Young musicians from North Ayrshire have been looking back on an incredible experience flying the flag for Scotland on a tour of the United States.

The talented youngsters were part of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, whose members, aged between 12 and 21, went on their first tour since the pandemic - and who caused a (well-received) stir at high altitude.

Announced to lucky passengers on the overhead speakers, the pilot and his cabin crew were delighted by the talented performers as they performed a rendition in the clouds, on their flight from Amsterdam to Georgia.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: On a visit to GracelandOn a visit to Graceland (Image: NAC)

Starting out in Atlanta, and continuing on to the city of Newnan, their Southern States Tour was a big hit and even made headlines in the local press.

The next leg took them onwards to Memphis, Tennessee, the iconic city famous for its contribution to rock 'n' roll, before the final leg took them onward to New Orleans, Louisiana and Houston, Texas.

With international tours spanning Japan, China, Norway, New Zealand and South Africa, the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra and its members, who come from all over North, East and South Ayrshire, are no strangers to going global to showcase the power of traditional Scottish music.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: A visit to NASAA visit to NASA (Image: NAC)

One of the talented musicians on the summer tour, 18-year-old cellist Christina McGillion, was named North Ayrshire Instrumentalist of the Year in the annual celebration earlier this year.

She said: “We were lucky to experience the soul and authenticity of a lot of incredible street music in New Orleans.

"Some of us also went on an alligator tour and had the chance to perform in a nearby church helping to keep young people out of trouble by encouraging them to play percussion instruments.

“This was so inspiring for us all and we also got to teach the locals some traditional ceilidh dances which they picked up really quickly and adapted with their own groove.”

In Tennessee, the youngsters also had the chance to sail and play strings along the Mississippi River before heading to Elvis Presley’s iconic Graceland ranch.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Meeting up again at Cunninghame HouseMeeting up again at Cunninghame House (Image: NAC)

Fiddle player Leona Mackay, from Kilwinning Academy, said: “I’m 16 years old and whilst I have had the chance to tour Scotland, this opportunity was next-level. I felt really proud to be there as a young Scottish musician.

“Everyone we met in the States were so welcoming as we showcased our music. We also played a special Elvis piece that went down really well at Graceland.”

Musically-gifted sisters Orla, 12 and Isla, 15, also from Kilwinning, have been encouraged by their mum, who already plays in the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra.

Isla shared: “Me and some of my friends from the orchestra - who are mega physics geeks - were over the moon (excuse the pun) to have the chance to visit the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

“There was a model spaceship there like the one NASA sent to the moon – after having a look inside, we then took a shuttle bus to the Mission Control Centre, so we could to see what they could see when they landed on the moon. That was such a highlight for me. I’ll remember it forever.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Newnan were lovely hosts and provided backpacksNewnan were lovely hosts and provided backpacks (Image: NAC)

Councillor Shaun Macaulay, North Ayrshire Council's cabinet member for young people and islands, said: “Congratulations to our talented musicians for representing North Ayrshire on the global stage.

"This is an excellent example of how starting a journey with the North Ayrshire Music Service can be the catalyst for amazing music opportunities.

“If you want to learn how to play an instrument, speak to your music teacher or drop a message to the team on social media.”

As well as providing weekly lessons, North Ayrshire Music Service also provide performance opportunities through ensemble playing.

School leaver Christina added: “A cello teacher came in to our school in primary 3 and asked if anyone wanted to try it out too. Because I said yes, I am now, a decade later, travelling the world with my instrument.

"It’s incredible really what you can achieve if you just have the courage to put your hand up and take the next step to try something new.

“Most of our orchestra first started out at school, so we’d encourage anyone from primary four to seven to please drop a message to North Ayrshire Music Service if they want to find out more about what support is available.

"If you start your journey with them, who knows where in the world you and your instrument could travel to.”