It's been the usual fun and busy round of summer events, with gorgeous weddings at Dunglas Estate, Norton House, Tuilibole Castle, Peebles Hydro & the Secret Herb Garden; celebrations at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Pollock Halls and a fun musical send-off for a group of lovely would-be charity runners at Biggar bowling club.
The Secret Herb Garden in particular is an undiscovered little oasis for a less-formal small wedding or party, with weaving paths though a glass paradise filled with trailing leaves and hanging bunches of grapes. I absolutely loved it, and went back on a later date to admire all the plants and plan my herb purchases!
Alongside this there have been musical highlights for me on the composing / recital fronts: way back on 24th March I was privileged to play alongside Leon and Heather Coates and others in an atmospheric evening of music at St Mungo's Church in West Linton, in the Scottish Borders. Leon treated us to some beautiful solo piano music, and Heather and I gave the first performance of my recent work for harp and 'cello, 'Rondeau'. My plan is that eventually this will be a three movement work, with the 'Rondeau' being the finale. The first draft of the middle movement, entitled 'Breathing Space' is now also complete.
May saw both the first performance of my first musical, 'King David and the Stag' and also a beautiful summer evening's harp and voice recital at Crichton Collegiate Church, as part of Midlothian's heritage week. What a fantastic acoustic in a little-known gem of a building. I accompanied the soprano Isolde James-Griffith in a programme entitled 'Music Through the Ages' with music ranging from Rabbie Burn's 'My love is like a red red rose' and tunes from Turlough O'Carolan, to 'Lift Thine Eyes' by Mendelssohn and the awe-filling, 'Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silent'. We ended with the ever-popular and upbeat 'Highland Cathedral'. Isolde's husband, the story-teller, Paul James Griffith also used the acoustic to great advantage as he recounted the history and legends of the area.
It was wonderful to see and hear 'King David' come to life, and for the wonderful local performers to be so confident and clearly enjoying themselves that I treated myself to joining the back row of the chorus in the performance.
The very talented Brian Davidson (piano) accompanied a chorus of local singers, both adults and children, and the show was complete with costumes, props and a beautiful forest mural painted by local artists Charlie Welsh and Debs McHaffie.
We were joined by guest soloists Matthew Todd (tenor); Philip Todd (baritone); Tembu Rongong (baritone) and Janet McKenzie (Soprano) for a fun afternoon show, retelling the Scottish legend behind the founding of Holyrood Abbey. For those not familiar with the tale, I've included the synopsis here:
Whilst out hunting in the forest with his friends in around 1127, King David 1st of Scotland became separated from the rest of his party. He fell from his horse and was charged by a stag. As he raised his hands in an attempt to defend himself from the beast's antlers, he had some kind of mystical experience. Accounts vary as to the exact nature of this - but he either 'saw' or 'felt' (or both) the cross of Christ. Amazingly, King David was able to return home completely unscathed.
King David had been advised earlier in the day by his spiritual advisor, Alkwine, not to go hunting, because it was the “Feast of the Holy Cross”. (Presumably this special day came with concomitant duties with which he was supposed to busy himself and/or with activities/entertainments which were supposed to be abstained from). Perhaps, given the circumstances, David could have interpreted his fall as being sent by nemesis to reprimand him for a supposed misdemeanour. But thankfully grace doesn’t work like that: instead, he was vouchsafed a profound, uplifting and deeply-moving (if, admittedly rather strange!) experience. In order to celebrate this, and also what he considered to be his miraculous escape, at Alkwine’s suggestion, King David founded Holyrood Abbey in 1128.
Most of the songs concern King David. However, we also decided to go back, before King David's time, to his parents: mostly because I wanted to have a strong female character and we found that in David's mother, Queen Margaret. So near the start of the mini-musical, we are introduced to this young woman, born in Hungary, with whom King Malcolm of Scotland falls head-over-heels in love. As queen, we envisage she was rather busy - running soup kitchens in the palace, caring for orphans, organising ferry-crossings for pilgrims to Dunfermline Abbey ... besides having 2 step-children and 8 more of her own...