Category Archives: Arts

With a little help from my friends… An open invitation!

An Open Invitation: ‘With a little help from my friends’





P1100298Dalai Lama

Thursday 29th August

St Andrews Church, Queen’s Terrace, St Andrews



Cello suites/Scottish Music/Surprise!!

Who, me?

Who, me?

You will need:



Your ears!

The plan:


The charities:

Heisenberg (Jill Craig)


Families First (St Andrews)

Sistema Scotland/In Harmony

Arts in Fife/Dundee

Drake Music Scotland

Music in Hospitals

Military Wives Choir (Gareth Malone)

Scottish Ensemble {insert group here}

Rokpa/Tibetan Children’s Villages/ICT

tibet screensaver

Brooklands College

Signpost International (Dundee)

Just Made/Gillian Gamble



Pragya (India)

RSPCA/RSPB/Big cat rescue

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!! Answers on a post card to: Jess Long!


10,000 Hours or 22,000 Days?

A very interesting blog post from Robert Baldwin on ‘Before the Downbeat’ on the time it takes to become accomplished at something – the title refers to the 10, 000 hours that research has suggested it takes to become expert at a task such as learning a musical instrument.

10,000 Hours or 22,000 Days?.

My own view is that, while individuals may develop the technical proficiency to play a difficult piece of music,  the mere accomplishment of playing the piece itself is nearly worthless without the development of musical understanding and of a musical personality. This phenomenon is especially common in young children who have been pushed to become ‘virtuosos’ by the age of 5 or 10 – while they can play their instruments very well, their musicality is  un- or under-developed, leaving the performances technically flawless but without the depth that makes a good performance great. Or as Robert Baldwin puts it:

Art reaches beyond good craftsmanship.  Seasoned musicians transform it into artistry. A Bach Cello Suite can be played perfectly, without mentionable flaw and still not quite be ready.’

Save The Byre Theatre!

Over the weekend came the awful news that the Byre Theatre in St Andrews is facing closure due to lack of funds (its funding had been cut by Creative Scotland in 2010, and a refurbishment in 2001 left it struggling financially). The Byre is a cultural hub for not only St Andrews but the surrounding areas of Fife and to see it go would be tragic and a total waste – not only of talent but of a very beautiful building that stands out among the old buildings of south street.

My friend the artist and photographer Gillian Gamble (who else?) has started an incredibly successful grassroots community movement to save the Byre, which has gone from nothing to 4000 supporters on facebook and national news coverage overnight. Have a look and click ‘like’ here:

There’s also a petition on here:

News coverage of the campaign:



2013 projects

I still can’t believe we’re in 2013! It all sounds so space age…

I’ve started my new job and it’s going well – I am learning a lot about obesity and literature searching, and I have discovered the joys of Endnote and never having to write out a reference again! Academics and essay writers take note: Endnote or a similar referencing manager (there are free ones) will save you literally hours  of tedious referencing and bibliography writing. (I sound like they are paying me to advertise them, which they are not!) Anyway, I think I will really enjoy my work at the medical school, even though it is quite weird being a ‘staff’ member where I used to be a student (I’m now in a different dept though, so not as weird).

One of the brilliant things about my job is that it it so flexible, which allows me to continue teaching and playing in stuff while still doing the work I need to do. This year, I have resolved to do more playing, especially chamber music, so with that in mind I have arranged a trio with some friends which I hope will work out really nicely. Other things I am doing this year are:

  • I will start going to the baroque orchestra at the St Andrews Music Centre, run by my good friend and amazing cellist Claire Garabedian; I think I will get to borrow a baroque bow which will be fun!
  • I’ll continue helping out at StAFCO (St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra), taking occasional sectionals
  • I have two lunchtime concerts coming up in February and March, both with experienced pianist Audrey Innes who I have played many a concert with! For both concerts, we are playing a programme consisting of Hindemith viola sonata Op 11 No 4 which is very romantic and fantastical as well as being incredibly dramatic and a huge piece to play, combined with a short piece by Frank Bridge (also a viola player) and Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro (originally a horn piece), a real gem of a piece. The concert in St Andrews is Weds Feb 27th at 1.10pm in the Younger Hall (note 5 mins earlier start time), and the concert in Dundee is on Friday 8th March at 1.20pm in the University Chaplaincy.
  • Along with a friend, we are trying to organise concerts in St Andrews and at a stately home near Broughty Ferry of Haydn’s Seven Last Words for string quartet, to coincide with Lent. Hopefully we can confirm these soon.
  • Of course, I’ll continue with my teaching. I’ve got a new pupil (an adult learner interested in fiddle) starting on friday!

Monty is still being incredibly sweet – he’s dozing on my lap, purring contentedly. His latest trick is to attack packets of loo roll, creating a large amount of mess and very holey loo roll, but he seems to think he is saving us from a terrible tissue monster…

Scotland’s Arts Festivals

I’ve been trying to keep track of what is going on when in the Scottish arts scene, and in the process I created a month-by-month list of all the festivals I know of that are taking place around Scotland. This list is not exhaustive, and I’ve only included ones that most people would be interested in/would have heard of. Hope this helps when planning what to see and when!

The festivals in blue are the ones I have taken part in or been involved with in some way.



Celtic Connections (19th Jan- 5th Feb, Glasgow)

Fife Festival of Music (30th Jan-12th Feb)


Fife Jazz Festival (3-5th Feb)

Lentfest (21st Feb-15th April, run by Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project)


StAnza (14-18th March, St Andrews)

Niel Gow Scottish Fiddle Festival (Perthshire, 16-18th March)

Edinburgh International Harp Festival (30th March-4th April)


Eye o’ the Dug (14th-15th April, St Andrews)

On the Rocks (16-22nd April, St Andrews)

Beltane Fire Festival (Calton Hill, Edinburgh, 30th April)


Shetland Folk Festival (3-6th May)

Fifesing (11-13th May, Fife Animal Park)

Perth Festival of the Arts (17-27th May)


Horsecross Youth Arts Festival (6-30th June)

Culross Music and Arts Festival (1-3rd June)

St Magnus International Festival (22-27 June)

The Cottier Chamber music project (1-22nd June, part of Glasgow’s West End Festival)

East Neuk Festival (27th June-1st July)


Mendelssohn on Mull (2-7 July)

Crail Festival (18-28th July)

Music at Paxton (13-22nd July, Borders)

World Saxophone Congress (10-15th July, St Andrews)


Pittenweem Arts Festival (28th July-5 Aug)

Edinburgh International Festival (9th Aug-2nd Sept)

Edinburgh Fringe Festival (3-27th Aug)

Aberdeen International Youth Festival (1-11th Aug)

Auchtermuchty Festival (10-12 Aug)


Lammermuir Festival (14th-23rd Sept)

St Monan’s Community Arts Festival (14-16th Sept)


Blazin’ in Beauly (15-19th Oct)

St Andrews Voices (18-21st Oct) NEW

Sound (Aberdeen, 26th Oct- 18th Nov)


St Andrews Festival (30th Nov-2nd Dec)

Fiddle 2012 (16th-18th Nov, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh)


Edinburgh’s Hogmanay (30th Dec- 2nd Jan)

St Andrews Opera and Lentfest 2012 with James MacMillan

A couple of exciting things have come my way recently which I wanted to share:

  • St Andrews Opera, run by the Michael Downes, the director of the music centre at St Andrews, will be staging a version of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews from June 14th-16th, and Michael has asked me to play in the orchestra (which will include single strings – effectively a string quartet). The production will be directed by Kally Lloyd-Jones (who has worked for Scottish Opera among others) and include singers from St Andrews and Bloomsbury Opera. More details can be found here
  • Secondly, I have been asked to play for an event in Glasgow University’s Memorial Chapel on 7th March, in which I will be part of a string quartet playing James MacMillan’s string quartets. This event is part of Lentfest 2012 and will consist of an introductory talk from the composer himself illustrated with musical examples, followed by a concert including the first movement of quartet No. 1Visions of a November Spring’ , and Quartet No. 2, ‘Why is this night different?’ Details of the event can be found here, and the facebook event is here

Other than that, I will be helping out this wednesday at a local community orchestra in St Andrews called St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra (StAFCO) which is run jointly by the Music Centre and the SCO, so that should be fun!


Round up of best arts-related links I’ve seen lately

These are some arts-related articles/posts/videos that have caught my eye this week:

Tom Service on audience disruption of concerts in his piece ‘Rattled: how to ruin a classical music concert’ (very funny if you’ve ever experienced something like this as a player or audience member)

Michael Tumelty’s very complimentary review of the recent Mahler symphony orchestra concert (I wasn’t playing, sadly!)

REM’s new album ‘Collapse into Now’ is out now- 4* review here:. I haven’t listened to the album yet but I will soon…

-Modern artist Damian Hirst puts his spot painting designs on guitars and drumkit for charity. They’ll be auctioned off at Christies after being played by the band Squeeze on 22nd March. I’m quite tempted to bid for one of the guitars, as those of you who know me know that I love spotty things… I think they’ll be somewhat out of my price range though, doh..

Laura Barton (a guardian musician journalist) interviews Colin Meloy about The King Is Dead, country retreats and writing a children’s book

And finally… If you’ve ever wondered what the song ‘I Will Survive’ would sound like played with an electric dremel (I think that’s what it is!) on an old (probably priceless) Italian violin by a crazy Russian in shorts, check out these guys – absolutely mental… Here’s the youtube clip that fascinated me in the first place 😀