Ascension to Whitsun
During Ascension to Whitsun we took the theme of The Universal Language of Music with five groups exploring different muscial genres - here are three reports.
In the classical music group we learned about five composers from different periods. The first two composers were from the baroque era: Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Pachelbel, whose famous Canon in d Major we performed in the hall. We moved on to Bedřich Smetana, a Czech composer from the Romantic era; then Franz Joseph Haydn an Austrian composer from the classical period, and ended with a contemporary English composer named John Tavener. We learned about their lives and their work and listened to some of their most well known pieces. It was insightful, peaceful, contemplative and all in all a wonderful group to be a part of.
In the week before Whitsun, we went on a journey around the world listening to and singing songs of musical traditions from all over, travelling in our minds from the snowy heights of the Himalayas, to the mysterious lands of the Orient, the crystal clear waters of Norway, finally landing back in bonnie Scotland.
Accompanied by Kristian’s marvellous guitar skills, we sang some well-known songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “This Train”. We explored the roots of American Folk music and learnt that Bluegrass came up in the region where many English and Scottish immigrants settled, thus bringing with them the musical traditions of their homelands.
Bea musically brought us to her home country Spain, showing us fiery Flamenco dancers playing the castanets and the swift and skilled hands of Spanish guitar players.
Nathalie and Paula took us to Germany and explained the historical reason why we mostly, but falsely, associate Bavarian music with German music in general. They broadened our horizons by showing other typical music styles of each region of Germany, such as Carnival music in the West and shanties in the North. We learnt an English-German version of the song “Die Gedanken sind frei” (“The thoughts freely flower”) which played a significant part in the German liberation movement of the last century.
We used the last day of our journey to rehearse our favourite three songs for the performance on Whitsun. Accompanied by Kristian on the guitar, Nathalie on the Celtic harp und Harriet on the bodhran, we started off with the well-known American song “I’ll fly away”, continued with “Die Gedanken sind frei” and finished with everybody’s most loved Scottish song “Loch Lomond”.
All in all, we had a magical, rich week full of music, songs of laughter and a successful performance.
Never before had the Newton Dee audience seen a multimedia musical event of this kind – innovation in form and language, and fantasy: ’The Ice Giants’ was presented on Whitsunday, which was the final day of our ‘Universal Language Of Music’ week, and it was special not only for the people who had a chance to watch it but also very unique for the participants.
It was prepared by the ‘Contemporary music’ group which consisted both of musicians and people who have never had anything to do with music. The latter were given some instructions, but mainly were asked to do what they felt like doing and to keep improvising. That was, in my opinion, the most captivating part of this project. It seemed impossible at the beginning that something that interesting and valuable might be created involving people for whom it was an absolute novelty. It turned out much better than I could have ever imagined. We were playing various instruments: guitars, electric guitars, drums, different types of bells, percussion, djembe, rain stick, singing balls, harp with various effects. The instruments were plugged into two sound desks on stage, then the sound was mixed and went into the main sound desk, which, from a technical point of view, was unique.
Rehearsing was a valuable experience because each and every time everyone was adding their ideas, slightly different every day, and the outcome was always a new mixture.
The show was divided into two parts. In the first one we got to know the story of the Ice Giant and why he had to leave from the planet where he lived and in the second one we were observing his arrival in Newton Dee. Everyone was surprised and burst out laughing when they saw who our main character was… Ian Main!
It was an amazing experience for me to take part. It was rewarding and fulfilling to see how everyone was working together and day after day was becoming more brave and self-confident. It just proves the already known fact that music can bring people together and is able to make them believe in themselves.