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A Day With Sally Beamish

Written by Alan Cooper


I was glad that on my way back from the Choral Spectacular in St. Machar's Cathedral I found time to drop into the MacRobert Building to hear a performance that was the climax of the Sound Festival's workshop for local string players, A Day with Sally Beamish. There was a happy sense of buzz and excitement as over twenty local string players got ready to give a performance of Rhapsody on Themes from Hafez, Sally's recasting for solo viola, harp, string quartet and string orchestra of a work originally composed for voice.

Rik Evans from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was the viola soloist, Sophie Crichton, a freelance musician from Edinburgh was the harpist and the Heller String Quartet is a group of talented North-East musicians.

There were possibly fewer than ten in the audience but more than twenty local string enthusiasts in the orchestra who would surely have been spectators had they not been playing. But that was the whole point of the exercise - there they all were - not just watching and listening - but actually right in there - doing it! And there is no better way to get really intimate with a new piece of music than to try playing it.

Garry Walker, Principal Guest Conductor of the RSNO and Permanent Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is also known for his splendid work with youth orchestras so he was clearly the right man for the job.

Sally Beamish herself introduced the music explaining her inspiration in the verse of the Persian lyric poet Hafez. Portraits of animals figure in the poetry and are reflected in the music. The buzzing of flies, the galloping and whinnying of horses or the song of a nightingale were evident on an initial listening while the sinuous melodies of eastern music coloured both the viola and harp music. Both a muezzin and a Jewish cantor would be happily at home with this music although alas, in these days, certainly not with one another. Constantly evolving and mutating string textures illuminated this fascinating music which appeared to be played by all the musicians without a hitch. Everyone including Sally Beamish seemed to be happy afterwards and as I said at the start, I too was glad to have dropped in to listen.

  • published on 31 October 2010
  • written by Alan Cooper

Reproduced with permission of the author.

reviewed event
  Date Day Time Location Event Details
31Sun10.30 amAberdeenA day with Sally Beamish