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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Evening of music

should have known better. Innocent questions from David Hare along the lines of ‘Are you free on 19 March for some piano duets?’ will in future be treated with greater circumspection. But let me not make light of David’s difficult task. He had volunteered to support the Faculty’s 150th anniversary celebrations by organising a concert in aid of the Faculty’s chosen charity, CHAS. Not only that, but his aim was to engage only fellows or those connected with the Faculty as performers. As with many an actuarial wheeze, this proved harder in the implementation than the planning.
The mysterious connection between mathematics and music soon made itself evident, however, and a remarkably varied programme was put together. The concert took place in the historic surroundings of Greyfriars Kirk. An audience of nearly 200 assembled, including Michael Pomery, Institute president, Jean-Louis Massé and Alf Guldberg, current and past IAA presidents, a good selection of past and present Faculty Council members, and the odd past president or two!
The standard was set immediately by David’s stirring performance of Bach’s famous ‘Toccata and Fugue’ for organ. An introduction by Harvie Brown, president of the Faculty, gave David time to emerge from the organ loft, in order to compère the proceedings with a few well-chosen words of introduction for each of the performances. James Orr’s mellow saxophone gave us some reflective Bach and, in the first of the evening’s many contrasts of style, a piece in jazz idiom entitled ‘Harlem Nocturne’. Next on the menu came Donizetti, well known as an opera composer but on this occasion represented by a trio for flute, bassoon, and piano. This brought together three generations George Gwilt (who had the distinction of having been present 50 years earlier at the Faculty centenary), Keith Sutherland (bassoon), and Jim Stretton (piano). George, accompanied again by Jim, followed the Donizetti with a delightful movement for flute and orchestra by Mozart.
The resonance in Greyfriars came to the fore as Mike Smith (bass) sang two Mozart arias the lofty ideals of Sarastro in The Magic Flute contrasting nicely with the rather more earthy discussion of Don Giovanni’s many conquests, as recounted by Leporello in his ‘catalogue’ aria. The ringing tones of Huw Evans (trumpet), with David Hare (organ), brought the first half to a close with a concerto by Albinoni.
A wonderful selection of Scottish music was provided after the interval by Alan Forbes, Donald Macleod, and Mairi MacIntyre. Alan opened with several pieces for highland bagpipes, played with tremendous expertise and panache. Donald continued the Scottish flavour with three unaccompanied Gaelic songs. A native of the Hebridean island of Lewis, Donald entertained his audience by remarking that the first song, through which the young man hopes to persuade the young lady to come and live with him on the rival island of Tiree, ‘would need to be a pretty good song’! Mairi MacIntyre of the Faculty office, a teacher of her instrument in her spare time, provided yet another contrast with three delicate pieces for clarsach. (For the benefit of colleagues south of the border, the clarsach is a Highland harp, rather smaller than its better-known cousin.)
The writer then joined David Hare to play a couple of piano duets first a berceuse by Fauré, well known to radio-listeners of a certain generation who ‘listened with mother’, and then Schubert’s ‘Marche Militaire’, a favourite with all who have tried four-hand piano music.
Keith Sutherland, accompanied by John Hylands (piano), gave a stylish performance of the interesting and rarely-heard ‘Romance’ for bassoon and orchestra by Elgar. David Hare brought proceedings to a close, again with utmost panache, in the ‘Sortie’ by Lefébure-Wely. This, as David predicted, sounded not at all as though it had been written to be played in a church! But I think it gave the audience the notion of enjoying their ‘sortie’ into Edinburgh’s bracing evening air with something of a skip in the step.