By the Music Maker Association
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The Music Gallery

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The Music Gallery, Berwick-upon-Tweed

To say that a place has been “life changing” is a rather large statement but one that the Music Gallery in Berwick-upon Tweed richly deserves as far as I am concerned!

Having happened in there only a matter of a year plus ago was just such an event in my life and has taken me on a musical journey which has enriched so many aspects of my existence! I acquired my first guitar that day and soon took my first tentative steps in learning how to play thanks to the help and advice of Brian Martin, the friendly owner of the place!

To my amazement, and never ending appreciation, I also soon discovered what a rich seam of music was associated with the Music Gallery and the hard work an enterprise that the owners and their equally enthusiastic staff put into the many events and music related happenings that surround the shop and it’s relaxing and friendly café upstairs run by Brian’s wife the lovely Karen, now ably assisted by their two pretty daughters who produce a large variety of interesting and sustaining snacks and drinks which are much appreciated while one mulls over a prospective purchase, listens to a live lunchtime music session, joins in a friendly and kindly (for new comers to playing a great bonus) acoustic night or during one of the many special events that take place in the evenings!

There is a superb “Open Mic” night once a month where the diversity and sheer strength of the local guitar playing talent, not to mention terrific singing, occasional keyboard and other instruments appearing too of course, ensures that each of these events is eagerly anticipated and is sure to draw a large and appreciative crowd. The open part of the title is not strictly accurate if one is being pedantic as the acts put their names down between these events and a list available beforehand gives an idea of who will be appearing, in approximately 15 to 20 minute slots, beforehand which means there is always a packed and nicely mixed programme with no gaps or dead spots as Brian and his staff are very adept at the various instrument changeovers and the whole evening has a flow which keeps up the momentum and fun for the audience!

There are too, special nights such as the very popular “Blues Buffet” evenings every few months where world class guitarist Steve Morrison puts on an extremely professional and highly entertaining evening of electric blues while Karen and her staff come up with a terrific buffet meal making the very reasonable £10 charge a real bargain.

Steve plays with Brian’s own Jam Band at other times and these weekly events over the summer have been terrific. The café works on a corkage charge for bringing your own wine, beer or whatever and other drinks and snacks are freely available too so the whole enterprise is geared to giving patrons a superb night out for a very reasonable and modest outlay! There are also guitar tuition opportunities with superb guitarists such as Miguel Mesa from Brazil on the staff and other tutors in the area are freely suggested to anyone who asks.

The staff members themselves are all accomplished musicians which means that they have a real and very genuine interest in what they are selling and a depth of knowledge of the insturments that far surpasses any other guitar shop I have ever visited! This is excellent news for newcomers like myself who can hear guitars played properly by staff member Yves Martin, also Brazilian and also a virtuoso on the guitar whilst trying to decide what to buy and this extends of course to players of far greater ability than myself who enjoy very much coming into the Gallery and trying guitars and amps with staff who really know their stuff and are more than happy to share their knowledge and just “talk guitars”!

Another great side effect of visiting the shop and café regularly has been all the very nice people who frequent them and who of course automatically share the interest in guitars and music which brought us all onto the premises in the first place.

Brian, (when does he sleep?) also runs a popular “Beginner’s Jam night” once a month where again, enthusiastic guidance and help with mastering acoustic and electric guitar is dispensed in a relaxed and fun few hours with a chance to stop mid way to chat and sample some of the cafe’s snacks! A really nice way to mingle with others and it doesn’t seem to matter that we are all at differing stages in our “musical journey” Everyone is having so much fun and it is surprising how good it is to play with a group, no matter how much or little you feel you know and Brian somehow gets us making a really rather co-ordinated effort before each session ends! Great for firing up the enthusiasm to try whatever we have discovered during the evening when one gets home!

The quality of local talent is as I have said rather amazing and there are many people who appear at the open mic sessions who could easily be working professionally as a full time career such is their high level of playing and singing ability!

There is a weekly email newsletter available too which keeps everyone in the loop about forthcoming events and with the number of great happenings in the café and beyond as Brian also handles musical events outwith the confines of his premises and has equipment available for all sizes of musical happenings which he and his staff regularly rig and run!

So, whatever your interests musically, there is bound to be something happening at the Music Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed which will tick the box for you I highly recommend a visit there, it might just change your life!

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