A Musical Resolution

Part 1    A New Year Resolution

It all started with a birthday present.  I’d been talking for years about learning to play a musical instrument, having been a singer since I was at school. What I really wanted to do was play a proper musical instrument in an orchestra.  With other people playing other proper musical instruments.  And then, on my 52nd birthday, I was given a trumpet tied up with a red ribbon.

That was two years ago and, since then, I’ve often admired my trumpet, occasionally polished it and even once or twice tried playing it.  Then, in January 2012, I made a New Year Resolution. I was going to find a trumpet teacher and learn to play the thing. I came across Finlay who seemed very positive about teaching me. Clearly, a man up for a challenge.

At my first lesson in February, the word ‘potential’ was used. I was thrilled. Of course, it was me that used the word and not Finlay but never mind. At my second lesson in March, I managed the first five notes of a C major scale.  Great excitement. Then Finlay suggested, at my third lesson, that I should play a piece in a group concert planned for the end of April.

Depression is setting in. I work full time as an educational adviser. I speak at national conferences in front of hundreds of people. But playing the right notes on a trumpet? In the right order? In public?

That New Year resolution is beginning to seem like a moment of madness…

Sheena Greco will be giving a wonderful trumpet debut with the support of her teacher and Most Entertaining Tuition Director Finlay Hetherington on Sunday 29th April at 3pm in Life Care, Cheyne Street, Stockbridge.



Championing the works of Rabbie Burns

Championing the works of Robert Burns is not difficult for me. For me, as
a folk singer of both Gaelic and English, the importance of his musical and
literary legacy cannot be underestimated in the history of the world.
Where do I even begin?
To name a few classics, “Auld Lang Syne” is sung all over the world to bring
in the new year, while “Ae Fond Kiss” is one of the most devastating love
songs ever composed.

Admittedly, there were times as a child where I despised his beautiful
poetic meter; I blame the Scottish education system, for at Primary School
assemblies and Burns evenings we were forced, at the age of 8, to stutter
our way through large sections of Burns’ poetry onstage. We murdered it.
Our teachers probably wanted to murder us. All public humiliation aside
however, the melodies and lyrics to all of the songs stayed with me, and my
imagination was always utterly captivated by the stories, such as the tale of
Tam O’Shanter.

About 5 years ago I started gigging with a young guitarist who had rewritten
the melody to one of Burns’ songs, Fare Thee Weel. The song nearly floored
me the first time I heard it, and I decided I would do my darndest to get him to
record it on my next solo album.
The album in question, “Once Upon An Olive Branch”, comes out in late
2012. If you get the chance, have a wee listen and let me know what you
think. Join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Twitter: @maevemackinnon
Maeve Mackinnon on Facebook


Rabbie Burns night, nearly here

Celebrating the birth of one of Scotland’s most famous sons, the 25th of January, Robert Burns’ day, is welcomed annually by the traditional “haggis, ‘neeps and tatties”, copious amounts of whisky, poetry, and of course, song. Set to some of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies of the Scottish folk repertoire, Burns’ emotive and absorbing poetry is as popular and relevant now as it ever has been. However, many of Burns’ most famous songs have been set to traditional melodies with far older roots.

Robert Burns had a keen interest in preserving, collecting, and re-vamping old Scottish songs, and in the late eighteenth century, he, in collaboration with with struggling music engraver James Johnson produced a six-book volume entitled The Scots Musical Museum, an anthology of Scottish song and music, with 100 songs in each book. Although one of many similar publications, it was the Museum which became a truly pivotal force in the continuation and direction of the Scottish folk song tradition. Reaching international popularity, arrangements were made of its songs by composers such as Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, and some of Burns’ most famous titles can be found here, such as My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, Comin’ Through the Rye and Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon.

Burns’ verse was heavily inspired by the music, and he would not sit to pen the lyrics until he was able to sing the tune, saying;

My way is: I consider the poetic sentiment, correspondent to my idea of the musical expression, then chuse my theme, begin one stanza, when that is composed – which is generally the most difficult part of the business – I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom, humming every now and then the air with the verses I have framed. when I feel my Muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper, swinging, at intervals, on the hind-legs of my elbow chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my, pen goes.

Over 200 years on, Burns’ poetry continues to captivate and inspire musicians, with contemporary composers such as James MacMillan and Arvo Part creating new arrangements of his work, and traditional songs being constantly reinterpreted by folk musicians. Although having died at the age of just 37, Burns’ “immortal memory”‘ lives on, by his evocative poetry continuing to stimulate and inspire composers and performers alike today.