We started September with two concerts that we had been looking forward to for a long time. The first one was at the Moray Jazz Club in Elgin. It was our first appearance at the club, situated in the social club at Elgin City Football Club’s ground. The journey up to Moray took us through the Malt Whisky Trail. We passed signs for many, many distilleries: Ballindalloch, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Aberlour, Glen Grant, Knockando, Cardhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Strathisla, Speyside…..to name a few!
The audience at the club were very warm, friendly and appreciative. An encore was duly supplied! It was very weird waking up in our Tour Bus inside a football ground! I managed to fit in a 4 mile run the next morning through Cooper Park and along the cycle paths following the River Lossie. Very nice!
Unfortunately, our sat nav broke. So we had to use an ancient system of navigation called “a map“! We set off at 9am, since our next gig was at lunchtime in Braemar. It was a very scenic journey, taking us through Glen Fiddich – the valley this time, not the drink! We passed through Ballater with all the giant Royal crests on the outside of shops and businesses that the Royal Family use (the Queen’s Highland residence of Balmoral is nearby). Then continued on past Crathie Kirk, where the Royal Family are always seen going into on New Year’s Day, and past the entrance to Balmoral itself. Its the first time we’ve been in the area when the Queen was actually staying there.
We were told a story that happened a couple of weeks ago at Balmoral. Apparently, the Queen was walking around the grounds with her (plain clothed) police body guard, wearing her “civvies” (i.e. headscarf and coat). Not recognising her, an American tourist asked her if she had ever met the Queen. She said she hadn’t but (pointing to her body guard) he has!!!
As we neared Braemar there were many road signs warning of queuing traffic. This one was 9 miles away! The Braemar Gathering was on the next day. This is the Highland Games that the Royal Family always attend. They expect 15,000 people or more to attend. Some famous people are there too. Here’s Dame Judy Dench arriving at a hotel in Braemar. Not the best photos of her, I’m sure you’ll agree!!! She was facing me, but by the time I got my camera out…..
Our concert was in the afternoon at St Margaret’s Arts Centre. Brian, who is part of the committee, came to see us play in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year (2018), and asked us of we would like to perform in Braemar. We of course said “yes”! We were booked very soon after that. Fantastic! (and we’ve been asked back next year!). It is a truly beautiful performance space. An old church with absolutely amazing acoustics. The saxophone almost played itself!
Professional photographer, Dale Johnson took photos and video of us performing:
You can watch a video of us performing too, courtesy of Dale Johnson:
The audience were very appreciative – an encore was duly supplied! It was nice to see guitarist Steve Garrett and his wife there. We’d met Steve and his wife in The Meadows in Edinburgh during The Fringe. We saw them advertising his EdFringe show with their two dogs walking around with small “A” Boards on their backs! (see EdFringe 2019 post). They had travelled from Aboyne to be at our Braemar concert.
Concerts like that, very much give you confidence that you are “on the right track” musically. The memories stay with you for ever. It makes sense of all the practise we do day in and day out. Very special indeed.
After the concert, we had a wander around Braemar. Amazingly were allowed to wander freely around the arena where the Braemar Gathering was taking place the next day.
Words and photos by Ian Millar © 2019