After a couple of days exploring the northern provinces of Colombia (with all their idiosyncrasies) it was time to head back to Bogotá. A trademark early start and 90-minute drive back to the airport in Montería beckoned, and for the first (and it turns out last) time this tour, everything went smoothly.

It seems however that no matter how early you embark on any given journey on tour, you always find a way to run out of time, and some kind of political protest delayed our arrival at the hotel, allowing a very limited window in which to grab some lunch before me and Dan headed off for the afternoon’s masterclass. Things seemed to be going well at first, especially as my limited Spanish (Duolingo, think I hit a 3-day streak recently) allowed me to just about muster ‘yo necesito ser rapido’ but, despite my no doubt immaculate pronouncation, the information appeared to fall on deaf ears. After waiting around 45 minutes for our starters, we were getting slightly agitated, but fortunately just as I started attempting to hack my way through the plural first person version of the above phrase the food arrived.

Food inhaled and heart burn no doubt on the way, before we knew it we were in the Biblioteca Ángel Arango Concert Hall, scene for the class and our final concert the following morning.

The concert hall in Bogotá

Followers of Septura may be surprised to hear that, despite founding the group and running it alongside Matt Knight for the past decade, I have decided to move on to other opportunities outside of classical music, and this is my last project as a performing musician. As I stepped into the hall for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a strange mixture of emotions as I saw the place where it was all going to come to and end.

Music can be such a powerful connecting force between cultures, and meeting students (and their teachers) on our travels is always extremely fulfilling. I enjoyed coaching one of the local young trumpeters and chatting to her colleagues and teachers about all things brass. Dan on the other hand had been completely blindsided: it turned out all of the participants in his class were accomplished professionals! It seems he took it all in his stride however, and anyone who has heard Septura play live will believe me when I say he is more than capable of providing useful advice for any musician, regardless of where they are in their journey.

Classes done, a free evening in Bogotá beckoned, something we were quite excited about given the busy schedule of the previous days. So what do you do when you’re in South America and have the opportunity to explore for the first time? Head to an Irish bar to watch the boxing of course. There were mixed feelings about the plight of Tyson Fury, but not what came next:  some phenomenal steaks in T-Bone restaurant (chosen in honour of our sadly-missed superfan Tadao, ‘T-bone’ being our affectionate nickname for him).

Steak time

Wandering back towards the hotel we accidentally stumbled into a bar, filled with locals grinding away to non-stop reggaton beats. The DJ seemed to know what he was doing and before long most of the group were swaying along, albeit not quite as graphically as those around us. We headed to bed feeling satisfied that we’d experienced some authentic Colombian nightlife.

Straight to the hall in the morning, a very brief soundcheck (wonderful acoustic), and before we knew it we were on stage in front of a packed audience. I’d expected to feel more emotional about my last ever gig, but Septura concerts are complicated affairs, and there’s always too much for me to concentrate on to completely lose myself in the moment (on this trip I’ve been attempting to read Spanish introductions to the audiences between each piece, which I’m told they more or less understood). It’s impossible not to feel a tingle at the end of Copland’s Appalachian Spring however, and special mention must go to our guest musicians Helen Vollam (trombone) and Imogen Whitehead (trumpet) for their sterling work throughout this tour. Post concert there was a slightly strange atmosphere backstage. We all have so many powerful memories of our experiences with Septura that it’s difficult to know what to say at moments like this, but sometimes a hug is enough.

We had around 4 hours to kill until our departure from the airport, so after some lunch in the rooftop restaurant of Hotel de La Opera, most of us headed up Monserrate via cable car (as usual on the basis that if you don’t have time to explore somewhere you might as well see all of it from a distance). The quiet atmosphere and stunning views all left us with a feeling that we’d at least had a taste of what Bogotá has to offer, and I for one would love to come back some day.


Getting to the airport we were pleased to see our flight was delayed by 40 minutes, putting our already-tight connection in Madrid in jeopardy. News had also filtered through that the entertainment systems were out of order on the 8.5-hour flight, although at this point a mood of stoicism had settled on the group, and some comfort food and gentle lubrication did wonders for morale.

More shenanigans followed at the gate as the staff decided to try to separate Pete from his tuba for some unknown reason, although luckily a member of cabin crew who actually had half a brain cell was understanding enough to rectify the situation. There’s not much to say about a long-haul flight with nothing to watch, except thank god for melatonin. In the end we made our connection in fairly good time, and were back at Heathrow a couple of hours later (via more tuba fun and games…)

I’ll be honest, establishing a performing arts ensemble in a fairly niche field in the aftermath of a global recession which segued nicely into massive political upheaval and then a pandemic has been tough. But I think it’s fair to say that Septura has achieved a lot over the last 10 years, and I sincerely hope the group will continue to go from strength to strength without me. Looking forward to reading the next edition of the tour blog as a fan!