BLOG – Seb Marshall, clarinet

Saturday 24 August, as those of you who followed our Hebridean tour will know, was the day we were originally scheduled to travel to St Kilda and perform to the locals (mostly the hardy Soay sheep – one of the oldest sheep breeds in the world!) However, in the days preceding it became apparent that it was going to have to be Sunday 25 instead because of the high winds, so we suddenly we had a day to ourselves!

As you can imagine, however, a ‘day off’ with Nevis Ensemble isn’t quite what most people would think of as a free day. We set off at 9.30am for our first pop-up gig of the day, at Talla na Mara (literally ‘hall of the sea’ in Gaelic). We had eaten a delicious dinner here the night before and the restaurant staff even stayed up past their working hours to make sure we were all fed, which as you can imagine we all appreciated hugely after a long day of ferry trips and concerts! So it was a pleasure to be pop in to play there the following morning and be able to give something back. The customers were surprised, but appreciative; a common theme among Nevis audiences!

Then we went to Tarbert – the main village in Harris, to the Hotel Hebrides for lunch and I had the most delicious fish and chips I think I’ve ever had in my life, although that might be the h-anger talking… Two of our musicians (Laetitia and Sagnick) decided to play for people in the bar, and one of the biggest ceilidh bands in Scotland, Trail West, were sitting having lunch. They too got their instruments out and started playing, which was great, and soon enough the whole orchestra was jamming along with the ceilidh band. The bar-goers didn’t know what had hit them!

When we had all recovered and wiped the sweat off our foreheads we went for a lengthy walk to Luskentyre Beach, which had some beautiful scenery along the way – although our trip to St Kilda had been winded off, the sun was still shining, and I managed to capture some rather glorious pictures. Some of us braved the freezing Atlantic Ocean, some of us even brought and played our instruments, while some of us simply took a moment to relax and enjoy the view. Moments of reflection are rare on Nevis tours and I took the time to appreciate where I was, the new friends I had made and the old friends I had caught up with, and the fact we had an orchestra on the Hebridean islands and the ridiculousness of it all. I truly felt very lucky to be there!

We got back to the bus, wiped a layer of midges off, and set off to dinner at back at Talla na Mara where we had played that very morning. Once again we had a delicious meal and once again the staff were wonderful and accommodating. After a few drinks and general merriment, we went to bed early ready for our 5am alarms the following day for the trip to St Kilda. Considering we started the day with no plans at all, two gigs and a two hour walk isn’t too bad I think. All in all a very fruitful day with the Nevis Ensemble. Never a dull moment…!