Scotland trip ‘experience of a lifetime’
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The recent trip to Ayr, Scotland, by members of the Centre Masterworks Ensemble Choir, their chaperones, and representatives from the city of Newnan was “probably one of those” that goes on the list as being "the experience of a lifetime.”
“It was awesome. It was the best trip,” said Denise Meacham, a local teacher who, along with her daughters Morgan and Sarah, sang in the chorale. “It was truly wonderful. And I really appreciate the fact that we had the opportunity to go,” Meacham said. And not just to take the trip, but to perform – twice – with Scottish music ensembles.
Meacham's husband, Dwayne, recorded the performances. Meacham said she’s watched the videos since returning home and “it was such an awesome experience. I think everybody who was in the performance would agree it was just so special.”
“I’m very appreciative to any person who had a hand in making the trip possible,” said Meacham.
Josh Roberts, assistant band director at Newnan High School, went as the chorale’s percussionist.
“Oh man, it was awesome,” he said Friday. “I’m truly blessed I was even asked to be a part of it.”
Roberts was wowed by the beauty of the countryside and the hospitality of its people.
“I can’t even put into words how beautiful it was,” he said. “Everywhere you looked – no matter where you were standing, which direction you were facing, what time you were looking, it was just absolutely gorgeous.”
In addition to the performances, the group participated in sightseeing trips to museums and castles, and spent free time with their host families.
“This trip was truly magical,” said Bette Hickman of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, which put together the trip. Hickman is chairwoman of the Scotland 2014 Tour. She said she’s proud of Choir Director Millie Turek and her team.
Ayr is the “sister city” of Newnan, and the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra has traveled to Newnan on three previous occasions.
Representatives from Newnan and the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission have traveled to Ayr previously, but this is the first time a local group has performed.
Performers wore sashes woven by local artisan Ann Lynn Whiteside in the Georgia Tartan pattern.
The choir received a standing ovation at the finish of a performance with Auld Lang Syne.
According to Katie Brady, wife of Newnan Mayor Keith Brady, after the concert, Wallace Galbraith, founder of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, told her that “to get a standing ovation from a Scottish audience is unbelievable.”
“I was so excited about that,” Brady said. “They did so good, they worked so hard, they looked fabulous in those tartans. And the ovation just was the icing on the cake.”
“The tears of the children at the end of their final concert was a special moment,” said Newnan City Council Member Cynthia Jenkins. “It was the culmination of a lot of hard work, building new relationships and understanding of others.”
Staying with host families, instead of a hotel, also helped make the trip special.
“This group of people bonded together like family, and there were many tears when we left,” said Hickman.
“By staying with the families we were able to experience the culture rather than just being a tourist,” Roberts said.
Ayr is much farther north than Georgia, and the summer nights are short.
“The sun set at 11 p.m.,” Roberts said.
On the first night, Roberts’ host instructed him on how to close the blinds mounted on his window. Roberts didn’t think anything of it, since he had to get up at 7, anyway. But morning came much earlier than Roberts expected.
“The sun was blasting through the window at 3:30 a.m.,” Roberts said. “It was just crazy. That was one of the weird differences, and something I’ll always remember.”
Roberts stayed with David Moore, musical director of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra. On his last night, the two participated in a jam session in his kitchen.
Roberts said he was wishing the whole time his wife could have been there with him.
“I already told my wife we’re going to start a savings account. We’re going to go,” Roberts said.
Many chorale members and families were able to try haggis, the national dish of Scotland, which is made of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, along with oatmeal, onions and spices, simmered in a sheep stomach.
On his first night, Roberts’ host’s wife asked if he’d ever eaten haggis.
“I was like, oh my God. Everybody told me don’t eat haggis,” Roberts said. “She said, ‘I know you guys have heard a lot of stuff about haggis.’”
She’d taken it out of its casing and covered it with cheese and potatoes.
“It was actually OK. I ate a whole plate,” Roberts said. “I didn’t get seconds, though.”