Berklee VP for student affairs/Scotland fan Larry Bethune covers the TransAtlantic Seaway Music Collaboration’s first day back together, with help from Scottish culture promoter David Christie.

TransAtlantic Seaway

DAY 1—TUE 25 JAN “I’m expecting that our concert on Saturday will blow people’s socks off”

Larry Bethune:

As we descend over the rolling foothills of the great Highlands of Scotland, many students are trying to get a good look out the windows of the lochs, bens, and braes of the Highlands. Glasgow is a gateway to the Highlands and a lively city that a few years ago was deemed the European City of Culture and recently chosen as a UNESCO City of Music by the United Nations. It is home to tremendous Scottish Traditional music and, of course, haggis (Google that!). We are so happy to have left the minus-six-degrees of Boston for the balmy 46 degrees of Glasgow.

The students are talking about how great the reunion will be with the Scottish students, with whom they performed and hung out for the September rehearsals and tour. On the team for this trip are: Hannah Read (fiddle/Scotland), Lukas Pool (banjo/Arkansas), Courtney Hartman (guitar/Colorado), Eric Robertson (mandolin/North Carolina), Duncan Wickel (fiddle/North Carolina), Trent Freeman (fiddle/Canada), and alumna Maureen McMullan (voice/Scotland), who is on Practical Training in Nashville.

We check into the Ibis Hotel in the west end of the center city: a small, clean, European-style hotel. Some grab some breakfast in the small dining area (sure is good) and some go off to sleep; in a few hours, we all will be rehearsing.

It’s just before 1:00 p.m. and we are walking down Sauchiehall Street—Sauchiehall is the Anglicized Gaelic for “alley of the willows”—to rehearse at the Piping Centre, an old church that has been well-modernized while keeping the exterior and interior charm of its past.

We walk into the hall and emotional reunion begins between the Berklee folks and our friends from the New Hampshire Highland Games. The music and experience of that effort drives us with a burning desire to repeat that success, fun, and personal interaction. Amazingly (maybe not), the music picks up right where it left off in New Hampshire. Lots of laughing, lots of new ideas, and lots of great music fills the hall.

After a few hours of rehearsal, we all retire to the wee restaurant called The Piper’s Tryst that is part of the Piping Center. The owner honors us by offering us the Burns Supper Special at a 2-for-1 price… perfect. Even though we are exhausted, we dive in to the appetizer of cullen skink – a soup of smoked haddock, leeks, and potatoes in a broth of white wine, cream, and parsley. This followed by Scotland’s national dish, haggis (mutton, innards, toasted oatmeal, spices, boiled in a sheep’s stomach), served with neaps and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes), with gravy. We finish with a wonderful traditional Scottish dessert called cranachan (toasted oats, raspberries, whisky, and fresh whipped cream).

Some of us are going off to one of the concerts of the festival and some to a session at McSorley’s Pub down by the River Clyde. At McSorley’s, I met my friend Bruce MacGregor, who is in the Scottish band Blazing Fiddles and runs a fiddle camp in the Highlands called Fiddling at Beauly. Along with Bruce is Yvonne Murray, a BBC producer whom we met in Boston this December when we were discussing Bruce’s idea to start a fiddle camp in New England. Everyone has had a great first evening in Glasgow.

David Christie’s take:

It’s Tuesday morning and the Continental flight from Boston has just landed and a sleepy-eyed group of young musicians from the Berklee College of Music meander off the plane and head for their Glasgow Hotel. Two hours later they’ve come alive and are greeting their counterparts from RSAMD and the University of Strathclyde and settling in for their first rehearsal together at the National Piping Centre.

The last time these guys met was at their inaugural collaboration at the New Hampshire Highland Games last September, and the musical bonding that occurred there is immediately evident as they unpack their instruments and talk excitedly about their second collaboration at Celtic Connections. Larry Bethune says, “This is exactly what we had hoped for when we came up with the idea of a cultural bridge between these three powerhouse music schools located on either side of the Atlantic. The exuberance and energy that emerged in our first collaboration last September is going to carry over and I’m expecting that our concert on Saturday will blow people’s socks off.” It’s evening now and some are going to a concert, some of the group have succumbed to jetlag, and there are still enough standing to head out and jam at McSorley’s Pub, one of Glasgow’s most venerable watering holes.

Read more posts about the TransAtlantic Seaway:

The Transatlantic Seaway Music Collaboration is a production involving students, faculty, and alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and Strathclyde University in Glasgow, with support from the City of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music.