The pipes, the pipes were calling…

5 September 2012

No-one would humanely expect us to sing at 9am, even a song without harmonies like Jerusalem. But, while those lucky people in Newcastle were still in their pjs munching Coco Pops, the Leeds contingent were outside West Yorkshire Playhouse rasping out all two verses for the enjoyment (or otherwise) of local media and their audiences.

It’s hard to say whether this performance encouraged hordes of them to catch the next train to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival to feast their ears some more. Maybe some fled to Wales.

For anyone reading this who has yet not been on one of our fabulous tours, think of your favourite school trip with good friends, loads of snacks and a few opportunities show off what you can do... Imagine the glee and excitement of that trip, then double it. Now you're getting somewhere near the genuine sense of wild giddiness and fun involved in an Inspiration trip. And the greatest fun of all is the singing.

The Taj Mahal, Red Square and Ayers Rock are still waiting to be conquered by the black ‘n’ scarlet army. A pre-Christmas trip to Disneyland Paris is not far away, and New York, New York expects us in 2014, but in the meantime we hit Auld Reekie with a vengeance.

Joining the international throng of artists of every kind and visitors looking to be amazed and entertained by the world's largest arts festival, Inspiration checked into university halls of residence then hit the ground running with a concert at the enchanting St Cuthbert's Church.

A very special venue, with the choir singing from a three-sided gallery to a lovely and appreciative audience below, Gary looked right at home in the pulpit and the emotional intensity of the concert grew to a pinnacle that brought a standing ovation and a few tears upstairs and downstairs.

Enough time was built into the itinerary to allow a fair amount of sightseeing, from the famous gothic Castle to Holyrood Palace and many points in between. Then Friday evening saw us inside the beautiful space of St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

A two-hour concert with the choir in the domed area around the altar was another hit, and the audience made fantastic comments about the harmonies, the discipline and the great expression we put into the music. They were also vastly impressed with our terrific band.

Saturday saw Inspiration at a very different venue and in a dramatically different mood. Squalls of rain did nothing to dampen the relaxed spirits as we took our places on the amphitheatre steps outside the visitor attraction Our Dynamic Earth.

Tourists and locals coming along to learn about the Earth and the stars looked amazed and pleased to find 250 troubadours unexpectedly entertaining them – as did passengers aboard Edinburgh’s open-top buses, which came and went throughout the performance.

One bus driver – who turned out to be a member of the Glasgow Philharmonic Chorus – couldn’t resist  jumping out of his cab to join in with ‘You Raise Me Up’ – a song he had often sung, He dropped us a line later to say how much he’d enjoyed himself – and we loved having you with us, Julian!

Those of us who wanted to sample what else the Festival had to offer took the opportunity later to spend a few hours rushing around like headless geese from one comedy show to another, as well as soaking up the unique atmosphere in the city's streets at this time of year. A cappella groups serenaded us, fire eaters terrified us, jugglers dropped their plates... We had a smashing time.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a special feature of the Edinburgh Festival, and many of the Inspiration group were there on Saturday night for the final performance of this year’s spectacular.

Actually spectacular doesn’t really do it justice – the bands from across the globe are immense, the choreography amazing, the impeccable organisation mind-boggling – and who would have thought we’d see Batman projected large as life on the Castle walls! Truly a night to remember.

A leisurely morning of strolling in the sunshine Sunday or relaxing around the halls of residence brought us to our final performance – and the great honour of being the first musical group to sing at the Royal Scots War Memorial in Princes Street Gardens.

It was different again our previous events – more solemn, but still with a great sense of emotion flooding our hearts as we thought of fallen heroes known and unknown, and dear ones each of us misses.

But despite that poignancy, there was a joy about it all, too. The sun shone, and a great audience again showed genuine appreciation of our music. It was so wonderful to share the hard work and enjoyment of song with strangers and also with friends and family who had followed Inspiration to Edinburgh.

The singing over – the official singing, anyway – all that was left was to catch a haggis and round up a few tartan scarves to take home. And of course there was the small matter of party, party, partying as only Inspirationers can.

What happens on tour stays on tour – if you want to know what we get up to when we let our hair down, I suggest you come and join us! LOOK OUT PARIS! LOOK OUT NEW YORK!

Sheena Hastings

See the Inspiration Facebook page for Lorraine Craig's great blog-by-blog account of our Edinburgh trip...

Thanks to Peter Hopkins and Dynamic Earth for the photographs

Inspiration at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral Inspiration at Our Dynamic Earth Inspiration at Royal Scots War Memorial in Princes Street Gardens