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Something Different: the Bell Pettigrew Sessions

Tired of the 601? Been to every ball? Looking for something different? The Saint brings you the highlights from St Andrews’ weirdest and most wonderful events.

Through a collaborated effort with the Students’ Association, the Museums of the University of St Andrews, and STAR: St Andrews Radio, student music talent comes together once a month to participate in the Bell Pettigrew Sessions.

The Bell Pettigrew Museum usually exists as a natural history museum. Founded in 1912, it’s hard to imagine the site as anything other than a collection of insects, fossils, and other scientific curiosities. Yet on a designated Thursday of each month, the museum transforms into a makeshift concert venue. The venue is a huge reason why these sessions are so special. After all, how many opportunities will you have to listen to a handful of student performers sing covers and original songs in front of an audience of taxidermy animals?

The Sessions began in 2018 and have continued ever since. STAR became a part of it in 2019 following the end of the Live Lounge Sessions that they had hosted previously. Following the initial success of the Bell Pettigrew Sessions, they have been going strong ever since.

Rebeka Jiraskova is the organisational brain behind each session. She’s responsible for communicating with the Museum to set dates, find musicians, and eventually host each session. Describing the Sessions as “one hour of magic”, her enthusiasm for performance shines through in every session.

“No two sessions are the same– the unique combination of performers at each session is half of the magic.” Said Jiraskova.

“Music is my biggest passion, and so giving space to student musicians to play their music, and being able to witness all the talent St Andrews has to offer is something I find extremely meaningful and rewarding.”

Usually, these Sessions host about two to three acts, are an hour long, and are free to attend. The most recent Session took place this past Thursday on 16 February, marking the first of the second semester. Even better: if you were unfortunate enough to miss it, the Sessions are always recorded and posted to STAR’s facebook page subsequently.

For one of the performers, Karsen Scott, last Thursday marked her first live Bell Pettigrew session. “I heard about Bell Pettigrew from a friend last year and did a pre-recorded concert then”, said Scott.

“But playing live was a whole different experience”.

Karsen accompanied fellow student Felix Saint-Bris to perform for the gathered audience. The two, accompanied by their own guitars, sang a myriad of folk and cover songs, from ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ by Johnny Cash, to an original song by Karen herself, ‘Flower Moon’.

This was also Bris’ first Bell Pettigrew performance, something that he enjoyed so much that said that he “would play at every session” in the future.

Bris and Scott, as well as the other performers, usually have a passion for performance, making the Bell Pettigrew a perfect opportunity for showcasing their musical talent. Scott posts her recorded songs (as well as her Bell Pettigrew session) on SoundCloud, another outlet for rising musicians.

I encourage music-enjoyers and natural history enthusiasts alike to keep their eyes peeled for the next scheduled Bell Pettigrew Session. Not only is it an excellent opportunity to support local musicians and take an evening to enjoy some great music, but you’ll also get to do so in a space “packed full of treasures and wonders” (according to Sir David Attenborough himself).

Image: the Bell Pettigrew Sessions

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