a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled egg in the morning! We could get used to this!!
The biggest leg of the tour next, Melrose to Ayr.
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