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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!

First concert completed!

After over a year of planning the Tunnell Trust tour had finally arrived! We decided to fly to Inverness the day before the first concert, which was on Valentine’s Day. We could sense love was in the air at Luton airport security…
Unfortunately after trying to land the first time the plane had to fly back up and circle around for 30 minutes due to really windy weather, but we eventually arrived at our hosts houses. James, Gordon, Rhona, Anna and Andrew were all such lovely and hospitable people and made the stay a such joy. They made such amazing food for us as well so we were all full for the concerts.

The venue we played at was the beautiful main town hall at Inverness. We played some Danzi, Arnold, Piazzolla, Mozart and a which I’ve grown on a absolutely love – the Nielsen wind quintet. The last time we played it was on Coll and every time we perform it I notice something new or hear something different. The acoustic at the Hall was gorgeous and resonant which made it really rewarding to play in.

We’re now driving down next to Loch Ness to Fort William for our next concert. We saw Nessy!

Cavendish Winds

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


The Hermes Experiment’s Tunnell Trust Scottish tour!

It’s my first day back at home after arriving in the early hours of this morning from The Hermes Experiment’s Tunnell Trust Scottish tour. The harp and bass car had an eventful end to a very eventful tour, with a dramatic blizzard on the M6, a cracked windscreen, and seeing a collision at close quarters. I feel like I’ve been away for three weeks not one!

Early on in the tour, our soprano Héloïse sadly came down with a terrible flu and chest infection and had to return to London after one and a half concerts! And so a trio remained. I cannot imagine anyone I would rather create and execute an impromptu trio tour with than Oliver Pashley (clarinet) and Marianne Schofield (double bass). We dredged up solos from our memories and very helpful partners at home scanned in parts for some of our other instrumental arrangements for us to rehearse and include in the programme. Our new programme may not have been packed with new commissions as it would have been with our full complement of members, but we did our utmost to give the best possible concerts that we could, full of variety and entertainment.

We have been incredibly fortunate since we formed the ensemble in 2013, as this is the first time Héloïse has had to withdraw from one of our concerts! However, it happens, and the show must go on. The understanding and support of the Scottish music clubs and audiences that we visited was so heartening, and we are very grateful to everyone who hosted, fed and watered us, and to those who came out to the concerts and lent their attentive and appreciative ears. We met many fantastic people (and animals!), saw incredible scenery, and have all grown personally and professionally as a result of our experience!

Enormous thanks to the Tunnell Trust for awarding us this fantastic opportunity, and here’s hoping we can return to bonnie Scotland at some point in the future!

Anne Denholm, Harp

The Hermes Experiment