A review of Year 1 of my Masters degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

I’ve really enjoyed the first year of my MMus Scottish Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Here’s a summary of what I achieved this year. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way!

Project 1: A Reawakened Monument of Antiquity, February-June 2019 

I worked on two main projects this year. Firstly I created, recorded and performed a 35-minute cultural-political suite of Gaelic music, song and spoken word, based on Joseph & Patrick MacDonald’s tune collection from 1784, A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs. My work encourages the listener to ask, ‘How does the cultural and political landscape of the Collection speak to us today, in 21st-century Scotland?’ We recorded this work in the RCS recording studio and performed it twice, once during RCS School of Music Performance Week in February 2019 and once during RCS Bridge Week in June 2019 with set and lighting design. Thank you to everyone who helped me realise this project. More info on this project can be found here.

 

Project 2: Music of the Munros, May 2019 

My second main project was my end-of-year recital, Music of the Munros. Thank you to my lovely friends who joined me on stage to help me share a selection of traditional and self-composed tunes inspired by mountains and hillwalking, my second main hobby. Here is one of these tunes, ‘Glencoe Mountain Rescue’, which I wrote as a thank you to the team who helped me off the hill when I fractured my ankle in March.

 

RCS Concerts 

As well as the two projects above, I performed in several concerts with RCS this year.

  • I performed with the RCS Big Band at Celtic Connections in January 2019.

  • Myself and a group of Traditional Music students organised a concert of traditional music from around the world, East Meets West, in April 2019, supported by the RCS Equality & Diversity fund. Here are the two performances in which I was involved in this concert – a set of Indian/Japanese/Tibetan/Scottish/Canadian music and a Latvian folk song sung in Russian.

  • RCS Sang Scuil performed an end-of-year concert at Hillhead Parish Church in May 2019. Here is my performance of Violet Jacob’s and Jim Reid’s ‘The Wild Geese’ with Cameron Nixon and Iain Hyslop, recorded by Margaret Bennett.
  • It was a huge honour to end the year by performing with RCS at the 20th Anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. Here is our performance of Phil Cunningham’s ‘Farewell to Govan’.

 

Non-RCS Concerts 

Outside of RCS, I performed in some exciting projects this academic year.

  • In March I performed in Lost In Music, a gig-theatre show by Magnetic North that explores the power of music through retelling the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

  • A week later, I had fun playing a cèilidh at the Climate Youth Strike in George Square.

 

  • My friend Acorn the squirrel and I as a woodland nymph returned to Wildhood Festival for our second year to play fiddle and run Scots singing workshops for children in the grounds of Tullibole Castle in June 2019.

  • Additionally, I performed at an event at Edinburgh Castle, Knight at the Castle, in October 2018; I played for a baby cèilidh with Starcatchers to celebrate Burns Night in January 2019; and I performed at several private functions, dinners and parties.

 

I have a new band: Stramash Cèilidh Band! 

In very exciting news, I have started a band with two fellow RCS Traditional Music students, Stramash Cèilidh Band! Please give us a shout if you’re looking for a cèilidh band! Thank you to Christian Gamauf for doing a wonderful photoshoot for us at windy Loch Venachar.

Composition 

I have enjoyed composing more tunes this year. As well as writing tunes as presents (for my flatmates for Christmas and for my granny for her 90th birthday), I wrote four tunes inspired by hillwalking (‘Glencoe Mountain Rescue‘ (above); ‘Mountain Medicine’; ‘Spindrift on Meall Ghaordaidh’; and ‘The Mountain Fairy’) and a tune in protest against Brexit, ‘Revoke Article 50’.

 

Teaching 

It was a pleasure to start teaching new students when I moved to Glasgow in September 2018. Please get in touch if you’re looking for lessons for either classical violin or Scottish traditional fiddle – I’d love to hear from you! I was also happy to run a Scots songwriting workshop at the inaugural Edinburgh Multicultural Stories Festival in December 2018 and to participate in Enterprise Music Scotland’s Train and Sustain programme in autumn 2018, for which Amy and I spent 5 weeks teaching composition at Penicuik High School.

 

So, it’s been a great academic year! A big thank you to everyone at RCS who has made this year so memorable, especially my fiddle teacher Alistair McCulloch. I’m looking forward to starting Year 2 by studying on exchange for a term at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada!

I’ll publish another post soon about what I’m up to this summer, including videos from my time at Festival Boult-aux-Bois et Cordes in July and details of Tess, a play I’m performing in at the Edinburgh Fringe 2nd-17th August. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re looking for a fiddle player or singer to perform at a private event, a cèilidh band, a violin or fiddle teacher, or a composer to write a commission for you! 

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