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25 Jan 2020

Birthday bash in Boston – violin leads the celebration of the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA

Written by David Hopes
A man plays a violin, in front of 5 people wearing Highland dance outfits
Alistair McCulloch rehearses on the Gregg fiddle with Highland dancers at the Somerset Club, Boston
Boston’s been a blast! We’ve spent a busy but rewarding four days in and around the city meeting so many supporters of the National Trust for Scotland.

2020 is the 20th anniversary year of NTS USA, the charitable foundation headquartered in Boston which builds support in the States for the National Trust for Scotland’s work. Since 2000, the foundation has raised over £10 million for the Trust, £1.5 million of which has been invested in our work at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. It’s only fitting, therefore, that an object with such a special Burns connection is paying tribute to the work of the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA.

Two men taking a selfie in the back of a vehicle
David and Alistair arriving in Boston

To celebrate the foundation’s anniversary, we attended a special reception at the residence of the British Consul General, Harriet Cross. The Gregg violin was the star of the event, with Alistair playing a range of Burns tunes and taking requests from the 50 guests, including the Mason’s Apron and Neil Gow’s Lament to his Second Wife.

A man playing a violin, watched by a group of people, in a grand room
Alistair playing the violin at the British Consul General’s residence

Nearby in Beacon Hill, we were invited to attend the annual Burns Supper of the Somerset Club, one of New England’s oldest and most exclusive clubs. Alistair McCulloch was joined by singer Maureen McMullen, a Scot who teaches music at Berklee College of Music, in performing a Burns medley on the violin. We were also joined by five members of the energetic Highland Dance School who demonstrated sword dancing, accompanied by piper, Dan Heughan.

We had the opportunity to go nationwide recording a Burns special for the Celtic Sojourn slot on WGBH Radio. Brian O’Donovan interviewed myself and Alistair for a 20-minute slot on his long-established traditional music radio show. Alistair played Duncan Gray, Whistle O’er The Lave O’t, Neil Gow’s Lament to his Second Wife, and The De’il’s Awa’ Wi’ Th’ Exciseman. The show will be broadcast late January/early February.

A man playing a violin in a radio studio, watched by a man wearing headphones
Alistair playing the violin on WGBH Radio

We also recorded a Preservecast podcast focusing on the conservation of artefacts through use.

I met with staff at Historic New England, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and myself and Alistair strolled through a very snowy Harvard University campus and toured the Museum of Fine Arts. We expect our next stop to be a little warmer – Santa Monica Beach, Los Angeles!

A video showing the itinerary for the Gregg violin tour

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