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

TransAtlantic Seaway

DAY 2—WED 26 JAN “We had planned a summit but only had time to grab an ale”

Larry B.:

The day starts off with another buffet breakfast at the hotel (how musicians love all-you-care-to-eat buffets). Back to the Piping Centre for more rehearsals. Maureen McMullan and I give interviews to be mixed into the footage of the BBC show we will tape tonight. The show will be aired throughout the UK; they are exploring a deal with PBS in America. Finlay MacDonald, head of piping at both the Piping Center and the RSAMD (he’s played for royalty and with P-Diddy) will also do an interview.

At 2:00 p.m. we start our sound check at the BBC rehearsal at the Glasgow Art Club. I think the crew is having a collective heart attack as I insist that we CAN get 17 musicians on a stage designed for 6… we do it all the time. And we succeed; the tight formation yields tight music.

David C.:

Back for more rehearsal time at the Piping Centre and Larry Bethune, professional producer that he is, is polishing up the show in anticipation of the full production being recorded live by BBC from the famous Glasgow Art Club. This is the first chance to sample audience response. We get a little lecture from the BBC producer telling us that the audience is part of the show, so we need to be an animated and responsive audience. Everyone in the group has to introduce themselves. The Scots are from all over, as far as the Isle of Lewis. The Berklee group consist of two from North Carolina, one from Colorado, one from Arkansas, and one from Canada… and then there is singer/songwriter Maureen McMullan from Coatbridge who graduated from Strathclyde, taught voice at Napier, and then won a scholarship from Sean Connery and the Donald Dewar Foundation and went on to graduate from Berklee, and is now working as an intern in the folk music hub of America at Warner Chappell Studios in Nashville. Also there is Scottish fiddle virtuoso Hannah Read from Edinburgh, currently studying at Berklee.

This is a truly eclectic group of young musicians and they are joined by Finlay MacDonald from the Piping Centre and the RSAMD who plays pipes and whistles in a rousing version of “Over the Isles to America.” Fronting the group for this number is 18 year old Ainsley Hamill from Cardross, a second-year student at RSAMD. Ainsley has a remarkably powerful, deep voice and she is a master of “puirt a beul,” the Scottish mouth music.

Watching his students with a lot of pride is Josh Dickson of the RSAMD. Josh was born in Alaska where he learned to play the Highland bagpipe and at the age of 16 moved to Scotland to follow his passion. He says “I’m really excited about this collaboration because in many ways it mirrors my own musical journey, having started in the USA and winding up here in Glasgow as the Head of the Scottish traditional music program at the Academy.” We didn’t need to worry about audience response, which was close to ecstatic and the “hooting and hollering” was almost OTT for a Scottish audience.

At the end of the show, the excitement is palpable. There’s talk about establishing “the International Alliance for the Advancement of Scottish Roots Music.” John Wallace says, “I see tremendous opportunities for American students to build on their experience by spending some time with us at what is now Britain’s premier conservatoire. Equally importantly, I see great opportunities for our students to polish their skills and learn American self-confidence by following other Scots, like Maureen McMullan and fiddler Hannah Read, who have beaten their way to Berklee’s door.”

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.