Friday night and our week in Unst is almost over. Lillie and I are both feeling a little sad to leave. This is really a special island. Before I even start talking about how beautiful it is, I have to say what a fantastic community it is. We didn’t feel like visitors, we felt like part of Baltasound, albeit for just one week. Everyone pulled together to make our concert special and everyone had time to talk to us. We learned a lot about island life and people passed on links to other friends, pieces of music I might be interested in and many other things.
It was also good to see that other composers I have met and been in contact with, such as Kristian Blak and Adrian Vernon Fish are affectionately known here.
Lots of people at home asked me whether it wouldn’t just be dark here. There may only be 7 hours of daylight, but the quality of light needs to be seen to be believed. It is incredibly special.
Every morning had me mesmerised as I watched the pale sun colour the hills and fields in pastel shades of purple, light blue and pale green.
The big skies have the most amazing towering cloud formations as the moon sets
and the occasional rainbow lights the sky.
Sometimes the low angle of the sun seems to highlight every blade of grass in 3D.
Of course the sea is ever present, whether it’s pounding dramatic cliffs or gently washing on the picturesque beaches and I love watching the seabirds and ravens playing in the wind currents. I still haven’t seen a whale though!
We ended our week with a school workshop and concert. Baltasound Junior High School had prepared a Bjork song for us. We then worked on an improvisation with them. It was wonderful to see how they created music in such an uninhibited way. Once they were in the flow of it, we didn’t need to issue any instructions beyond the scale we’d picked. They were so inventive, finding some amazing timbres on their instruments and listening and interacting with their colleagues. They were a delight to work with and a very welcome addition to our concert programme.
My programme has evolved a lot since the first Nordic Viola concert in Kinbuck. I’m now halfway through my sabbatical and places and situations that were only imagined before have become part of my experience and so very, very special to me. This concert also saw the premiere of Lillie Harris new piece “AND”. It’s the first time I’ve worked so closely with a composer. I loved being able to discuss and develop the work together. I won’t pretend it’s an easy thing to do. I felt a real responsibility to present the work well. It captures the feeling of being in a Shetland storm so perfectly and I want to transmit that. It’s a great piece with an enormous amount of atmosphere and energy and will most definitely be staying in my repertoire beyond Nordic Viola!
Tomorrow we’ll be crossing Bluemull Sound for the last time as we head south to Lerwick. And Unst? We’ll be back!