A Fond Farewell to SCO Violin Robert McFall
Photo credit: Fergus Mather
SCO Viola Brian Schiele writes a touching farewell to colleague and friend Robert McFall.
Robert McFall joined the SCO in 1988 after a spell in the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. He is leaving us at the end of May, I won’t say he’s retiring as he’s not that sort of person.
As a member of our fantastic Second Violin section, Robert is the subversive one. If a conductor asks for something that is in dubious taste, a glance at Robert will show his views, as he will be slightly parodying or exaggerating the request.
Apart from his 30 years’ contribution as an SCO player, Robert has been involved in all aspects of the Orchestra’s work. He has taken part in many an education project, as well as serving on the SCO board. He was a member of SCO Lab, a group made up of six SCO players formed around 15 years ago, who wanted to explore improvisation. The first Lab project with Paul Griffiths led to a concert of music created by the group, without notated sheet music. Later, we were introduced to Amjad Ali Khan, with whom we learnt ragas and improvisation within that style. This, in turn, led to concerts with the full Orchestra, a recording and a remarkable tour of India in 2007. If you have listened to the Samaagam (World Circuit) recording you will have heard Robert’s improvisation.
In the summer of 1996 Robert invited me to form a quartet with him, together with the then Principal Second Violin and Su-a Lee to play a gig in an Edinburgh Old Town club… at 3am. The programme, chosen by Robert, included music by Webern, Weather Report, Purcell, Jimi Hendrix, and Arvo Pärt (fancy dancing to Webern’s string quartet?…someone did). This led to the formation of Mr McFall’s Chamber. Robert has led this group into all sorts of musical experiments, collaborations and adventures. One collaboration was with Dave Bradley who was the SCO’s first Roadie. Dave was a singer with an a cappella vocal group called Swan Arcade and had a tremendous and powerful voice. Robert wrote arrangements of Dave’s songs and he joined us as a vocalist for many of our earlier concerts and recordings. Many members of SCO have played with Mr McFall’s Chamber and our musical horizons and social lives have been, and will continue to be broadened!
Robert and his wife Ann have been very generous SCO ‘parents’ over the years. They have had countless players to stay with them, sometimes for extended periods of time. New players have found their feet with this support behind them and visiting extra players have felt welcomed and valued. I personally benefitted from their generosity; when I arrived first in Edinburgh with my young family, we lived rent-free for an entire summer in their flat in Bruntsfield.
I will miss our car journeys together, during which we discussed many things, listened to interesting bits of music and audiobooks. I look forward to future Mr McFall’s projects, seeing what Robert does next and hope still to be invited to sit round Robert’s kitchen table and share one of his innovative salads.
Robert McFall and Brian Schiele in Budapest on the SCO's 2018 European Tour.
Robert is celebrating his retirement by running the Edinburgh Half Marathon Sunday 27 May, 2018 for Marie Curie. He will be performing with Mr McFall's Chamber throughout Edinburgh, Perth, East Lothian and Perth over the next few months. See below for more information.