On 10 October, 143 local Aberdeenshire children, young people and instrumental tutors performed side-by-side with McOpera’s professional musicians as part of the 2019 Haddo Arts Festival.
The song-cycle A Song for Haddo – Witnesses of Time was created for the young people of Aberdeenshire, based around the central Haddo House ethos that communities are both built and sustained by making music together.
The final composition was the culmination of months of research by composers Moira Morrison and Peter Kemp, a series of vocal workshop sessions with the children of four primary schools and side-by-side, professionally mentored rehearsal sessions with 25 high school string players.
The result was an astonishingly personal song-cycle: a series of episodes taken from different time periods, with key figures illustrating the different characters and stories left behind.
These five songs were framed by Peter Kemp’s atmospheric orchestral music which depicts the house’s inner theatrical ‘backstage’ life as seen from a child’s perspective, recalled by Mary Welfare in her book, ‘Growing up at Haddo: A Scottish Childhood’.
Moira Morrison – Composer, Vocal Animateur, Conductor
Peter Kemp – Composer
McOpera Ensemble: Katie Hull (Leader), Elana Eisen, Peter Kemp, Aline Gow and Sarah Neil
Piano: Hebba Benyaghla
Pupils from New Deer Primary School, Rayne North Primary School, Tipperty Primary School and Udny Green Primary School
Students from Ellon Academy, Inverurie Academy, Meldrum Academy and Westhill Academy and their Aberdeenshire Instrumental Tutors
Sue Baxendale – McOpera Outreach Project Manager
A Song for Haddo – Witnesses of Time
1. Witnesses of Time - Moira Morrison: ‘old souls, strong, selfless, breathing for the earth.’
2. The Lairds of Gight – Moira Morrison: the Laird of Gight and the curse of the Hagberry Pot.
3. The Heron’s Flight from Gight – Peter Kemp: ‘When the heron leaves the tree, the lands of Gight shall lairdless be…’
4. Onwards and Upwards – Moira Morrison: Lady Ishbel and the 7th Earl of Aberdeen…‘We Twa’
5. Passageways and Hideouts – Peter Kemp: “Behind every door, somebody was practising, running up and down scales, tuning a cello, scraping a fiddle” (Mary Welfare)
6. A Place to Start – Moira Morrison: the legacy of the Haddo Babies
7. Echoes – Lament on a Theme by Thomas Ravenscroft – Peter Kemp
8. A Song for Haddo – Moira Morrison
I loved being on stage and singing for my family and making them happy.
It was not boring learning about history like this. I knew nothing at all about these people from Haddo before, but now I’m almost an expert and I can hear the songs all the time.
It was superb to work alongside the composers as we could get a real insight to what their expectations were.
This is such a great opportunity for the young musicians to play alongside their peers from other schools and professional players – they don’t get this opportunity anywhere else.
Linda Moggach, Head of Faculty of Performing Arts at Meldrum Academy
This is the highlight of our year – please do it again!
Zoe Davidson, Aberdeenshire Instrumental Music Service – Music Instructor Violin
I can think of no better way to celebrate Haddo, the contribution made by our forebears, what it means to so many groups of people both locally and further afield, its living legacy of encouraging the young and providing opportunities to discover the arts and participate in creating great music and song.
Lady Joanna Aberdeen
A Song for Haddo – Witnesses of Time was commissioned by Haddo Arts, with support from the Udny Community Trust Company, The MacRobert Trust, the David & June Gordon Memorial Trust and Enterprise Music Scotland
A Song for Haddo project was supported by: Udny Community Trust Company Ltd., Formartine Area Committee and the David & June Gordon Memorial Trust.