Composer inspired by the Berwickshire coastline

Howard Moody with the Fishermen's Choir
Howard Moody with the Fishermen's Choir

VISITING Berwickshire for the first time two years ago was a trip into the unkown for composer Howard Moody, but it didn’t take him too long to be inspired to create a musical piece which will debut at a concert in Duns Volunteer Hall later this month.

Howard was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the National Trust to produce something which encapsulated the Berwickshire coastline and the rugged landscape, breathtaking views and everything else that makes it the attraction it is.

The result is ‘Border Line’, consisting of four movements all inspired by Howard’s time in the region but he told ‘The Berwickshire News’ that his masterpiece is about so much more than the local landscape.

“The very thing about visiting a new place is that you don’t have any expectations.

“I assumed that with the National Trust being a co-commissioner that Eyemouth, St Abbs and the surrounding area were blessed with a fine landscape which indeed they are but I soon discovered that there is a lot more than fantastic views and a wealth of nature.

“I asked to meet some local people and one of the first groups I met was a class of primary school children. I was immediately impressed with their enthusiasm for the project and sent them out to record some bird sounds to inspire them to create some songs.

“We came up with these together and they had so many ideas.

“The Fishermen’s Choir seemed the obvious ones to meet with and it was through talking to them and the crew at the Fishermen’s mission that I got a real sense of what it’s like to live in the area.”

Howard admitted that before travelling up to east Berwicksire from his Sussex home the only local history he really knew about it was the territorial battles between England and Scotland but he soon discovered that Eyemouth particularly, had plenty of its own history to inspire him.

“The Fishing Disaster was one of the first things I was told about when I came up here,” he recalled.

“I was told that it is something still strongly associated with the town today and of course the force of the sea and the inevitable potential for danger is something I’ve addressed in ‘Border Lines’.

“But I was encouraged to hear about the more positive things that have happened since 1882. How the community pulled together to make the area what it is today and how different industries are now being attracted here.

“Working with the school children and the choirs was like witnessing the spread of human time. I wanted them to express what they felt about their lives through music. And when they came together it was an extremely poignant moment.”

Howard was so fascinated by the tales told by the Fishermen’s Choir and their passion for the area that he decided to adapt what was originally intended to be a purely instrumental piece to include a vocal number dedicated to them, which they will perform at the Volunteer Hall.

“I couldn’t help but add a part for the Fishermen’s Choir- they are the people who know the area best and they were a great help to me,” he enthused. Even though water and the sea itself has no borders, all the fishermen I met near St Abbs speak of the crippling changes in legislation that have created economic borders.

“The old skill and craft of fishing now has little chance of survival. The intense sound of the Fishermen’s Choir inspired me to write a big tune for them to sing.”

Howard’s ‘Border Lines’ has four movements, with the one honouring the choir, the aptly titled ‘Songs of the Fishermen’ following ‘St Abbs Head’, ‘The Song of the Sea’ and ‘The Darkest Hour’, which Howard describes in his programme notes for the Duns performance on May 24 as ‘that border of time, light and endurance when, just before sunrise, one person has to keep steering the boat into the wind in order to preserve the lives of the rest of the crew who are sleeping below. However tough the storm, there is always promise of light.’

The concert at the Volunteer Hall, featuring the 40 strong Chamber Orchestra will begin with Mendelsohn’s ‘Hebrides Overture’, which Howard thought fitting as Mendelsohn was inspired to write the piece after he visited Fingal’s Cave from the first time in 1829 and like Howard was overawed by the sound and force of the sea.

Tickets, priced £14 adults, £12 seniors and £5 disabled/student/child/unemployed can be bought from Nairns Newsagent, 28 Market Square, Duns or