Friday, 4 February 2011

Ghoulies and ghaisties and things that go tra-la-la in the night

William IV (1830-1837)

My choir Les Jeudistes is going on tour in Scotland in May.

We met last night to discuss the programme. Not just what we're going to sing - that's long been settled - but where we're going to visit as well. French ideas - and they may not be limited to France - about Scotland are extremely stereotyped. I don't quite know what to do to meet their expectations.

They want to visit a castle. Luckily there's a very good one just in the locality where we'll be staying. This is Cawdor castle, home supposedly of Macbeth. No problem there. It's open to the public. Besides, I feel a certain affinity with this castle, having once borrowed the castle dinner gong for a performance of Carmina Burana I was playing in in nearby Inverness.

But the castle isn't enough. They want ghosts.

They also want to visit a distillery. Again, there's one on the doorstep, the Royal Brackla. It has the 'Royal' prefix because it once supplied whisky to William IV, uncle of Queen Victoria. The choir isn't necessarily expecting ghosts at Brackla, but if William IV would oblige our lady choir members would be most gratified.

Then they want whales, seals and dolphins.

And a piper.

And one wants to buy a kilt. Does it matter if you don't have a name associated with a particular tartan? she asked. No, we replied, in the absence of a MacDubois tartan you can wear whatever you fancy. With one or two exceptions all that tartan business is a complete fiction, popularised by Sir Walter Scott and William IV's older brother, George IV. There are hundreds of tartans now, many never seen in Scotland.

We got the clan tartans book out. She rather liked McLeod of Raasay, a mostly yellow confection with black and red stripes. If she wore it, she asked, would a real McLeod of Raasay take exception? Might she be made captive by McLeod clansmen? Endungeoned in Raasay Castle, never to be seen again, save as a mouldering cadaver?

Not the least doubt of it, we said. How do you think there come to be so many ghosts in Scotland?


Dave said...

William was older than seven, surely? He certainly looks about 72 in the photo - mind you, he doesn't look very well.

Oh. Seven years reign.

Z said...

Ho ho, Dave.

At least there are plenty of interesting Scottish stereotypes. If they were touring East Angular, all you could offer them would be the Broads.

Vicus Scurra said...

You played the whole of Carmina Burana on a dinner gong? Quite an achievement - although I will take your word for it, I don't think I would really enjoy listening.

Christopher said...

Dave: Yes, pinpoint accurate as usual - he was born in 1765.

Z: You may be relieved to know that I find it hard to think of you as a Norfolk broad.

Vicus: No, I don't think you would have enjoyed listening. The orchestral accompaniment was reduced to two pianos and the complete kitchen of percussion including the gong, which opens the first mighty chorus. The local press review reckoned the performance was 'overpercussed to the point of nausea'. You did well to stay away.

Spadoman said...

With all those things to do, you'll hardly have time for the performance!
The Italian in me likes the pinstripe tartan. (Couldn't resisit that one)
The castle, Macbeth. And do I recall a recent installment about Romeo and Juliet in a castle, (I know, it was a house, yet looks big enough to be a castle to me).
Sounds like a great time to be on tour with a group. Always some good company for dinner.


Christopher said...

You're right, Spadoman, they are very good company indeed. (But we do look down on singing with our mouths full.) I know the Italian in you extends to eating, but how about singing?

Rog said...

I always insist on a Piper when I go to Scotland. Normally it's the Sunday Post. I wonder if they still do Oor Wullie?

letouttoplay said...

I notice they didn't ask for haggis.

Christopher said...

No, Mig, at heart they know what's what.