St Abbs Head inspires project

Berwickshire villages will join forces at Eyemouth Primary School on Monday (November 14) as part of a new community project celebrating nature, heritage and music in the area.

The St Abb’s Head Music Project is a collaboration between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and Scottish Borders Council Youth Music Initiative.

Over the past six months, school pupils and local residents have been working with composer Howard Moody and SCO musicians to write music inspired by the land and seascape around the popular St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve and St Abb’s Head Voluntary Marine Reserve.

Over 40 pupils from Eyemouth and Coldingham Primary Schools and members of both the Eyemouth Fishermen’s Choir and Mission Crew have created songs based on the NTS site.

The project is part of a wider programme in which Howard Moody has been commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland to write a new piece for the SCO that celebrates the significance of St Abb’s Head. His as-yet-untitled work will be informed by the creative work of both the children and the choirs from in and around Eyemouth. The commission will be premiered as part of the SCO’s annual summer tour to the South of Scotland in May 2012, with performances in Duns (May 24) and Galashiels (May 25).

Work began in May with the pupils visiting the site to record sounds of the area: from these recordings they created ‘Sonic Postcards’, with contemporary music organisation Sound and Music. These postcards combine recorded sounds with words to create a ‘sound postcard’ of the area. Using the Sonic Postcards as a starting point, the pupils and Howard Moody have written songs together inspired by the site.

The Fishermen’s Choir and Mission Crew have also been hard at work rehearsing a new song written especially for them by Howard Moody. The song, Waimie Carr, is based on the rock of the same name in St Abb’s Bay and was created following a discussion Howard had with keen local historian Rennie Weatherhead about the area.

The new works will be performed at an informal gathering of parents and members of the community at Eyemouth Primary School on November 14, accompanied by an ensemble of SCO musicians.

SCO Connect project officer Kirsten Hunter said: “Being part of the process of bringing together the two ends of the age spectrum in this intergenerational project has been an inspiration for SCO Connect. It has been a wonderful project to be involved in, and the pupils and choirs have created some fantastic music. This is the first time we have worked with the National Trust for Scotland and it has been a real collaboration and sharing of ideas between the two national organisations. The support the project has received from Scottish Borders Arts Development Team has been tremendous and greatly appreciated.”

Sandra Morrison, NTS learning manager, added: “Working together on the St Abbs project, it is clear that the SCO and NTS have developed a first-rate partnership. Add to that the support of forward thinking local authority, Scottish Borders Council, and the collaboration blossoms into something very special. For the NTS we have found a new and creative way to raise awareness of the uniqueness of St Abbs, with its coastal and marine nature reserves. Using music as a means to share our knowledge of this wonderful place and to encourage others to enjoy it and support our work has been invigorating. Watching the different generations coming together to share their experiences has been incredibly rewarding.”

Councillor Graham Garvie, Executive Member for Culture, Sport and Community Learning at SBC, said: “We are very grateful to Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative for funding which has enabled local pupils to be involved in this unique project. It is very exciting that they are working with renowned composer Howard Moody and the SCO musicians to produce a piece of music that SCO will take on tour with them.”