Past, present and future in two great projects.
The last two years have seen a great deal of long overdue reflection and reckoning regarding historic wrongs and the legacy of colonial and cultural heritage in Britain. I too adhere to the belief that to understand the present, we must have knowledge of and insight into the past - only then can we heal and change things for the better.
In this week of International Women’s Day celebrations - whose 2021 theme is the timely #ChooseToChallenge - I’d like to share news of two fantastic folk music projects, one addressing terrible wrongs and persecution of women in the past, the other offering creative delight for women and their young children today.
Heal and Harrow is an incredibly exciting new project by musicians Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl, outlined as ‘A multi-disciplinary work paying a humanising tribute to women persecuted during the 16th and 17th Century Scottish Witch Trials, while also exploring historical beliefs in the supernatural and modern-day parallels in our society.’
The project will combine new music, writing and visual art, with each piece ‘inspired by and in remembrance of real women who were persecuted and tried as witches, and characters from folkloric tales and mythology enshrined in our oral culture.’
Rachel and Lauren are two of traditional music’s most outstanding women, both acclaimed and award-winning musicians and composers. I first met Lauren as a hugely talented teenager coming to our home outside Inverness for fiddle lessons and she has gone on to be a celebrated composer creating beautiful albums and producing stunning suites of music in commissioned work.
Rachel is one of the most innovative and creative harpists on the folk scene and a sought-after composer and singer. With these combined talents, Heal and Harrow is sure to be a superb and thoughtful project, and with an album planned for Autumn and a 2022 tour, most definitely something to look out for.
The second fabulous venture is Fèis Rois’s Lullaby Project, Tàlaidhean Ùra, delivered in partnership with New York’s Carnegie Hall. As one of the musicians, I can honestly say working with new mums to write lullabies for their little ones is one of the loveliest projects I’ve had the privilege to be part of. We had almost completed the first series of sessions in Alness when covid sadly struck.
However, it is now back on track, adapted for our online world, with wonderfully successful Dingwall sessions nearing completion. New eight-week Inverness and Gairloch cohorts start this week and with a few spaces still available, if you know mums in those areas who would enjoy song writing and music making, please point them in our direction. There is even some childcare on offer!
We have had beautiful lullabies written in several languages with a variety of styles and themes, and all are welcome. Celebrating women and their bond with a new generation…now that is something to sing about!
(First published by Highland News & Media 12th March 2021)