Mendelssohn on Mull

The Story

It was a snowy November in 1988 when Leonard Friedman, the renowned violinist, set out from Edinburgh on his first visit to the Isle of Mull.

He invited musicians from Edinburgh, Glasgow andLondon to join him in a week’s retreat to play chamber music. His guests included the three remaining members of the Amadeus Quartet, so the music-making, which included the Schubert Quintet, must have been very special.

The logistics were handled by Marilyn Jeffcoat, whom Leonard knew in Edinburgh. Marilyn was so committed to the whole concept that she became its most loyal and active supporter. She steered the organisation through many changes over the years and remains influential in our planning to this day.

Leonard is seen here in an oil painting by Ann L. Roe, and in a newspaper cutting boarding a ferry.

He was a vital part of Scottish musical life for decades, founding what is now known as theScottish Ensemble, and playing a leading role in what became the ScottishChamber Orchestra at their home in Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall, and the institution of St Mary’s Music School, whose patron was his friend Yehudi Menuhin.

When he decided to repeat the visit to Mull, and it became an annual event, he invited students from theMusic School, sparking our charity’s educational aims.  The week was named in honour of Mendelssohn’s visit to Scotland in 1829.
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Leonard died suddenly in May 1994, and preparations were already advanced for that year’s Mendelssohn on Mull, now in early July where it remained for over 20 years.

The Trustees invited Angus Ramsay, of Scottish Opera, to take charge, and he remained in post until 2000, the year when we welcomed Prince Philip to Mull and Iona. Angus, like Leonard, had been a student of Max Rostal.

In 2001 our Artistic Director was Andrew Watkinson, of the London-based Endellion Quartet, and we began the model which we follow to this day. Students from a broad sweep of conservatoires are invited towards the end of their training, to work in ensembles with more experienced and eminent musicians, playing alongside themas equals.  Also from this date began the long association Mendelssohn on Mull had with the acclaimed violinist Marcia Crayford, of the Nash Ensemble. We were sorry that, for family reasons, Andrew was only with us for two years.

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In 2003 the Trustees appointed Levon Chilingirian, whose own quartet had been central to British musical life for more than three decades.

During 14 years Levon invited many wonderful students to work with his regular team of mentors, and we attracted audiences from all over the UK and beyond to our July weeks. Each year we presented as many as a dozen concerts in a few days, sometimes performing in parallel in different parts of the island, with regular visits to Iona Abbey and Duart Castle.

No one who participated in those years, either as performer or as audience, can forget Levon’s charisma and passion.

In July 2018 we welcomed the Doric String Quartet to their first Mendelssohn on Mull. We had been led by four individual Artistic Directors, all male violinists, and it was felt that the next chapter of our history should be curated by an ensemble.

We hoped to find a quartet of world class to provide compassionate leadership to musicians of less experience, to prepare and perform, inside of a week, a demanding schedule of concerts where, as before, they would play as equals, rather than sit aloof as coaches.

We are delighted with their work for us, and having established our berth in the island calendar in early September, we look forward to their sixth year in 2024.


We are grateful to all the organisations and individuals who support our work.

If you would like to support us we especially value regular giving but all donations are very welcome and all go towards nurturing musical talent for the future.