Kirkcaldy jazzman Richard Michael BEM had the honour of being the first Scottish musician to be invited to perform at a jazz and pipe organ festival in Russia recently.
The 70-year-old, who is probably best known for his role as director of Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra, was asked to play at the concert in Chelyabinsk, around 900 miles east of Moscow, last week.
The invitation was made by Vladamir Khomyakov, the organiser of the festival and principal organist of the Chelyabinsk Philharmonic Society.
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Richard said: “Vladamir had seen me improvising on YouTube and realised I was a pianist as well as an organist so asked me if I would like to come over to perform.
“I was one of ten international musicians who were brought together to perform on one of the best pipe organs in the world. There are only 130 pipe organs in Russia so it was absolutely wonderful to have the chance to perform.”
Richard, who was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to music education in 2012, was the only international musician there who could play the piano and he was given the chance to perform on a new concert piano at the festival.
He said: “The audience was non-English speaking so I spoke to them through a translater. I told them I was going to play the music of Robert Burns and as I played ‘My Love is Like a Red Red Rose’, the translator recited it and it went down a storm!”
Richard also led a workshop whose participants included a girl aged just 11 to a saxophone player aged 40. He said: “At the workshop I did the type of music I normally do with FYJO and they had never experienced anything like it!”
Richard added: “On the piano I played When I Fall in Love, Let There Be Love and Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World. They all knew the words to Wonderful World it was amazing. I played with musicians from Israel, Sweden and Germany and we had no problem communicating as the language was music and we understood each other perfectly.”