This September, a group of musically minded travelers linked up with our staff in Glasglow for “A Scottish Welcome,” a new guest-hosted program from Encore Experiences. This music appreciation program was designed in collaboration with Brian O’Donovan, host of “A Celtic Sojourn Radio’ on Boston’s GBH Public Radio. Circumstances necessitated a last-minute change, and Bruce MacGregor—an accomplished fiddler and one of the most influential traditional musicians in Scotland—filled in as the musical host. While Brian’s presence was clearly missed, this trip was an unforgettable experience for travelers.
Before departing on this meticulously designed itinerary, Brian hosted a welcome reception for all Boston-based participants and their guests. Together, we enjoyed drinks, appetizers, and some incredible live music courtesy of Louise Bichan and Ethan Setiawan. This was a wonderful bonding opportunity, as participants were able to meet their future travel companions, swap stories from the road, and share in their passion for Celtic music.
Leveraging Encore’s 25 years of worldwide concert productions, each of our Encore Experiences programs provide privileged access to musicians, venues, famous ensembles, instrument makers, and more. However, we also pride ourselves on delivering superior comfort, cuisine, and a rich array of cultural experiences. This program was particularly special, with a diverse assortment of cultural activities including afternoon tea at The Royal George Hotel, a cruise on Loch Lomond, and the Highland Malt Whisky Experience at MacGregor’s Pub.
Our incredible musical host, Bruce MacGregor, is not just an accomplished musician but also the founder of MacGregor’s Pub in Inverness. It was at his pub that participants enjoyed sampling some of the finest Scottish malt whisky while learning about the history, legends, and music of the Scottish Highlands. As one participant exclaimed, this was a “wonderful experience tasting and learning to appreciate whiskey. The entertainment in between tastings was exceptional. [This was a] great way to learn Scottish history and hear new tunes from Bruce’s fiddle… What a voice!”
For many participants, one of the most memorable highlights was a visit to Rosslyn Chapel in Edinburgh — a 15th-century chapel that was prominently featured in the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and has provided inspiration to many artists over the years. Others were moved by the visit to Iona, a tiny island off the western coast of Scotland. As one participant remarked, “I was overjoyed to return after nine years to the Isle of Iona…Though we could visit for only a few hours, it was worth it. Part of my heart will always be there.”
Of course, the highlight of this trip was the music. There was a different musical experience every night, including salon-style performances by a slew of talented musicians. Participants enjoyed intimate performances by Anna Massie, Jenna Reid, Gary Innes, Adam Holmes, Siobhan Miller, Sandy Brechin, and several others. Participants were also treated to a ceilidh dance lesson and performances by students at the Plockton Music School.
“The music throughout the tour was dazzling, transcendent, inspiring,” said one of the participants. “So much beauty moved me to tears.” The performances at the Plockton School of Music were particularly memorable, with one participant stating that “the talent and high spirits of these young stars-in-the-making were thrilling. I loved the opportunity to learn Scottish folk dancing!”
All of these experiences were enhanced by our carefully selected hotels; each offering a warm welcome, regional characteristics, and central locations to ensure travelers had the opportunity to properly explore the local scenery, music, and culture. We know your time abroad is precious, and we help you make the most of it with conveniently located hotels and knowledgeable staff who can recommend the best restaurants, museums, or tourist attractions. For this program, Charles Hunter served as the Cultural Host and provided tailored suggestions on city exploration and a detailed overview of Scottish history. “What a character!” one participant exclaimed. “Charles was always highly organized and a delight to listen to.”
Although this program began under trying circumstances, it ended as an unmitigated success. We want to thank everybody who joined us on this new adventure, and we look forward to seeing you at a reunion before too long! We are excited about the future of Encore Experiences, and we’re proud to be able to deliver unprecedented access to some of the world’s most fascinating musical opportunities.
We are currently in the process of setting new 2023 dates for “A Scottish Welcome,” and there are several other new programs that will be announced shortly. Sign up for our email updates and you’ll be the first to hear about the latest news on our newest Experiences, upcoming events, and so much more!