Arran’s String Orchestra Arco

Alice Maxwell, leader of Arran’s string orchestra Arco, reports on the group’s musical developments and the way it has evolved online during this year’s lockdown restrictions. 

Arco is Arran’s very own string orchestra. The name was coined by the group’s founder, Veronica Halstead – Arco is an Italian musical term meaning “playing on the string”. It could also translate as Arran Community Orchestra as the group is open to everyone, and has played at numerous functions across the island over the years.

In the early days we played for Lady Jean’s garden parties. While playing outside can be tricky as the music tends to blow away and midges enjoy a good munch at our expense, Lady Jean was a great Arco enthusiast and asked us back many times.

We have also played for services in most of the island’s churches, notably at Easter and Christmas, and of course we played at the wonderful John Dick carol service along with Arran’s other music ensembles.

Live music is a wonderful way of brightening up the day of an elderly person – we loved playing at Music Matters in Lamlash, and also visited Cooriedoon and Montrose House as well as making appearances in the Brodick and Lamlash sheltered housing complexes. Our hosts were always wonderfully hospitable and treated us to an excellent tea!

Since lockdown we reconvened on zoom. And amazingly, Arco has expanded enormously – we now have players from West Yorkshire, London and Lanarkshire as well as our faithful Arran crew. Our new recruits have introduced new instruments too – we now have a double bass, a guitar, and a singer.

While our repertoire used to be light classics, zoom requires simpler music, so we mostly concentrate on folk tunes, and group members are welcome to suggest repertoire.

Our Monday nights are primarily fun, full of laughter and light-heartedness. We are truly blessed to be able to continue music making, to uplift our spirits, and to make new friends at the same time. New members are always welcome!


Arco online at Christmas 2020