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News / Scottish Ensemble returns this month

Does for Violin and Cello will form the third part of the Scottish Ensemble's Shetland Season.

IF THE first two concerts are anything to go by, the third part of the Scottish Ensemble’s ‘Shetland Season’ is something that classical music fans should really sit up and take notice of, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

The Scottish Ensemble’s last show Quintets was a dramatic affair – three long and very different pieces that depressed, confused and uplifted respectively – but was an enriching and entertaining experience.

With Duos for Violin and Cello, cellist Alison Lawrance and violinist Cheryl Crockett will be playing a varied series of shorter pieces. Shetland News spoke to Alison and Cheryl to find out what Shetland can expect.

Alison promised “a diverse programme, with music from various countries and eras… really interesting music. And a bit of fun with Ferdinand the Bull, following on from the Ravel piece, which is really challenging.”

The duets cover an interesting range, from Bartok’s whimsical Hungarian Folk Tunes, to Halvorsen’s spellcheck-defying Passacaglia for Violin and Viola, described by the Scottish Ensemble as a “Handel-inspired gambol across all the strings” – Alison’s favourite, in spite of its technical difficulty.

Also included in this musical taster menu are Payel’s bubbly Sonata No. 1 and Glière’s 8 Pieces (Op. 39)- although they’ll only be playing four of them – and Ravel’s purposefully challenging Sonata for Violin and Cello (or two movements of it, anyway).

Most intriguing of the programme, however, is Ferdinand the Bull by English composer Alan Ridout, a relatively modern composition from 1971. Based on the children’s book by Munro Leaf, first published in 1936, Ferdinand tells the story of a bull who would rather smell flowers than engage in bull-fights.

Disney adapted it into an Academy Award-winning cartoon, Hitler had it burned, Stalin afforded it special cultural status and Mahatma Ghandi called it his favourite book, so make of that what you will.

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Ridout’s musical version, for violin and narration, will no doubt be familiar to many. Those who remember the original piece and are hoping for a recreation of the camp and thickly-accented narrator shan’t be disappointed. Alison will be narrating Ferdinand (no word on the accent) as Cheryl accompanies on the violin.

Following this concert in April, the Scottish Ensemble will be back in June for a ‘mini-residency’, a series of unusual musical events last run when the Ensemble came to Shetland in 2013.

The Ensemble’s musicians – Alison and Cheryl included – will bring their musical talent out into the community, with performances in care homes and primary schools, collaborations with local artists, along with more out-of-the-box ideas – the memorable ‘musical flash mob’ stunt from 2013 may see a repeat, according to Alison, along with an intriguing music-and-cooking event in the Carnegie Hall, in Sandwick.

Alison acknowledged that many people were ‘put off’ classical music. She said that it was important to make the music seem more relevant and interesting.

“We’ve had people who would never go to see a classical performance, but seeing us out in the community, in a different setting, have gone on to start going to concerts. When it’s out of that formal setting, some of the intimidation is lost,” she said.

As with the 2013 residency, these festivities are being sponsored by Inksters Solicitors. Brian Inkster, a long-time fan and patron of the Scottish Ensemble, said that the first residency was “very well-received” and that it was a “privilege” to continue to support the Ensemble’s work in Shetland.

The Scottish Ensemble’s last two shows of this season have been truly special performances that you would be lucky to see in one of the great cultural capitals of the world, let alone Lerwick.

Those with an interest in classical music should take advantage of this opportunity to see these talented and innovative musicians while they can.
Duos for Violin and Cello will be in Mareel on Thursday 21 April, tickets are available at £15/£13 from Shetland Box Office.

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