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TransAtlantic Seaway in Glasgow: Before the Trip

Larry Bethune spends his days as Berklee’s vice president for student affairs—but under that business suit beats a heart of plaid. This school year, he’s combined his interests to promote both students and Scottish music with a new project: the TransAtlantic Seaway Music Collaboration. After a ragingly successful trip to New Hampshire, the band—featuring musicians from Berklee and two Scottish universities—made its way to Glasgow. This is their story.

TransAtlantic Seaway

Last October, seven Berklee students and eleven students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and the University of Strathclyde were asked to perform at the 2011 Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

Mark Sheridan (then Head of Music at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow) and I had been talking for a few years about putting together a band of Scottish Traditional and Bluegrass student musicians. Mark is a friend of mine and later became my music supervisor when I was working on a doctorate in music research at Strathclyde. My project was tracking 18th century Scottish Highland tunes to Carolina in America and up to contemporary American popular music (bluegrass, old-time, folk, country, pop…). The idea started to gather some steam when, totally unconnected to Mark’s and my vision, John Wallace (Principal of the RSAMD) and David Christie (expatriate Scot living in New Hampshire and marketing expert) started talking about RSAMD and Berklee collaborating.

Last January (2010), John, Mark, Louise Mitchell (director of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music) and I set up a three-phase set of goals: To perform at the New Hampshire Highland Games (40,000 attendees), then Celtic Connections (140,000), then to be invited to the Festival InterCeltique de Lorient in Brittany, France (an unbelievable 800,000 attendees… largest Celtic music festival in the world). Finally, Mark and I envisioned creating an association to advance Scottish roots music and collaborations around the world, eventually creating several traveling groups to spread the music.

Our first goal was to perform at the New Hampshire Highland Games in September 2010. The new band, the TransAtlantic Seaway Music Collaboration, or TAS, for short, was just an idea and we knew nobody in their right minds would hire us to draw a crowd to a festival. We are grateful that the NNHG took that chance. The team from Scotland came over to Berklee, we rehearsed for three days, went to the Games, and got standing ovations at every performance. Within hours, we were all over YouTube.

Louise and Mark worked hard to gain us some visibility. Wham! Donald Shaw, director of the Celtic Connections Festival, invited us to the festival for January 2011.

So, this diary is a record of our trip to Glasgow. Most is written by me, but David Christie and Hamish Napier also contributed. Hamish was the pianist and one of the music directors of the Highland Games effort in September. He has been accepted to Berklee for Fall 2011 after having attended the University of Strathclyde, where he also taught. We hope you enjoy the journey. I know we all did.

—L.B.


Read more posts about the TransAtlantic Seaway:

The Transatlantic Seaway Music Collaboration is a production involving students, faculty, and alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and Strathclyde University in Glasgow, with support from the City of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    I saw this band in Scotland at Celtic Connections and though they were excellent! I had no idea they comprised of Berklee students. Will they be doing a tour in the UK at any point soon. It will be wonderful to follow them.

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