Echoes and Traces

Published by: New Music Scotland
About: Ailie Robertson

Echoes and Traces is a project that began almost 2 years ago, when I began my production/curation company, Lorimer Productions. It’s key aim is to increase the profile and visibility of new music in Scotland through commissioning, collaborating and forming partnerships with other organisations.  I was finding it increasingly frustrating that new music in Scotland was so often either totally ignored, or jammed into classical programmes almost as a token gesture, so wanted to curate a range of events where new music was the focus of the whole programme, and both composers and performers were well supported. Scotland seems to be lagging behind other parts of the UK in its engagement with contemporary music, so it is hugely important to me to help highlight the wealth of composition talent that Scotland boasts and encourage the public to take an interest in the new music of their country. Through curating these New Music events we also aim to support and provide opportunities for  both established and emerging composers, from a variety of genres.

ailie robertson

My personal key interest as a composer has always been in finding ways to connect the past and the present to create something new. Having grown up playing traditional music, the stories, songs and poems of Scotland hold great resonance for me, and I am continually using these influences in my work. Several years ago, whilst researching ancient Scottish music for another project I came across a fragment of Scottish plainsong chant, and was immediately drawn to the idea of using this archive material in a contemporary music context. The fragment was Nobilis Humilis, written in honour of Orkney’s Viking saint, Magnus, thought to have been martyred in Orkney in 1117; The song is found in a 13th-century manuscript at Uppsala University, making the song at least eight centuries old, and is the oldest known example of Scottish song to feature harmonies.

A project inspired by the Nobilis Humilis fragment began to emerge in my mind, and I spent almost a year putting together the project plans, applying for funding to support the project, and developing partnerships with Historic ScotlandCreative Scotlandand Sound & Music. We raised enough funds to be able to commission eight composers to write a new work for Cappella Nova, and the choice of composers draws upon those working within the contemporary classical, folk, electronica and world-music genres, so as to represent the wealth and breadth of compositional talent currently in Scotland.

Echoes and Traces will feature choral responses to the ancient Orcadian piece written by such established figures as Sally BeamishStuart MacCrae and Rory Boyle, as well as electroacoustic composer Matthew Whiteside, composer-performer Hanna Tuulikki, fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, of the folk power trio Lau (who has also worked with string quartets), and two composer-harpists, Savourna Stevenson and Ailie Robertson

capella nova

What’s exciting for me is seeing different ways the various composers have reacted to it; some have directly referenced the melody and transformed it, others have taken the text and given it a different melody, some have simply used the idea of St Magnus as a starting point for other lyrics or musical ideas. We’re also delighted to have musicologist and broadcaster John Purser with us for the concerts, which will help the audience understand the context of the piece in history.

We’re incredibly excited to have world-renowned choral group Cappella Nova as our performance partner for the project. They are hugely committed to supporting Scottish contemporary composers and we are delighted to have them performing the new works. The support of Historic Scotland has also allowed us to tour the work to some of Scotland’s most stunning venues across the country.

As the concerts approach, the planning now begins in full force. I am so excited to see the composers’ scores arriving, and to work closely with my amazing production team to bring this project to reality.

We are so privileged to live in a country with an enormous wealth of music, both past and present. I am thrilled to be able to bring eight of Scotland’s brightest and best composers to the fore with this project, and to bring innovative new choral music to the length and breadth of the country.

Echoes and Traces has partnered with New Music Scotland to offer anyond attending the New Music Scotland day on the 2nd September ‘Pay What You Want’ tickets.

Wed 31 Aug, Dunfermline Abbey (Nave) – 19:30

Thu 1 Sep, Stirling Castle –20:00

Fri 2 Sep, Glasgow Cathedral – 19:30

Sun 4 Sep, Duff House –13:00

Mon 5 Sep, St Magnus Cathedral – 19:30

Wed 7 Sep, Iona Abbey – 15:00

Thurs 8 Sep, Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh – 19:30

Tickets £10-£15, with a 10% discount for Historic Scotland members, available from: (31 Aug, 1-4 Sep, 7 Sep) (8 Sep)

Tickets for 7 Sep are available to buy in advance in Kirkwall, Orkney, from The Reel, William Shearer’s, and The Orcadian Bookshop.

Tickets are also available to buy on the door at every concert.

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