A week tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Reykjavik en route to Greenland, the last trip on my sabbatical. I really can’t wait. Visiting Greenland in July 2015 was really what sparked this whole project off. First and foremost, it is an astonishingly beautiful country. It was that sheer beauty and the assault on the senses that sparked my desire to create my own music again – something I hadn’t had time to do for years.
Life as a professional orchestral musician is extremely busy. We have a full schedule and on top of that, many of us enjoy teaching too. I’m not complaining, because I love my job, but by the time you’ve added in friends and some time to kick back outdoors, there really aren’t many hours left in the day. That’s why it was so important to me to create some space in my life and do what I wanted to do artistically for a while.
I’ve enjoyed reading a bit more about Greenland and watching a few more documentaries on the country to learn as much as I can before I go. I’m constantly referring back to Gretel Ehrlich’s “This Cold Heaven.” It’s one of the most eloquent, inspiring books I’ve ever read. I also discovered that Shetland fiddler, Maurice Henderson of the band “Fiddler’s Bid”, had recently made his own journey to Greenland to research the tune “Willafjord”. His book is beautiful and Maurice passed on some useful tips for me.
In Shetland I loved seeing the connections between those islands and the Faroes and the connection goes further with Greenland. Seafarers from both archipelogos travelled frequently to Greenland in the whaling days and Maurice put me on the trail of some Greenland-inspired traditional tunes, which I’ve put together in a set. I already have an improvisation on an Inuit theme in my repertoire. It’s been through a few incarnations and has developed through collaborations with my husband, David Martin and with Charles Ross in Iceland, with his wonderful throat singing.
It has always been my aim on this journey to work with new composers and I have just commissioned Arnannguaq Gerstrøm to write me a piece for Flute/Viola/Bassoon to compliment Kári Bæk’s Faroese “Vár Trio” which I played with Helen Brew and Dave Hubbard last summer. Arnannguaq is a flautist herself and is building a name for herself on the Nordic circuit with recent performances of her work in Copenhagen and Reykjavik. I’m really looking forward to meeting her in Nuuk. One day I’ll get time to play Adrian Vernon Fish’s “Sermitsiaq Trio”, too. It’s inspired by the mountain near Nuuk and I want to perform it in a concert when I get home. Adrian has travelled extensively in Greenland and has been a great support throughout my project.
Working with young people has been one of the most fun aspects of this last 6 months and I’ve done so many different things – teaching, coaching, side-by-side work and improvising. I have a day at the Nuuk Musikskolen courtesy of violinist/violist Hanne Sandvig Immanuelsen. I’m really looking forward to that as it looks like Hanne has done some incredible things there and is a real life-force in Greenlandic music-making. I will also play in her orchestra as part of a music festival which is fortuitously taking place whilst I’m there.
So that’s the artistic stuff, but what most people seem to want to know is “how cold will it be?” and “is it dark all the time?” Well, at the moment, yes it’s cold. If you’re curious, take a look here. I like the cold, though, and I have plenty of insulating clothes. Actually, after the rubbish winter we’re having here in Scotland, I can’t wait to get some good snow. As for daylight, there’ll be about 7 and a quarter hours’ daylight when I arrive – more than Shetland had when I left there – and by the time I leave it’ll be up to 10h20. You’ll pretty much see a day on day difference with that rate of change. I love this website.
I’ll update the blog when I can and, at the very latest, when I get back. I’m sure there’ll be stories to tell, so please keep in touch.