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21 Jan 2020

Warm welcome in New York for Gregg violin

Written by David Hopes
A man playing a fiddle to a group of people in a large hall
Alistair McCulloch plays the violin at the University Club, Manhattan
We landed at Newark Airport on the first day of the tour to blue skies and sunshine, but cold. Very cold! It’s always thrilling to spend time in this dynamic city. More so on this visit as we met so many enthusiastic ex patriot Scots and American Scots at two special events.

The first, hosted by the Burns Society of New York, took place in the magnificent Union Club. The Burns Society has been a major donor for the construction of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (2010), the conservation of Burns Monument (2018–19) and Burns Cottage (2019–20), so taking the violin to New York was a great opportunity to thank the society and to look forward to future. Alistair McCulloch played some beautiful Burns melodies including The Lea Rig, and even took requests from the audience (one of which was Annie Laurie, a favourite of the grandmother of the current Society President, Ken Donnelly).

Exterior of 3-storey building in New York
The University Club, New York

The second event was organised by the American Scottish Foundation and took place in the palatial University Club. This was a traditional black-tie Burns Supper for over 200 people. As expected, there was a lot of interest in the violin following a tremendous set by Alistair. As a cultural ambassador for Burns, Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, the violin is already doing a fine job!

A grand library room with a vaulted painted ceiling in New York
Inside the palatial University Club

During the day, we also had the opportunity to visit Sir John Steell’s statue of Burns in Central Park and meet with Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art and Antiquities, New York Parks. I read excerpts from an account of the unveiling of the sculpture 140 years ago, on 2 October 1880. This included a stirring speech by George William Wylie which inspired us all at the beginning of this tour:

‘To what other man was it ever given so to transfigure the country of his birth and love? Every bird and flower, every hill and dale and river whisper and repeat his name, and the word Scotland is sweeter because of Robert Burns.’

Three people stand in front of a statue of Robert Burns in Central Park, New York
In front of the sculpture of Robert Burns in Central Park, New York

Onwards now to Chicago where snow is expected. The fiddle feels very much at home!

More live updates on Twitter @hopesdavid #greggviolin

A video showing the itinerary for the Gregg violin tour

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