Last night I went to the Evening of Scottish Music concert at the RCS.
Apart from the Freshers’ Ball, this was to be the first time I had really listened to some ‘proper’ Scottish music.
I was absolutely blown away – the music and the performers were excellent.
It was very different to a classical concert, of course, but then the music serves a different purpose so this was no surprise. In the place of black tie and shiny shoes, clothes reflected personalities and… shock horror… there were even jeans!
Introductions were relaxed, an invitation was extended to join in with the chorus on one of the songs and the camaraderie between the performers was very obvious.
The rhythms were strong, with melodies coming and going and threading in and out of various instruments.
I knew there was a difference between Irish and Scottish pipes, but I had never seen pipes that you don’t blow into. These were swapped with whistles – and here was another instrument I’d never seen, in the shape of the larger more mellow-sounding ones.
I was delighted to see 4 clarsachs on the stage, but a little disappointed as I just couldn’t hear them very well. They added texture but I would have like to hear a lot more.
I particularly enjoyed the set by Thalla and will keep an eye out to see how they get on regarding the award they have been nominated for.
The set of the night for me was the pipe trio, who performed the Beaches of Harris Suite. This had a profound effect on me and I was moved to tears. I had to bite my lip extremely hard otherwise I would have disrupted everyone else’s enjoyment with crashing big sobs, I don’t think I would have been able to stop had I got started.
I think there are a few reasons for this.
I have a very dear harp pupil called Roy who is also a piper. Of all my former pupils, he has been the most inspiring, he’s just retired aged 58 (I think) and took up the harp about this time last year. He was a plumbing lecturer and has written a number of very popular plumbing DIY guides. He plays a variety of instruments and enjoys entertaining his guests on the walking holidays he runs. He is the definition of making the most of life, and is one of the happiest people I know. He was a great pupil as he worked incredibly hard, and I think I learnt as much from him about being a good student as he learnt from me about the harp. I thought of him, and of everyone I have left behind on my journey to the RCS.
My parents said very early on that they don’t expect me to move back south again. I’m not sure yet but I know I am thoroughly enjoying where I live now and it would be hard to swap the Campsies and Lennox Forest for traffic jams on the A12 down south.
As I listened to the pipers, I felt that this was now the music of my home, and part of my new, adopted heritage. It was a wonderful feeling. I’ve moved a lot in my life, and have lived all over England. I often feel like I don’t really have a ‘home’ and when people ask me where I’m from, it’s a difficult question to answer.
As well as the structure and rhythm and melodies that the music offered, as I was sat near the front, I could physically feel the music as well as hear it. I felt the air moving, and could see the sheer physicality of playing (which Roy had told me about – likening it to being run over by a car if he played after a long break!) on the players faces.
I’ve not been to Harris yet but am really looking forward to discovering the beaches in question, and I know the music of last night will stay with me for a very long time.