Triumphant Scottish Concert

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At 9.20 pm the huge bells above the Duomo started to swing as three members of the Barga Bellringers strained on the thick ropes to move the many tonnes of inert ancient bronze. Within minutes the swinging movement was enough for the enormous clappers hanging inside the bells to connect with the waiting outside edges and the three silently moving objects were suddenly transformed into three powerful, singing, ringing, vibrant and interconnected notes that spread out across the  city.


For many people it made them check their watches or glance at the clock as the hour was somehow wrong but inside the  Teatro dei Differenti the timing could not have been better. The three notes filtered down through the open windows of the theatre and across the heads of the audience crammed into the darkened space. Just as the last note faded another joined it, this time from the Scottish small pipes held in the arms of the Hamish Moore, the Dunkeld pipemaker and piper who has been Barga’s musician-in-residence since the beginning of this year.

The three note theme was then gradually picked up by other musicians who joined him on the stage and then the voices of the massed choirs of Sangstream from Scotland and L’edicola from Barga as they performed  the new tune “The Bells of Barga” specially written for the occasion by Hamish.

More on how he came to write this music can be found here)

It was the start of a triumphant evening that will be talked about for a long time to come as probably the most definitive expression of Scottish culture ever seen in this area – and all without one piece of tartan in evidence, no sign of any kilts, no ubiquitous Jimmy hats and absolutely no military drumming or marching. This was the real thing and the audience sat glued to their seats enjoying every precious minute of the three-hour long concert.

As Hamish confided just before the event, he had no doubt as to the quality of the music on offer this evening as there were world-class musicians on the stage, but he was unsure as to the reaction of the Barga audience to this kind of event. How would unaccompanied singers in Gaelic, step dancers and bagpipe players fit in with the sound of the traditional Italian mandolin players and choir of L’edicola.

He needn’t have worried. They moulded in perfectly. One side complementing the other. Music is after all an international language.

The audience were then treated to  singer and piper Ken Campbell, pipes and fiddle duo Fin Moore and Sarah Hoy, The Cast (Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis, who found themselves unexpectedly in the limelight when the Sex and the City film featured their beautiful rendition of Auld Lang Syne), traditional singers Scott Gardiner and Loreen Merriman, fiddler and pianist Fiona Moore and the “folk choir” Sangstream.

There had been articles in the Scottish press about this concert ( articles here) but so far one vital piece of information has been missing and an important piece of information it is too.

This whole concert was self funded by private contributions.  The choir Sangstream held fund raising events in Scotland to pay their own airfares and those of some of the other professional musicians taking part in the concert. Many of these playing for free or at vastly reduced rates than the sums that they would normally command. Another important contribution was the free accommodation provided in the city by for some of the musicians by a local benefactor. Last but not least was the money raised during the concert by the audience themselves who showed their appreciation with a voluntary contribution raising over 600 euros.

Hamish Moore last night voiced the opinion of many when he talked about the possibility of turning this event into an annual Scottish folk music festival.   The connections have all been made, the will is there, the proof that this kind of event can fill the theatre to capacity should all point towards a very good possibility that this indeed could happen. Barga already a hosts an opera festival, a very successful and growing Jazz Festival and so why not a Scottish folk music festival?

All it needs now is for an official sponsor to step forward.  Could it be  the Comune or maybe even privately run ?

Watch this space

Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis singing auld lang syne with the Sangstream choir to close the concert

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