Composing with Care

Published by: Kirsten Hunter
About: Live Music Now Scotland


This month, we’re thrilled to unveil new works that were written as part of our ongoing ‘Composing With Care’ project. It’s a simple concept, where our musicians go into care homes for older people, talk with the residents, then professional composers use their stories as inspiration to write new pieces of music.

We’ve already created several new commissions already – three of the tracks on Live Music Now Scotland’s 30th Anniversary compilation album, Luminate were written after visits to care homes in Islay, Iona and Tiree. Composer William Sweeney wrote the beautiful series ‘From the Islands’ after musicians visited sheltered housing and care homes in the Inner Hebrides. Similarly, composer John Maxwell Geddes’ work, ‘A Castle Mills Suite’ about a WWI rubber factory in Edinburgh was written as part of the Composing With Care project last year, and was given its Australian premiere earlier this year.

As the latest instalment in the Composing With Care initiative, traditional folk singers Robyn Stapleton and Claire Hastingshave been working with residents of care homes across West Lothian. Scottish composer John McLeod has drawn inspiration from the stories and recollections of local mining culture that they gathered, and written ‘Songs From Above and Below’. These songs will be performed by musicians in free concerts open to the public, as well as in residential care settings. They are also part of a wider twin project in Wales, which will feature a performance at the Welsh Millennium Centre.


Last week, the composer joined emerging artists Emily Mitchell (soprano) and Geoffrey Tanti (piano) when they performed the songs for the first time in the Peacock Nursing Home in West Lothian. John described the concert as, “the most unusual and remarkable premiere of any work of mine”, and went on to post the following message on his Facebook page.

“There were many with very special needs – but all listened in their own way – some in silence, others commenting as the work went along, some trying to join in! A superb performance from Emily Mitchell and Geoffrey Tanti! In many ways I felt this was just as significant (even more so) as my premiere at last year’s Proms with 6000 in the audience!

As I left, a lovely old lady clutching a doll just said, ‘ Thank you, John.’

A day to remember! Thank you Carol Main and Live Music Now for making music a real communicative experience. It makes one realise from time to time the mysterious and joyful way that music can reach out to everyone – no matter what the human condition!”

August will see two Scottish performances of the ‘Songs From Above and Below’ suite, with Emily Mitchell and Geoffrey Tanti. Both are free to attend, and we look forward to introducing the new works to new listeners. All are very welcome!


The commission is part of The Baring Foundation's Late Style Artists Commission Series.


Concert listings info:

Songs from Above and Below, with Emily Mitchell and Geoffrey Tanti

2-3pm, Fri 28 Aug, Howden Park Centre, Howden, Livingston West Lothian—Emily-Mitchell-and-Geoffrey-Tanti


Songs from Above and Below, with Emily Mitchell and Geoffrey Tanti

2-2.40pm, Wed 19 Aug, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh


This new work of art was created by John McLeod for Live Music Now and is part of The Baring Foundation’s ‘Late Style’ Artists Commission Series. The Baring Foundation has pioneered support for a wide range of arts programmes supporting older people to enjoy and take part in the arts. This series supports leading professional artists, all of whom are over 70, to bring their original and exceptional artistic craft and insights to the theme of ‘Age’. Eleven new works will reach a variety of spaces and audiences, between 2015–2017. Artists include leaders in the fields of Carnival Arts, Dance and Choreography, Digital Arts, Sculpture, Wood Carving, Musical Composition, Theatre and Poetry. 

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