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O, Come All Ye Scottish

Sometimes, all it takes is a melody to bring the hills and dales of Scotland down to the sultry environs of Delhi. And that's exactly what the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra did at the Taj Palace earlier this month.
Jimmy Jacob        Print Edition: April 13, 2014
O, Come All Ye Scottish
Members of the BBC Scottish Symphony performing at the tea lounge of the Taj Palace on April 2

As the records of Gaelic Storm and Dubliners at my pad would profess, I have a special corner in my heart reserved for symphonies that emerge from hills and dales of Scotland (and Ireland, if you please). Therefore, an invitation to a performance by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Tea Lounge of Taj Palace - no less - seemed like a golden opportunity come knocking in a kilt of Tartan-patterned wool. Now, I knew that this one wouldn't be as much "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go", but - hey - throw the dog a bone, and he mustn't complain about wanting a juicier one, must he? If you get what I mean.

A 65-member band in its 80th year, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra had come to India for the first time as part of a three-city tour. Assembled at the venue, sipping tea and sparkling wine, were a number of music aficionados from Delhi's elite circles - clearly making the most of a beautiful evening. And then, when they had ascertained that all eyes were on them, the band began to play.

And play they did, grabbing hold of the audience's imagination and taking it on a frolicking ride of the English countryside on the body of the flute and the clarinet. I perked up my ears, lest they miss any note of melody wafting past, and almost failed to notice the attendant asking me if I would like something to munch on. Now, music may be food for the soul, but it isn't prudent to deny the stomach its lot either. Especially the kind they were offering on the occasion.

To accompany the ensemble with a touch of Indian regality, the Tea lounge had introduced the Maharaja Afternoon Tea - a spread of decadent proportions that promised just the right notes as far as gastronomy was concerned. Among the delicacies on offer were Baked Chocolate Tarts, a selection of mouth-watering Sandesh and Tomato Avocado Sandwiches - to name a few, besides a wide selection of estate teas and single origin coffees.

Preferring to start on a sober note, I opted for Darjeeling white tea and noted how even subtlety can leave a lasting impression on your taste buds. And, truth be told, it's the best drink to go with an orchestral performance.    

Barely a few moments into the event, the crowd fell into rapt silence, and I could see why. The music seemed to reflect the moods of a bipolar man (only a lot more beautiful) - plucking at your heart strings at one moment but caressing them at another; rising to a thunderous crescendo and falling almost as suddenly; painting the picture of sheep frolicking in a pasture at one moment before turning into a mournful tune that could just as well have been a dirge. And as colourful images painted by violins, cellos, flutes and clarinets fill your mind, you realise that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a beautiful melody has to be worth half a million.

For Gavin Reid, director of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the India tour (covering Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai) was all about cultural exchange. Well, going by the spring in my step for the next few days, I would say it was about that - and a lot more!

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