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Features / Scottish Ensemble build-up to summer residency

The Scottish Ensemble’s September gig – Mozart, Madrigals and Mavericks – was a delightful and well-received evening, the first part of what the Scottish Ensemble are calling the ‘Shetland Series’. Shetland News spoke to the ensemble’s viola player Andrew Berridge about their upcoming show Quintets and what else they have in store for local audiences.

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Berridge’s credentials as a master violist are beyond doubt – he has played in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since 2003, been with the Scottish Ensemble since 2012, and teaches viola and chamber music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

He has previously visited Shetland in 2013 as part of the week-long ‘mini-residency’ and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of touring all over the isles playing in locations from Unst to Sumburgh (he even got taken mackerel-fishing by Shetland fiddler Chris Stout).

Viola player Andrew Berridge - Photo: Scottish Ensemble

According to Berridge, the upcoming show Quintets is quite a mix of tone, with “a little something for everybody.” As the title might suggest, the focus of the show is a series of three quintet pieces (that is, written for five instruments, specifically two violins, two violas, and a cello).

The show will consist of Mozart’s String Quintet No. 4 (k516 for the music buffs), ‘a melancholic and despairing’ piece to get things off to a sombre start.

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This will be followed by a piece from the opposite end of the spectrum, Brahms’ joyous and exciting String Quintet No. 2 (Op. 111, or the ‘Prater Quintet’). This is one of Berridge’s personal favourites, which Brahm’s intended to be the last piece of music he wrote before retiring from composing (it wasn’t; he kept composing for a further six years).

The show is set to finish up with what Berridge referred to as a “palate-cleanser”, a contemporary piece by Glaswegian composer Martin Suckling, described as “light and lingering”. Surely there’s something in that repertoire to satisfy any classical aficionado’s appetite.

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However, the February show is just one of three “smaller teaser concerts” to build up momentum for the residency expected to take place later this summer.

Berridge said Scottish Ensemble musicians would be playing with young musicians in local halls, aiming to bring the music closer to the community in a more meaningful way. Details for this residency have yet to be fully released, but Berridge said he was confident that it would be an exciting and engaging period both for the ensemble and for Shetland’s music-lovers.

The Scottish Ensemble’s events in Shetland (both in 2013 and the current series) are sponsored by Inksters Solicitors.

The law firm’s founder, Brian Inkster, said the ensemble’s use of partnerships and collaborations sets them apart in the world of classical music.

Inkster said he first came across the ensemble in 2007 and has been a loyal member of their audience since. It was at Celtic Connections in 2012, when he was “blown away” by their Seavaigers show.

Sponsoring a Shetland leg of the tour in order to get the show up to the isles, Inkster has been a proud supporter of the Scottish Ensemble ever since.

With regard to the current as well as future collaborations Inkster added: “Shetland Arts have fostered a continuing relationship with the Scottish Ensemble, rather than just a one-off, and Inksters will continue to support them.”

The Scottish Ensemble, Quintets, Mareel, 26 February, 7.30pm; tickets from Shetland Box Office.

Alex Garrick-Wright

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