PAUL MacALINDIN was home in Scotland visiting his dad and, as a gentleman might, having a lunchtime bite to eat in a pub. It was there he saw the story in The Herald that a young Iraqi pianist was searching for a maestro to conduct the National Youth Orchestra. The notion intrigued Paul who has worked as a conductor and musician all over the world and was then based in Cologne.
But there was what you might call a snag! No such orchestra actually existed. Which didn’t stop Paul being intrigued. And there began a most improbable adventure.
Initially, with some funding from a Kurdish businessman he went to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and began to explore the talent base.
Many young musicians were in war zones, many had no access to instruments which had been confiscated. But, with the help of other professionals, Paul gradually held online auditions. He then persuaded some fine individual players with whom he’d worked to come over and help him run a summer school.
These residencies were to culminate in concerts in that region, and, very much further down the line, in tours to festivals in France, Germany and Scotland.
Only the arrival of ISIS and the intransigence of the American Immigration system brought the project to a halt after a failed attempt to link up with American enthusiasts who had invited them to the USA.
But no experience is ever wasted. Many of these young musicians are now professionals, whilst Paul wrote the whole fascinating story in his book UPBEAT.
He will be talking about it at the Cove and Kilcreggan Book Festival with David Robinson on Saturday 25th at 2pm. See all details of Saturday's program and make reservations here. You can also buy tickets from Cove Country Store or Kilcreggan Post Office,