It's coming up for thirty years to the day since Live Music Now launched their Scottish branch. It was August 24th, 1984, the Edinburgh Fringe was in full swing, and a small crowd gathered for lunch in Edinburgh's St Andrews Square to celebrate. A handful of musicians provided the entertainment, and Carol Main, freshly appointed as Live Music Now Scotland's director, was there.
Thirty years on, Carol will be serving up birthday cake when the Scottish branch celebrates turning the big three-oh, with an anniversary concert at the National Museum of Scotland. Cherrygrove, a quintet of traditional Scottish musicians will play live in the Museum's grandiose Grand Gallery, and everyone is invited.
"There will be a chance to dance, we hope people will sing along, clap along, and generally enjoy themselves!" says Carol. "Our party is really the essence of what Live Music Now does – it's about putting on very high quality musicians, but making it completely accessible. It's free, so anyone can come along, regardless of their circumstances."
Looking back over the past thirty years, Carol is pleased to see how far the Scottish branch has come. "In that first year, 1984, we had six music duos, and we put on around sixty concerts. In 2014 we'll put on more than 600 concerts, and we work with over 100 musicians."
Carol has enjoyed watching emerging, young musicians build up their careers and become more confident performers – and feels proud when she spots LMN Scotland alumni now playing with the likes of Scottish Opera, Hebrides Ensemble, Daniel's Beard and the Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
"Having this constantly renewable bunch of highly skilled, top notch musicians that we can work with in Scotland, it's been fantastic," says Carol. "Not only are they very talented performers, they are people that have also been incredibly generous with their time; it's a great resource for Scotland to have."
In her role as director of Live Music Now Scotland, Carol's job has involved supporting the careers of up-and-coming musicians, helping their professional development and crucially, organising performances in prisons, schools, care homes and far-flung locations.
"The highlight for me has definitely been watching the transforming power of music on people's lives. Some of the results have been very moving."
Carol remembers one woman living with dementia, who'd been in the audience at a LMNS concert in her care home. Normally fairly quiet, staff were surprised when the elderly woman suddenly started singing along.
"This woman had a beautiful voice, and it turned out she'd been a semi-professional singer in her younger days. The staff knew nothing about it, and the family had never mentioned it. But the staff saw how well she responded to music, and decided to incorporate it as part of her care routine. Music had a tangible effect on her wellbeing; basically this woman's life in an institution was transformed, because they were able to introduce singing, a really important dimension of her life, back into her routine."
Another gratifying project was a five-day workshop in Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirling, led by Skerryvore, a traditional music outfit from the isle of Tiree.
"Ten prisoners took part, and ten prisoners completed the course, which is unusual," recalls Carol. "A lot of the women had very low self esteem. Some had been told they were failures all their life. Something like this workshop gave them a sense of achievement and success that they'd never experienced before. One bit of feedback that stuck in my mind was a woman prisoner who said, 'It's the first time in my life I've done something my mum could be proud of'."
The remainder of Live Music Now Scotland's 30th anniversary year continues with work throughout the country, including on the isle of Mull, the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
"We're working with Classic FM, Luminate – 'Scotland's creative ageing festival' – and Mull Musical Minds – a singing group for people with dementia and Parkinson's. There's always so much going on both in Scotland, and internationally, where we've got projects in Mumbai and Abu Dhabi coming up."
The Free Fringe series of lunchtime concerts is on every day at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and has been delighted with the big audience turnouts. "I'm really glad our birthday party's booked for the Museum's Grand Gallery – it's such a wonderful, big space. We've been attracting record crowds this month, so there's a good chance we'll have a big crowd for the anniversary event. It'll be a great opportunity to share a piece of cake and look forward to more Live Music Now Scotland success in the future!"
Event info: Cherrygrove – Scottish Quintet and Live Music Now Scotland 30th anniversary concert and party, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Sun 24 Aug, 3pm, free.
Full details of Live Music Now Scotland's Free Fringe concert series during August can be found at: http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/free-fringe-music/