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At the start of June, we spent four busy and enjoyable days in Dumfries on one of our Residencies. The idea of these stays is to reach as many different types of people as possible, bringing the joys and benefits of listening to and playing music to a range of groups across a community. This was our second Residency in the Dumfries area, with many events in partnership with the fantastic, ever-growing Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival.

We grabbed a couple of photos on phones across the course of our stay – we hope it illuminates the broad range of people we met as well as the fun we had doing it.

Thursday 1 June 2017
Day One: Tea Dance

On the flyer for our second Tea Dance in Dumfries, it said “back by popular demand”. This wasn’t just empty marketing speak; after the first one, we really did have people asking if we would do it again. Now, that is not intended as a brag of any kind – more of a happy acknowledgement that the audience had as much fun dancing as we did playing. With tunes like this, how could you not?!

Friday 2 June 2017
Day Two: Out and About Day

‘Out and about’ sounds a bit vague, or perhaps like we were doing our shopping – but it’s the best way we’ve found to describe what happens on these days when our group of 12 splits into smaller groups which go off to offer mini ‘pop-up’ performances in various locations.

This year, we played music for patients in the Children’s Ward and the Care of the Elderly Ward at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary; acted as models for an Art In Mind workshop for mental health organisation Support in Mind; delivered bespoke musical workshops for secondary school pupils at Dumfries Academy; and played a live soundtrack for a whole range of dancers as part of an established dance workshop.

Saturday 3 June 2017
Day Three: MusicWorks and a concert with the Cairn Chorus

Our collaboration with the Cairn Chorus, as part of the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, was an emotional high point in what had already proved to be a fairly emotional stint. We started the evening with a specially curated set by SE violinist Daniel Pioro, responding to the concert material with a compelling mix of improvisation around drones, pieces by Tavener and some of Vivaldi’s seasons. Then we accompanied the Cairn Chorus, a 50-60 strong community choir based in and around the village of Moniaive, as they performed a brand new song cycle, commissioned for this event, featuring songs responding to the landscape and community life of the Cairn Valley. It was a real and genuine privilege to be able to collaborate with the group for an evening which brought out quite an emotional response. Read more about the project here.

Photo: Kirsten Bax.

Earlier in the day, though – because we like to really pack things in to a day away – we had agreed to take on 50 children, aged from between 13 and 17, and lead a workshop that culminated in a group performance of a piece we’d commissioned for exactly this kind of thing. These children get together every Saturday for lessons as part of MusicWorks, the main body for instrumental tuition in the the Dumfries and Galloway area.

Written by composer James Redwood (who did, incidentally, come and lead our first performances of the piece himself and is a wonderfully energetic and engaging leader – thank you, James), The Tempest has lines in for musicians of all different abilities, so it was perfect for getting these children at all different stages of their learning involved in a group performance, and experiencing the satisfaction of performing a great-sounding piece of music for their families.

Sunday 4 June 2017
Day Four: Closing concert as part of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival

We always perform a closing concert to end our Residencies, and this year’s coincided with our Eastern Europe Express tour, for which we had invited Polish violinist Bartosz Woroch as guest leader. With a real passion and care for the music of his home country, and its fascinating innovation and growth over the past 50-60 years, the programme showcased as much, including a string orchestra arrangement of Dvořák’s String Quintet in G major as well as arrangements of two of Chopin’s piano nocturnes and some fantastically dynamic, nuanced, surprising pieces by Górecki, Bacewicz and Czyż.

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