With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the Spokane Symphony in the spring, musical director James Lowe returned home to Scotland with his fiancée, food educator Charlotte Maberly, and the couple adopted a dog, Humphrey.
Lowe and Maberly also wed in an intimate ceremony in Scotland last month, and Lowe answered questions via email this week about the nuptials, being home in Scotland, what he misses about Spokane and future plans for the symphony.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions via email, James. How is life back home in Scotland?
I think like everyone, the pandemic has forced me into a new rhythm that is quite revealing. As a conductor, travel had become a way of life, and so I’ve hadn’t spent so much time in one place for over 20 years!
It has given me pause, though, and allowed me to see the seasons change slowly and observe nature much more closely than I ever could have done before.
You wed on Aug. 29. Congratulations!
Thanks! We had a very small gathering in Charlotte’s parent’s garden, making our vows in front of the Rule Water River. There’s a tradition here that the couple drink a sip of whisky from a two-handled cup called a quaich and then tip the remainder into the river to honor it and give thanks for the sustenance it’s provided many generations of people here.
We then went up to the Highlands for a few days of walking and so we could be rained on from a different angle!
Were these your original wedding plans?
No, we’d planned to get married earlier in the summer, but all the licensing offices were closed during the lockdown. In the end, it’s the sentiment of the day that counted, and we can’t imagine having anything better.
How did Charlotte and you meet?
Oh, the traditional way: Tinder. It was pure chance – I was down in the Scottish Borders visiting an old friend, and Charlotte had just relocated back there by way of Seattle, Italy and Edinburgh.
Our first date was a hike up the Eildon Hills, and we had such a hilarious time that we spent the entire day together and never stopped laughing (mostly at my terrible inability to climb over barbed-wire fences).
What has been the best aspect of being back home in Scotland?
Apart from reconnecting with nature and being with Charlotte, we adopted a puppy the day before lockdown. Humphrey (Humph or What-are-you-chewing-now?) is a joy even if he leaves holes all over the lawn where he considers landscaping work needs to be done.
He’s a terrier of uncertain mix and has a huge personality. I can’t imagine the place without him now.
Switching gears to your life as the musical director of the Spokane Symphony, what are you planning for when the music begins again in Spokane?
We’re planning a range of work that we can do in various phases of the lockdown. It’s been an incredibly hard needle to thread between health concerns, the legal aspect of gatherings and the considerable loss of earned income.
We’ve come up with many, many new versions of what the artistic activity might be. Everyone is missing music terribly, not least our musicians, and our priority is getting them safely back to making music together again as soon as possible.
What do you miss most about the Spokane Symphony?
The Spokane Symphony Orchestra are my musical family – I’ve never felt such a close and instant connection to an orchestra before, and I’m itching to re-engage with them musically. I’m also missing meeting our audience members and supporters.
I’ve had countless great conversations with people about what the orchestra means for them and how important it is to the community, and I’m itching to start giving concerts for everyone again.
What do you miss most about Spokane?
There’s so much to miss particularly during the fall. I miss breakfast at Frank’s Diner, lunch at Anthony’s overlooking the falls and Saturday afternoons in Auntie’s Bookstore.
I miss the fall walks around Manito Park and seeing turkeys bully traffic on the South Hill. I could go on, but it’s making me melancholy to think I should be there now preparing Mahler.
Anything else you would like to add?
It’s rare to find an orchestra that has such love and support from its community, so I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and continued good wishes and support as we navigate through this.
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