The Dunedin Consort, based in Edinburgh, had travelled to France for a concert in Normandy - their first performance together since lockdown began in March.
The eight baroque musicians arrived at Hayling Island in Hampshire at 3.50am on Saturday after a five hour Channel crossing, just ten minutes before new government rules - stating that anyone coming back from France would have to isolate for two weeks - would have forced them to quarantine for two weeks.
Jo Buckley, the Dunedin Consort’s chief executive, said the group knew quarantine was a risk as they travelled to France on Wednesday - but said the organisation would have lost thousands of pounds if it had not performed. The group is lined up to perform at the online Edinburgh Festival next week and needed to be able to play together rather than being isolated at home.
The concert, entitled Nature’s Voice, took place on Friday night in Lessay Abbey, Normandy. Once the new quarantine rules were announced by the UK Government on Thursday, the group started trying to find ways they could get home - like many other travellers.
Eurotunnel trains sold out and air fares were up to six times more than normal, although ferries increased capacity.
“This is the impossibility of planning concerts amidst all the changing rules and regulations,” Ms Buckley said. “We looked into ferries, the Eurotunnel, flights, even chartering a private jet — you name it, we tried it, but we couldn’t find any way of doing the concert and getting home before the quarantine curfew.
“Because work is so precious at the moment, I didn’t want the quarantine rules getting in the way of anyone who has work coming up in the next two weeks, as they are all freelancers.”
Eventually - on Friday morning - they tracked down a firm which hired out a boat for fishing trips from Hayling Island.Once they finished the concert at 10.30pm local time, eight of the 13-strong group boarded a coach to Cherbourg where they met the Valkyrie boat.
Ms Buckley added: “It was lovely. The boat was very comfortable. We were all able to have a little sleep inside even though we were all quite excited when we got on board. It was a calm night so it was a very easy crossing.”
The musicians were taken to London Euston by minibus and from there, were able to make the final leg of the marathon journey home.
Formed in 1995 and named after Din Eidyn, the ancient Celtic name for Edinburgh Castle, the ensemble has won two Gramophone Awards – for the 2007 recording of Handel’s Messiah and the 2014 recording of Mozart’s Requiem – and a Grammy nomination. In 2018, it was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble award.
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