Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra complete successful tour of South Africa
By: Euan Terras
The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra (AFO) was formed back in 1982 by Wallace Galbraith MBE and his then wife to encourage and develop traditional Scottish fiddle music among young musicians in Ayrshire.
The Orchestra has steadily matured and grown since those early days and now boasts over 100 members from all parts of Ayrshire (and Arran!), ranging from 10 - 20 years of age and includes violins, cellos, double basses, guitars, accordions, percussion and bagpipes.
Although the Orchestra has just two main concerts each year, Summer and Christmas, both in Ayr Town Hall, they have a very busy schedule, performing at many local and community events such as Ayr Flower Show, Prestwick Promenade, Troon’s Wintertainment, Septembayr, West Sound Burns Supper and Hogmanay Show as well as events for Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Cancer Research and the Ayrshire Hospice, Ayr Gaiety, Town Twinning events and contributing to various Christmas Fayres, school and church events, concerts in rural communities and other charity based events across Ayrshire and beyond.
AFO has earned an enviable reputation over the years for providing entertainment to many and for enabling young Ayrshire musicians some wonderful opportunities and experiences for performing, not only locally, but across the globe. In doing so, they have proved themselves fine ambassadors for Ayrshire and for Scots music and culture.
Every two years the Orchestra embarks on a major international concert tour and since the 1980s has travelled to USA, Canada, Scandinavia and mainland Europe, Australia, New Zealand and China. They have performed in prestigious venues such as Sydney Opera House, the White House lawn, the European Parliament and at CERN in Geneva.
The Orchestra have, in fact, just returned from South Africa following a 16 day visit in July which has been their most exciting, and most successful Tour ever and their first visit to Africa.
Privileged to have been invited to perform at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the largest cultural festival in the whole of the African continent (and similar in size to the Edinburgh Festival), AFO sold out their two scheduled concerts even before they had left the UK and a third additional concert which was hastily scheduled into their programme also rapidly sold out.
Newspapers in South Africa commented: “The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra was one of the most talked about and remembered performances of the 2015 Festival.” .
The AFO group, 95 in number, performed further concerts at George, Cape Town, Hout Bay and Johannesburg, all of which were met with standing ovations and shouts of ‘encore’ at every venue. Another reviewer raved: "It is fair comment to say that AFO have taken South Africa by storm!”
The Orchestra were also honoured to be invited to perform during Sunday Mass at the famous Regina Mundi Cathedral in Soweto, in front of a 2,000 strong congregation.
Even the flight to Johannesburg with Virgin Atlantic involved an impromptu performance, with some 30 AFO fiddlers performing mid-flight in the aisles for their fellow passengers at 36,000ft, to the delight of all on board, including the crew!
Always ready for fun, the young musicians also held a ceilidh on the summit plateau of Table Mountain, 3,500ft above Cape Town, with the dancing soon involving onlookers and staff!
During a visit to Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s prison for some 18 years, one of the Orchestra’s senior players, Ciaran McHugh (20), produced his violin and performed in Mandela’s actual cell block an arrangement of Blair Douglas’s bagpipe tune “Nelson Mandela’s Welcome to the City of Glasgow” – an emotional occasion for all present.
Meanwhile, some other senior players were in the studios of the South African Broadcasting Corporation playing live on national breakfast TV, whilst AFO Directors Kathleen Terras and David Moore were interviewed about the forthcoming concerts.
One of the Orchestra's most memorable days was spent with the Hout Bay Music Project, which aims to develop the musical skills of children from townships in the Hout Bay area. After much fun playing football, frisbee and dancing games, the two groups of children from very different cultures and backgrounds rehearsed together and then performed an exciting joint concert that night, to thunderous applause and a standing ovation!
The Tour was not just about music however, with the Orchestra spending two exciting days on safari at a game reserve and visits to the Apartheid Museum, the Cape of Good Hope and the Cradle of Humankind.
AFO Director and Tour Manager, Euan Terras, commented: “Our tours are not only about showcasing Scots music abroad in different countries but also about giving our young talented members of the orchestra cultural and musical experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives."
Plans are now underway for the next AFO tour – to North America in 2017!
The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra prides itself on being accessible to all young musicians throughout Ayrshire regardless of financial background.
All tuition is free for players and there are no membership fees. A registered charity, AFO has no paid staff, being run entirely by parents and volunteers with much of the orchestra's activities relying heavily on concert revenues, fundraising, grants and corporate advertising and support.
Further details about the AFO can be found at www.fiddleorchestra.com or from Euan Terras at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra is a member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.