Back from the Galway Early Music Festival, playing bronze age horn and having a wonderful time with some of the finest exponents of prehistoric music.
Highlights for me were playing with Simon and Maria O'Dwyer for Moonfish Theatre's delightful shadow-puppet re-telling of Buile Shuibhne - the Mad Sweeney story. The visuals were witty and imaginative and John Rogers read the script splendidly. We improvised the music with minimal rehearsal, but it all went well.
The big event was Romans & Celts, War & Peace which featured Ludic Scaenic in the first section and Ancient Music Ireland in the second - all playing reconstructions of instruments from 2000 years ago. The final section was a musical battle to which the Festival organiser brought eventual peace - much to my disappointment . . . but it was a privilege to be a part of it all and the sounds in St Nicholas's wonderful acoustic were thrilling, especially when our Celtic section played a healing tune.
It was great to catch up with one of the most revered figures in Music Archaeology - Cajsa Lund - whose programme of Music on Board the Royal Swedish Flagship Kronan (Lost 1676) was a fascinating musical insight into a tragedy caused by the usual business of an incompetent boss ignoring the advise of the people who actually knew what they were doing.
It was also great to meet Jacopo Bisagni for the first time. He gently corrected me over my mis-remembering of an obscure Old Gaelic tale about triple pipes. I fear he hasn't heard the last of me!
I managed to slip in a meeting with Fergus Kelly, the expert on Early Irish Law. We are blood relations but, I fear, his scholarship is so far ahead of mine that any scholarly relationship would be best described as distant. He was kindness itself. This was on my way to visit family in Co. Wicklow and climb to the Motty stone with my brother and sister-in-law and see my cousins on the family farm, stocked with the finest sheep and lambs I have seen in ages.
Back in Glasgow, an evening chewing the fat with my fellow-students of long ago, John and Lily Geddes, brought back many splendid memories and a chance to hear Irlandaise - a beautiful piece by John for two cellos. The next day, Dr. Graeme Lawson and I took the train to Mallaig and headed home to Skye to discuss the writing up of the High Pasture Cave find of a c300BC bridge for a stringed instrument. This is a project we have long been involved in and the commission to write it up for Historic Scotland gives us a chance to review all the evidence thoroughly. The bridge was found on the Island of Skye, just eleven miles from where I live, and it is a sensational find of international significance.
Now to return to responding to a reader's wise, but challenging comments on an article I wrote for Scottish Gaelic Studies. Being the fool who steps in where angels fear to tread, I am touched that whoever the reader was, has not metaphorically swept me off the stage with one beat of his or her wing. Onward and upward!
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.