Tchaikovsky with Stirling Orchestra

What a thrilling experience performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Stirling Orchestra on Sunday night. It was certainly exhilarating to perform to a sold-out Albert Hall in Stirling. The orchestra has had much recent success as they were finalists in the BBC Great Orchestra Challenge so it was a real treat to perform with them. I grew up in Clackmannanshire and started learning the violin with a local teacher in Stirling so it was a wonderful opportunity to come back and perform near my hometown. In fact, the current orchestra’s members include some pupils from my former school, Dollar Academy and even my old chemistry teacher who plays the trumpet. Small world indeed. I first played with the orchestra when I was 16 years old and performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with them. Nine years later it is wonderful to return and reflect on how much I have grown as a musician since then and marvel at all the adventures my violin and I have had.

Tchaikovsky’s Concerto is one of my all time favourite works to play. It is a journey of emotion from such a simple, almost unassuming beginning to a blisteringly triumphant finale that is surely every violinist’s dream to play. The Canzonetta which forms the second movement seems to convey in one single line a deep plea of yearning – tragic, desperate and full of pathos. The last movement – hundreds of notes, but what fun!

Many thanks to the orchestra and Stephen Broad, the conductor, for their energy, spirit and enthusiasm – it was a great team effort. I hope the audience and orchestra enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed playing it. You can find out more about the orchestra here:

www.stirlingorchestra.co.uk

My last recital of the year was a couple of weeks ago in the Lake District at Yewfield Guest House near Hawkshead. I have spent many holidays in this area with my family – much of my childhood was also spent devouring Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, drawing treasure maps and reinventing myself as an Amazon pirate… Although I have yet to cast myself off to a deserted island in a sailing boat or walk the plank alla Captain Flint, it was lovely to revisit all these idyllic spots that formed the backdrop to Ransome’s Books – Coniston Water, Scafell Pike, Ambleside and Windermere.

It was a really magical journey to the Lake District as it was snowing. Less magical perhaps was the perilous descent from Kirkstone Pass down the Struggle in freezing fog! But to see the valley hushed in a snowy aura with children sledging and numerous snowmen dotted about in various stages of construction, the water shimmering white reflecting the snowy tips of the hills, the dripping berries and the glistening icicles – that was breathtaking indeed! We had a couple of hours to spare so managed to squeeze in a visit to Hawkshead. By this time the temperature had plummeted to minus 5 so we had to take refuge in the Red Lion Pub. The marvellous steak pie we had for dinner here will certainly not be forgotten – Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would have been proud indeed.

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