From the Capital to Caledonia – and back again….
Our 2022 Scottish mini-tour started with the long journey from London to Fife. Magda and Tom shared the long drive up with the harpsichord, stopping off at the famous Tebay services - a particular highlight of the journey… When we arrived, we met up with old friends from London, who kindly hosted us for the first part of the trip. A wet journey took us into the centre of Dundee where we gave a concert at the Wighton Heritage Centre for the Friends of Wighton. Tucked at the very top of the Central library, the Wighton Collection is one of the most important collections of Scottish manuscripts and printed music in the world. Here our programme included selection of pieces from our debut CD ‘Full of the Highland Humours’, many of which are held in the collection. After the concert, we were extremely excited to have a look at the manuscript of James Oswald’s first set of ‘Airs for the Autumn’ which opened the programme. A particular joy was meeting supporters we got to know on our last visit to Scotland, and whom we have kept up with through our online lockdown concerts. Thank you for the warm welcome!
Severe weather warnings were now in place, with extremely heavy rain making the next drive very slow… Several detours were made because of severely flooded roads; nobody wanted to see the harpsichord stuck in the middle of an impromptu ford! However, the weather brightened as we passed through Ayrshire and into the very different landscape of Dumfries and Galloway. We stopped off for lunch in Ayr at the Remedy Café for soup and a beach walk – to be recommended!
In New Galloway, our next stop, we were hosted by the local recorder group the "Galloway Gremlins" for a fantastic day of workshops and a concert. We couldn’t help be blown away by the Catstrand arts centre in New Galloway, with its amazing facilities and community spirit. A former school building, it was opened as a centre for arts and creativity in 2007. In the morning, Mary-Jannet led a recorder workshop for a talented group of players, many of whom had travelled many miles to join. In the afternoon all four of us led a playing workshop for all Early Music instruments, introducing members to new pieces of repertoire, including arrangements of some of James Oswald’s Airs.
During our trip, we were finally able to give some individual lessons to some of our supporters who had generously supported our CD crowdfunding campaign. This was great fun, and we loved being able to hear people play and offer some practical advice on technique, repertoire, and learning. Our concert that evening was received very warmly indeed and had a particularly special atmosphere within an intimate theatre setting. Here we felt able to connect with our audience with a personal touch, especially as we had got to know so many people during the day. Here and everywhere, we added many new people to our mailing list – so welcome if you have just joined the Hesperi community! Many audience members wanted to take away a memory of the evening and the Scottish Baroque music – we actually sold out of CDs and on arrival back home have had to ask our record label to order a re-press! Christmas is around the corner after all…
In our first two concerts, we presented music from our ‘Full of the Highland Humours’ programme, our ‘signature’ repertoire, but at St Mary’s, Aberfoyle we were delighted to perform our new ‘A Gift for your Garden’ programme, which celebrates Telemann’s obsession with plants in later life! This programme takes inspiration from Telemann’s letters, in which he often asks his musical colleagues for shipments of unusual specimens, and reveals that his new passion rivals his commitment to music! This very different setting, a small church surrounded by misty mountains, closed with our popular cheeky encore, a variation set by Robert Bremner, which brought many a smile to the audience.
This was our first trip to Scotland as a full ensemble, and we are already receiving bookings for a return visit in 2024. It was the generosity of spirit and kindness from our generous hosts and audiences which made this mini-tour so special and so memorable. In each place we met wonderful new friends, and also finally met many of you whom we had got to know online during the pandemic, but had never met in person. We love keeping in touch with our supporters across the UK and around the world: to all of you – thank you so much.