Saturday, 15 August 2009

Macbeth, Miss Macbeth, The Rehearsal Orchestra

On August 15th, 1058 Macbeth was killed by Malcolm at Lumphanan in Mar. He was buried on Iona.

Ard Righ MacBheata Mac Findlaich
(High King Son of Life, Son of Findlaich) -
Macbeth, King of Scots 1040-1058

The one remaining tower of one of several castles in Scotland attributed to Macbeth. This one is in Peebles.

Photo Jeremy White

Every year in August the famous Edinburgh Festival of the Arts is held in Edinburgh. In 1957 the musician Harry Legge 'invented' the Rehearsal Orchestra, which has run each year since then during the same period. Each section of this orchestra is led and coached by a professional player, and students, amateurs and young professionals explore a wide repertoire of music, far broader than they could hope to meet in their college or local orchestras.

One of the most faithful summer students was Miss Macbeth, an elderly Scots lady, who was a violin teacher in Ayr. Wednesdays were half-days at the course and on one particular Wednesday afternoon Miss Macbeth decided she'd like a trip out of Edinburgh on one of the many sight-seeing coach tours on offer. The trip took her to many of the wonderful Scottish sites and she enjoyed herself tremendously. Until they came to a ruined castle which the tour guide introduced as " .....and this is the castle of the notorious murderer, Macbeth".
Whereupon little Miss Macbeth rose from her seat, bristling with indignation, and replied, in her finest lady-like accents, "Sir, I'll thank you to speak civilly of my ancestor".

The last, but by no means least, word goes to the Bard himself, who took the story of Macbeth and turned it into fiction. But what fiction!

From Macbeth
Act V Scene v

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty face from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


  1. Lovely anecdote concerning Miss Macbeth. Probably the most bizarre production of The Scottish Play I saw involved the sudden appearance of Macbeth, in full leathers, on a motorbike onto the stage.

  2. This is a very interesting post, both with information about Macbeth and also about the Rehearsal Orchestra. The RO sounds like a fabulous ... should I say concept, collection of musicians, or collaboration of generous musical souls.

    I wish that I could them play. Your post has raised my curiosity. Shall I go to utube?


  3. Friko, I so enjoyed this! Sometimes I wonder if blogging isn't about "strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage - full of sound and fury - and in the end signifying nothing". If so, it does produce some inspiring reads, golden images, and lovely global connections anyway.

    Cheers friend!

  4. I love that quotation from Shakespeare. It is probably one of his most famous. Excerpts from it have been used as titles for movies, books and stories.

    I also love the photo you used; it depicts the gloom and tragedy of Macbeth so well.

  5. Celtic Heart - Thanks CH. Macbeth on a bike? With the lady riding pillion?

    Frances - I have no idea if they are on utube, the RO is a fun but very hardworking holiday for the participants, even the professionals find it taxing.

    Bonnie - do you know I was going to end this post with the words 'a bit like blogging', but changed my mind because I don't want to offend anyone.

    Darlene - I love all of Shakespeare, probably because I came to him as an adult, not at school.

  6. Friko, your post got me thinking about Macbeth, a play I love, but so gloomy and sad. Except for the three witches. They give some relief. The pictures are great. What is the date of the portrait? It looks later than the "real" Macbeth's years on earth.

  7. Interesting Friko - I didnt know Macbeth was buried on Iona and I've been there.

  8. Great post Friko, very interesting stuff. I love Shakespere but I must admit that I know little of the real Macbeth!

  9. Hi Friko,
    Thanks for visitng my blog,this got me visiting yours and I am so pleased I have as this is a very interesting post.

  10. Interesting post, as always, Friko. Enjoyed the story about Miss Macbeth. The photograph is perfect. Macbeth is perhaps my favorite play by Shakespeare, so I loved the quotation, such intense lines.

  11. I loved the photos - I've been mentally in Scotland all week, as my brother competed in the Worlds at Glasgow.
    The oddest productions of The Scottish Play had to have been in the 70's when there was the nude production and far too many productions in tights and sunglasses.

  12. 'To the last syllable of recorded time'
    Good morning Friko,
    nice to see you back. As I found out today that there's light which travels 8,000 years until it reaches our eyes, was glad, as that might mean that time won't have an end, neither in its ticking, nor in its light.
    Loved the above sentence most, made me wonder whether time would be able to speak.
    Wish you a pleasant Sunday and a nice start into a bright new week.

  13. I love that ancient tower, and indeed the whole post and your unique voice!
    Thank you for visiting my Hawaii blog - hope to welcome you again ;-]
    I know I'll enjoy returning here often!

    Comfort Spiral

  14. Very interesting post. I read Macbeth and other works by Shakespeare in middle and high school, and I was fascinated by his imagination and characterization.

  15. There's something tremendous about Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. So simple, yet most of us would never have written it like that! Great post. Very enjoyable - and instructive.

  16. 20th C woman - probably post mediaeval and pre-Victorian, can't get closer than that.

    Faith - I only found out about Iona when I wrote the post.

    Jenny Holden - not many people do, Shakespeare has seen to that!

    Herrad - thanks for joining me and thanks for your nice comment.

    Celeste Maia - Miss Macbeth was/is a lovely lady.

    Pondside - hope he did well - as for the versions of the play: grrrr

    robert - thanks and have a lovely week.

    Cloudia - thanks - sure will and hope you will too.

    Phoenix - Glad to have your comment - thank you for it

    Dave King - tremendous is the right word - thanks for the 'great post'

  17. I really enjoyed the Miss Macbeth anectdote- as an English man I have learned to be careful with my interpretations of Scotland's history!
    When I lived in Glasgow I often heard the phrase "put the Malky on him" meaning get some one killed- I have not had it proved but I was told that the phrase does reffer to Malcolm and Macbeth.
    As for performances of the play I saw a Japanese No theatre production at the Edinburgh Festival in the eighties. For some people it was a great moment of international cross cultural theatre but for me it was just sitting in a dark room with people in frightning masks shouting at me. I was was suposed to review the damn thing but just had to miss the brief 'cos every time I started to recal the night I started a panic attack! Ok I am a born peasent.

  18. Here I am again, Friko!
    Sorry I haven't been around for a while.
    Oh dear! I have been so busy what with one thing and another I have only been able to just about catch up with my favourite blogs and have struggled to write anything at all!! But I am still here all the same and liking to read your thoughts and doings!
    I too loved the Miss MacBeth story!
    I went to Cawdor Castle on my hols, mistakenly thinking it would have some connection with MacBeth. It didn't but was a good and interesting day out all the same. Have you read Dorothy Dunnett's 'King Hereafter' ~ about MacBeth? I found it somewhat hard going and struggled with all the characters ~ but ultimately a worthwhile read.
    The Scottish play certainly isn't one of my favourites. The worst one I have seen was one I took my daughter (then 16) to. The weird sisters were young women wearing awful skin-tone leotard which left very little to the imagination. The small local theatre was full of Year 11 pupils ~ not from Stella's school ~ who spent most of the play catcalling and misbehaving. The production was so awful that I have to admit I felt some sympathy for them! Stella and I still laugh about it I'm sorry to say!
    Oh well . . . have been away for the week-end . . . back to the unpacking!
    Best Wishes

  19. Macbeth not one of my favorites, but an interesting post. Always enjoy it. It is full of history and lit and culture I love to run into, one of my reasons for blogging.

  20. Richie - "put the Malky on him" - I'v never heard that before. Nt a good thought.

    rosy - everybody has had a story to tell about Macbeth, usually of a version which seems quite scary to me. I wish people would leave Shakespeare alone.

    Queemothermamaw - thanks for your kind words.

  21. In school we studied Molière and other such French writers. Shakespeare translated did not sound that good but after all these years my English should be good enough for me to be able to read it in the original. The excerpt you quoted is very very nice.

  22. Hello Friko, and thanks for dropping by..this is what I love about blogland, the people you meet suddenly, strangely and they touch you or you them...and commonalities are evident...

    I see you follow my Mum (the view from this end) see another similarity..
    hope we visit again soon

  23. Friko, just to say that I have made a few changes to the posted poem. You are very welcome to use either version.

  24. Thank you for the anecdote about Miss MacBeth! I didn't know he really existed. I thought he was just a fictive character made up by Shakespeare! Thanks for this post. Thanks also for your visit and kind comment.

  25. Thanks so much for visiting Friko - do call again. I loved your story about Macbeth - found it very interesting too.

  26. Now that's my kind of blog post! Thanks for visiting my blog, Friko, and I'm dead pleased to discover yours. There's so much here of interest to me, and your list of fave books etc shows you to be a woman after my own heart!


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