Musical instruments from the University’s world–class collection heralded the half-way point in St Cecilia’s £6.5million renovation.
The musical curiosities were played at a ‘topping out’ ceremony – traditionally held by construction workers – to celebrate progress in the restoration of St Cecilia’s Hall.
Construction workers, University students, staff and project supporters gathered on site for a unique acoustic recital of a 19th century contrabass serpent, performed by musician Tony George.
The copper serpent played dates from around 1815 and was made in Glasgow. It is a descendent of the cornet and a distant ancestor of the tuba. The unusual instrument gets its name from its long cone, which is bent into a snake-like shape.
A 19th century ophicleide – an early predecessor of the tuba – was also played at the event.
Jacky MacBeath, Head of Museums at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The topping out ceremony was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate reaching a landmark moment in St Cecilia’s Hall’s renovation.
“The performance was a fitting tribute for the project and gave our students, partners and contractors the chance to experience some of the world’s finest instruments that will be on public display in the near future.”
Violins, horns, diamonds and a crocodile: SCO Connects with MIMEd
Reaching out and establishing ties to the community are important elements of the redevelopment of St Cecilia’s Hall. But how does a museum work with the community when the building is closed? By creating partnerships and taking our collections out into the community.
Recently MIMEd partnered with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to provide quality performances and programming to audiences of all ages. SCO Connect, the creative learning team of the orchestra, worked with MIMEd Learning & Engagement Curator, Sarah Deters, to organise two Family Workshops which combined storytelling, live musical performance, and museum ‘show and tell’ for children aged 4-10 and their parents or care givers. The participants heard excerpts from The Crocodiamond, the story of Rita, a young girl who foils the theft of the largest diamond in the world. Providing the soundtrack for our storyteller were two musicians from the SCO playing violin, horn, and assorted percussion instruments.
Before and after the workshops participants had the opportunity to learn about, hear, and play items from the collections of MIMEd. Visitors young and old explored the sounds of serpents, horns, and even a Picco pipe (the smallest form of a duct flute).
The workshops were a great way to combine fun, learning, performance and MIMEd looks forward to future collaborations with the SCO and their creative learning team.
The project to renovate Scotland’s oldest concert hall has received a generous donation from a University alumnus.
The bequest of £5,000 was donated by Robert McCracken, LLB who graduated in 1979.
Mr McCracken said: “I donated to the St Cecilia’s Hall project because it captured my interest and imagination in a number of different ways that were important to me.
“Firstly, it has strong historic significance for the City of Edinburgh, where I attended school and university, and to which I still have strong links. Secondly, it appealed to my interest in music, both for its beauty and potential as a venue for baroque music, and as a home for a wonderful period collection of harpsichords and other similar instruments.
“After very kindly being given a guided tour of the instruments, including a fascinating chat with the curator, I was hooked!”
The donation is a further boost to the project, which received a £100,000 award from Edinburgh World Heritage earlier this year, and £825,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in March 2014.
If you would like to find out more about supporting the St Cecilia’s Hall project, please email Leisa.Thomas@ed.ac.uk.