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We were delighted to welcome the Scottish Ensemble to Shetland for a residency from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th June, where these incredible musicians worked with locals, visited schools and care centres across the islands, and of course performed some spellbinding music.

The June residency marked the culmination of the Scottish Ensemble's Shetland Season of string concerts in previous months. As with the 2013 mini residency, Inksters Solicitors sponsored this year’s Scottish Ensemble events.

The Ensemble arrived in Shetland on Wednesday morning, where tourists and locals alike were delighted by a pop up performance at Sumburgh Airport to announce the beginning of the residency. Elaine Craig, project manager, said: “We’re very much looking forward to our time in Shetland. We always enjoy our residencies as they give us a chance to get out and about and to take our music out of the concert hall setting.”

The group then travelled to Carnegie Hall in Sandwick, where they rehearsed repertoire with local musicians from the Shetland Community Orchestra. Once the musicians were ready for the evening, the group bonded over cooking a fantastic meal for the audience, instructed by award-winning Shetland cookery writer Marian Armitage. The Ensemble and SCO members served up some excellent fish pie and Whalsay ‘clatch’ and worked together to perform a varied programme of classical pieces; both food and music delighted the audience.

Some of the Scottish Ensemble members then retired to the Lounge, where they took part in a session with local musicians, learning traditional tunes and performing some impromptu classical pieces - a great way to end a wonderful day of sharing.

Thursday saw three groups of musicians travel to different areas of Shetland for a day of workshops and rural performances. The first group travelled to Yell, where they performed for all the pupils at Burravoe Primary School and hosted a pop up performance at the Old Haa museum.

The second group travelled north to Brae, where they worked with string pupils at the Brae High School, and created a joint performance for the rest of the secondary pupils. The group then visited Northaven Care Centre for an informal performance and discussion with the residents.

The third group travelled West to Aith, where they worked with a small group of enthusiastic pupils at Aith Junior High School. The pupils tried out a variety of classical pieces and shared some traditional Shetland music with the Ensemble members, before performing for the upper primary pupils. The musicians then moved to Wastview Care Centre, where they conducted a short informal performance and discussion with the residents.

Friday saw members of the Ensemble tutor a large group of students at the Anderson High School, who had requested to work on a selection of pieces. After the workshop, pupils shared their work with family and friends, and then they were transported to Tesco for a pop up performance with the Scottish Ensemble, which attracted a huge crowd of excited onlookers.

The residency culminated on the Saturday with two performances by the Scottish Ensemble at Mareel. The first was Harmony Quest, an hour-long play for primary age children brought to life by the music of the Ensemble. Young and old alike were captivated by this tale of adventure and friendship. The evening performance, En Reve, was a glorious concert of French music (Ravel, Debussy, Faure) from the turn of the century. Alex Garrick-Wright, reviewing for Shetland News, said: “[T]he playing was skilled, impeccably synchronised, and musically flawless… The music was a selection-box of arrangements that incurred raucous applause from an extremely engaged audience… That the Scottish Ensemble plays sublimely is almost not worth commenting on.

Over their four-day visit, the Scottish Ensemble tutored around 75 local musicians and performed for over 700 Shetland residents across the isles. When they arrived home, the Scottish Ensemble said, “We’ve returned windswept and exhilarated from four days on Shetland, during which we really did travel the length and breadth of this intriguing archipelago, dropped into the middle of an endless sea. Taking music with us to everywhere we went, we were rewarded with incredible views, warm Shetland welcomes and – every musician’s dream – enthusiastic, willing, curious participants.”

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