Working with young people has been an important part of Nordic Viola right from the outset. In the run-up to our Dunblane Cathedral Arts Guild concert on Sunday 1st Octobert, flautist Helen Brew and I spent yesterday up at Dunblane High School.
First up was a composition workshop with Advanced Higher Music students. We introduced them to ways of depicting northern landscapes in music. We talked about incorporating recorded sounds from nature into music, either by using the soundtrack itself in the music, or by imitating sounds of nature on our instruments. We also looked at some traditional melodies and talked about how we could draw motifs from these and use techniques such as imitation and canon to develop them.
In the short time we had available, we improvised as a group, setting up a texture to mimic the sounds of ice and wind. We then started laying on top of that fragments of an Inuit entertaining song.
We were just getting into a groove when, unfortunately, the bell went. Hopefully we opened the students’ eyes to new ways of creating music, discovering sounds they never new they had in their instruments!
After school we gathered in the school hall with the orchestra. I was astonished, first of all, at the number of musicians in the school and, secondly, at their sight-reading abilities. We spent an enjoyable hour playing through tunes from Shetland, Orkney and Iceland, all of which my own ensemble will be playing on Sunday.
Thanks go to Dunblane Cathedral Arts Guild for setting up the visit and to Dunblane High School for hosting us. We look forward to entertaining some of the young people and their parents on Sunday afternoon. As well as a wide range of music from the North Atlantic, there will be tales from mine and others’ travels as well as some images of the region to accompany tea and coffee in the interval.
One year ago I was about halfway through the first phase of my sabbatical. After two wonderful weeks in the Faroes, I’d just returned to Iceland and was preparing for a concert in the beautiful Bláa Kirkja in Seðisfjörður.
It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the coming month is going to be one of the busiest yet for Nordic Viola.
Composing the North!
Things kick off on 25th September in Dunblane High School. Flautist Helen Brew and I will be spending the morning working with four Higher Music students on a composition workshop. Using sounds recorded in Greenland, the Faroes and perhaps even Dunblane, we’ll be exploring how we can use sounds from the natural world to inspire our music making. Maybe we’ll use live sounds in our pieces, or maybe we’ll try imitating them on our own instruments – it’ll be up to the students. We’ll also look at incorporating elements of traditional music into compositions.
Dunblane School Orchestra
After school, Helen and I will work on some music from Iceland, Orkney and Shetland with the school orchestra. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun playing together and hopefully whet the students’ appetites for our concert the following Sunday.
Dunblane Cathedral Concert
The concert is in Dunblane Cathedral at 3pm on 1st October and is promoted by the Cathedral Arts Guild. We have a brand new piece by Greenlandic composer, Arnannguaq Gerstrøm. It’s called “Ukioq”, which is Greenlandic for “Winter”. Arnannguaq has created some wonderful “icy” effects from flute, viola and bassoon. I love the way that, as well as the sterner aspects of winter, there is a lot of playfulness in the piece. Alongside this lively new piece there’ll be traditional tunes from the North Atlantic and possibly even a mystery guest!
Aberdeen Sound Festival
Later in October I’ll be at the Sound Festival in October, exploring whether we can pin down a “sound of the north.” More on that nearer the time.