Star Date: Monday, June 5th, 2017. Location: Edinburgh, Scotland. What & Why: The annual AMIS Meeting.
This was to be the last day of the 2017 Meeting of the American Musical Instrument Society, which had teamed up once again with the British Isles’ Galpin Society to double our musical instrument geek-out experience. The conference was officially over; this was a “free day” with assorted planned activities to choose from. Jaci & I had opted for the trip to Glasgow where we’d never been. Her main reason for going was to see the Mackintosh House (the recreated Glasgow home of popular architect, designer, and artists Charles Rennie Mackintosh & wife Margaret Macdonald). Unfortunately, it was closed, so she had to spend the whole day looking at boring instruments. Or so she thought.
Our first stop was at the beautiful, centuries-old University of Glasgow, above. Here’s some architectural atmosphere:
The group racing up the stairs in our never-ending quest for more musical instruments to obsess over.
The University houses the Hunterian Museum, consisting of collections of important 18th & 19th century Scottish collectors and scientists and was like one giant Cabinet of Curiosities. This was totally up Jaci’s and my alley and covered multiple areas of our interests. Some random pics:
18th science was creepier than today…
We gather with our host in the main hall
I’ve always imagined a similar centerpiece in our own museum home.
Our group was there of course to inspect their small collection of musical instruments; Jaci and I found the scientific inventions and natural history displays much more impressive.
Lord Kelvin and gang made hundreds of charming, intricate, and cryptic scientific inventions that were not end-use items; they were invented to be able to study other things, so as to invent and study still more stuff. I was dying for a museum catalog on this collection, but they’ve yet to do one.
Stop 2. You might think that a “Bagpipe museum” would be just a one-note topic (actually, eight notes) but you would be wrong. It was fascinating to see and learn about every form of ancient to modern variant.
New friend clarinetist Sue Ryall gives it a go.
The National Piping Centre includes a store and school. We got a quick concert from a student during our lunch break.
Stop 3 (yes, this was like a “progressive dinner” with instruments instead of food…or perhaps a chauffeured scavenger hunt only you aren’t allowed to keep what you find…). The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (which has the world’s third-rated music program after Julliard, they say) was just across the street. They hold the important John Webb brass and woodwind collection, and a small but lovely portion on display outside the auditorium.
Outta my way, brass nerds!
I eventually got in for a glimpse and some photos….
The more twists and turns, the more I like ‘em (don’t worry, I’m not gonna start collecting).
Maybe it’s just my herpetology background, but I am a big fan of “serpents.” This is a record-breaking 14-keyed version, c.1850.
Our final stop was at the archives of the rest of this collection, held on the top floor of a landmark called the Whisky Bond – formerly a warehouse for the stuff, six floors worth. Colleague Matthew Hill had recently been there to photograph the collection for the new MINIM-UK project. He and Ana Sofia Silva (below) were hired to do this all over the British Isles for a full year (for geeks like them, that was paradise). I was looking for their couple of harp-lutes, which were unfortunately on loan somewhere – and never documented for MINIM. So back to work, Matthew!
That’s the esteemed Jeremy Montague from Oxford on the left.
Back in Edinburgh, we were invited to dinner at the home of friend Daniel Wheeldon, along with his fiancé (now wife, congrats!) Hannah and then-flat mate Mario, his childhood friend getting a degree in Marine Biology (“whale sharks my specialty”) but who Jaci and I agreed would make more money as a Hollywood Boulevard “Tom Hiddleston” look-alike just in tips. Two of our hosts for the week, the Edinburgh Museum’s Sarah Deters and Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, also joined us. Daniel made his grandma’s famous Toad in the Hole recipe (simple yet fabulous…I had seconds, thirds, then passed out) and the group drank “Glasgow Mules” while I chose to have my Scottish specialty straight. Daniel performed science experiments on me with four extravagant local whiskeys that ranged from “peaty” to “deadly.” It was a very generous – if risky – gesture from our young host, but I survived to tell this tale!