Every summer, the Orchestra divides into two smaller ensembles, SCO Strings and SCO Wind & Brass, to go their separate ways on tour around Scotland. In June, SCO Wind & Brass performed in Banchory, Boat of Garten and Birnam to very appreciative audiences!
We chatted to SCO Principal Bassoon Peter Whelan (PW) and SCO Flautist Lis Dooner (LD), to see what they were enjoying most about being on tour.
|© Martin Usborne||© Jeffrey Evans|
How has the tour been so far?
PW: We’re having a lovely tour. We’re on our final day now, in Birnam. We’ve been in Boat of Garten and Banchory and it’s all going very well. We’ve had lovely audiences, mixed weather but it’s been a good few days’ music-making.
LD: It’s been really great. We have a really nice programme using larger forces than we often do, with the brass players as well which is really exciting. And doing the Prokofiev arrangements by Peter Franks has been really good. They’re excellent arrangements and they’re well written for the group - it sounds great!
What’s been the best part of the tour so far?
PW: I think the best part must be the travel out into the community, visiting everybody, seeing the enthusiastic audiences.
LD: There have been lots of highlights really. The new venue to us - the Woodend Barn at Banchory – was a real find. It has a lovely sound and very nice space… and fantastic food! Then going to Boat of Garten yesterday and hearing the steam trains going past. I had a lovely walk in the woods at the back of the Community Hall and saw a red squirrel. And actually being here in Birnam has been nice as well, the staff are very friendly and it’s a great hall.
SCO Orchestra Manager Louisa Stanway takes in the view at Cairn o'Mount
The SCO truck on the road
How have you found the venues?
PW: The venues have been a mixed bunch, some of them are very small. Boat of Garten is a very intimate venue, but it’s nice to see the people up so close, I think the audience are a bit terrified to hear us all tooting loudly in their faces but they seemed to enjoy it! And today’s maybe seems the most generous sound here in Birnam.
LD: Good! I just think that the SCO’s got such a wonderful reputation now that people feel very confident coming to our concerts and they know they’re going to get a good show. I think that confidence in us makes them enjoy the concert. The audience seems to have responded well to wind music, which can be a bit specialised, but they have really gone for it and loved it, it’s been a very warm reception. There’s something for everybody – a little bit of Mozart, the rarely-performed Seiber, and then the two big Peter Franks arrangements are just the kind of volume which audiences find exciting. I thought it might be too loud on the tour, but actually they seem to love it!
Any good stories from this tour or previous tours?
PW: Last year we were touring and at the time we had then Orchestra Manager, Hal, with us. We were playing in Whiting Bay, in Arran and halfway through the concert the lights went out – we were all plunged into darkness! Hal came, fixed the lights and saved the day! It was already a strange concert as the stage was set for a production of The Importance of Being Earnest and we were playing in a Victorian sitting room – so the whole thing was very surreal to begin with!
LD: I was thinking about last year’s tour where we started off in Easdale on the west coast of Scotland and we had a bit of a panic because many players were stuck behind a road blockage. There wasn’t any phone reception, so we had no idea – none of these people showed up for the rehearsal and the time went on and on. Eventually messages from the office got through that a road accident was causing delays, but we really didn’t know if they’d make it to the concert or not! Luckily they did so it was all fine. But also, it was quite funny when we were standing there in the car park kind of watching every car that came in and wondering if it was them, the No 471 bus went past, which somehow struck us as being really funny! Middle of nowhere, the No 471!
|Percussionist Kate Openshaw and tuba player Craig Anderson are pleased to be in Boat of Garten|
What is it you most enjoy about going on tour with the Orchestra in the summer?
PW: It’s great seeing more of country. We’re always in the cities during the regular Season, so it’s wonderful seeing the smaller towns and places where different members of the audience come from.
LD: Just going to these small venues is brilliant. You’re so near the audience and you get to meet them at the interval and at the end. It’s much more intimate. And also meeting old friends – at Boat of Garten last night I just kept bumping into people, who either I knew from Edinburgh and had moved up there, or they were up there on holiday and decided to come and hear us. Other people who live there will travel miles to hear us. I think audiences feel that because venues are small and intimate it’s their space really, people feel more comfortable coming up and speaking to us then they would in a more formal concert venue. It is really nice and has always been a highlight for many of us during summer and Highland touring.
|SCO Marketing Officer Jen Owens and Louisa enjoy ice creams at Birnam Arts Centre||The SCO truck at Birnam, the last stop on the tour|
What’s your favourite venue that you’ve played in on a summer tour?
LD: One that sticks in my mind is Betty Hill, right on the north coast of Scotland, just west of Thurso. The tiny little village hall was just lovely and intimate. Also Ullapool as, again, you’re in a village hall venue with the audience almost on your knees! It’s the sort of place that’s really exciting when everyone is just packed in to a small venue. They just love it that you come to where they live – it’s really important actually. It’s great that we’re flexible enough as a group to be able to do that. To split like this is a good thing, it’s different.
The SCO's next tour will take place 19 - 21 July, where the Orchestra performs at Stirling Castle Great Hall, Strathpeffer Pavilion and Kingussie Badenoch Centre. Make sure to take a look at the blog to hear all the news from our travels!
Tour images © Jen Owens and Louisa Stanway