Combined Bands 2015 Tour to Edinburgh by Sally Clough

The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe have been on my bucket list for a long time, and so when Charnwood Symphonic Wind Orchestra announced it would be the destination for their 2015 performing tour, I signed up straight away. The 30-piece band has been on several successful European tours over the years, and this one was the best yet.

Planning for the trip started over a year in advance so we had plenty of time to find out where to go and what to do. Our first spectator experience was the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. We went on the press preview night – which was considerably cheaper than normal and the only difference was a few camera men in amongst the cast. They sometimes even added more interest as occasionally they were nearly flattened by unexpected movements from the performers. The Tattoo is so much more than just a display of military bands – there were groups from all round the world: singers, dancers, a drum band, childrens’ choirs and more. In the beautiful setting of Edinburgh Castle this was a truly memorable evening.

During our 3 day stay the weather was sunny every day which was lucky because our first performance was in the open air – at The Grassmarket. Lots of people were sitting outside enjoying lunch and listening to the band, it was a relaxed, informal atmosphere and our music attracted quite a considerable crowd.

In between our own performances we had lots of time to explore the city and to attend Festival and Fringe events. The range on offer was amazing – from flamenco dancing, to singers, classical music, comedy, theatre, visual art, street artists, circuses – the list was endless. It was easy to get tickets to whatever we wanted; some events were in small intimate venues with maybe only 20 other people, others were in larger theatres and there was plenty of street entertainment too. The open top bus tour offered a welcome rest from all the walking around, and it provided an informative and amusing commentary about some of Edinburgh’s history. A trip to the Edinburgh Vaults was fascinating, gory, sad and also a bit scary if we believed everything we were told!

Our second band performance was at Canongate Kirk – a beautiful church at the end of The Royal Mile. The church was packed with nearly 200 people who clearly enjoyed our varied programme. Our final piece was Seventy Six Trombones from the musical The Music Man, and although we had only two trombones the audience were clapping along and cheering. This was the highlight of the tour, and the only regret was that we had to leave the next day.

The travel, accommodation and performances for the tour were arranged by Rayburn Tours of Derby. We stayed in a modern hotel on Princes Street in the main shopping area of Edinburgh and just a stone’s throw from The Old Town and all the action.

Edinburgh is a fabulous city even without the Festival and Fringe. Its history, culture, food (yes – we even had haggis pizza!), the Old Town, The Royal Mile – there is so much to see and do. It would make a great short break venue and I’ll certainly be back again.