A PIONEERING youth orchestra is taking classical music to new heights – by playing at the top of Ben Nevis.
The Nevis Ensemble, which claims to be Scotland’s first street orchestra, is made up of 40 musicians.
The musical mountaineers will lug their instruments 4411ft up Britain’s highest peak for a 20-minute performance in August.
The concert forms part of the ensemble’s first-ever tour, which is being held during Festival 2018, the cultural and sporting programme taking place this summer.
Over an intensive two weeks, the Nevis Ensemble – co-founded by Judith Walsh from Edinburgh and Jamie Munn from Glasgow – will play 70 performances across Scotland in August.
“As the tour is part of the 2018 European Championships we are trying to fit in some concerts that include a bit of physical endurance,” Jamie said.
“We’ve already scouted the route up Ben Nevis. It looks surprisingly achievable for everyone, with the exception of the doubles basses. The top is quite flat so it’s a natural stage.”
The orchestra is formed of professional, amateur and student musicians aged 18 to 28. Many have studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.
As part of the festival, they will perform in yoga studios, swimming pools, life drawing classes, Faslane Peace Camp and Loch Lomond, as well as a host of concerts in music, arts and community venues.
And the ensemble will also pop up unexpectedly in public spaces like Glasgow Central Station and Edinburgh Airport.
The project’s core aim is to “bring music to everyone, everywhere” by partnering with a number of charities to bring classical music to marginalised groups.
They’ll play for the elderly, homeless people and refugees supported by organisations including Alzheimer’s Scotland, Glasgow Lodging House Mission, Erskine Home and Refuweegee.
“The idea is taking music to people, rather than piling people into a concert hall,” said Jamie.
“Often it’s simply about bringing a little joy into people’s lives. Having access to music like this can have a positive effect on people’s mental well-being.”
He added: “By nature, Nevis Ensemble performances will be very energetic and different.
“The orchestra plays standing up, they move around and interact with audiences, so it’s a more varied and immersive experience.”
The Nevis Ensemble will practise together in Garelochhead for four days before the tour.
Audiences will be treated to a mix of classical pieces, ceilidh music, jazz and pop songs, including 500 Miles by The Proclaimers.
It also offers a valuable platform and learning experience for emerging young musicians. “Who gets to play orchestral music on top of a mountain? It will be a unique experience,” said cellist Heidi van der Swaagh.
“I grew up climbing mountains over 4000m, so I can’t wait to climb and play on Ben Nevis.
“I think we’re doing a joint effort of getting the larger instruments up there, so luckily it won’t just be me carrying my cello.”
The 25-year-old from Colorado, USA, is halfway through her master’s degree at The Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.
She’s looking forward to bringing her style of music to new audiences.
Heidi added: “Guerrilla-style, pop-up performances makes it easier to connect with the audience because you’re not just a performer on a distant stage.
“I hope that by playing in these unconventional spaces, we’ll reach people who would never choose to listen to classical music and make them realise how exciting it is.”
Anne O’Donnell, of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “Music can improve life for people with dementia by evoking emotions that bring back memories.
“Our performance with the Nevis Ensemble will bring all our Musical Memory singing groups together for one big singalong.”
Donate online at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/nevis-ensemble/