Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Celebrating Dundee's weaving trade

Last Saturday, around 30 singers celebrated the 500th anniversary of the weaving trade in Dundee in a singing event at Verdant Works. This was the final event of Warp and Weft, a community music project  commissioned by Dundee Heritage Trust with money from Dundee’ Weaver Craft. This project started last August with a memories weekend in which people who worked in the mills or who had family who did so shared their experiences of the jute industry. Together with the exhibition at Verdant Works this provided the inspiration for community musician Petra Vergunst to write We Can Dance, We Can Swing.

In composing We Can Dance, We Can Swing Petra Vergunst took inspiration from opera in more than one way. The storyline unfolds in the first three scenes after which in an epilogue the singers are held up a mirror to reflect on their own experiences. This contrast between an involved and detached stance is expressed musically through the contrast between singing and narration. We Can Dance, We Can Swing also contains many of the usual ingredients of opera: solos, duets, choruses, and instrumental passages.

Highlights of last Saturday’s singing event at Verdant Works were the duet between the millgirl (Annie Hunter) and flute (Brooke Mackenzie) in Still a Young Girl, the poem (Brian Kelly) and flute solo in Among Them, and the clapping and speech choir in Higher Wages. 

The rehearsal was followed by an informal performance of We Can Dance, We Can Swing for family and friends. The Dundee Free Voice Singers, led by Margaret Mathers, rounded off the afternoon by singing some traditional Dundee weaving songs.

A big thank you to all who contributed to making this afternoon a success.

Copyright text and images Petra Vergunst

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Raise your voice

Registration for a singing workshop at Drum Castle on Saturday 1 December is now open.

In this singing workshop, the first of two compositions composed for the community music project Hear the Drum will be rehearsed in the Drawing Room of Drum Castle. Open the Door, about the arrival of the first laird at the Tower of Drum, has been written by community musician Petra Vergunst after the project’s participative storyline development activities in October. The music has been inspired by opera and the interface between drama and music. Workshop participants will be invited to raise their voice and explore speech-like and lyrical singing, and other ways in which the voice can be used musically.

The community music project Hear The Drum was commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland to engage more people with the work of the trust. In addition to the public workshop on 1 December, singing workshops will be offered to local primary schools and women’s group in March, followed by a second public singing workshop on Saturday 16 March. In these workshops the music rehearsed will be a second composition inspired by Mary Irvine's (the sister of the 17th laird) reflections on the Old Woods of Drum. 

The composition for the workshop on 1 December will be uploaded on this blog around the middle of November.

The hour-long workshop on Saturday 1 December starts at 11.30 am and is open to singers of all abilities. For more information and to register your interest in participating in this singing workshop, please contact Drum Castle, Garden and Estate’s senior assistant Laura Paterson at 0844 493 2161 or ljpaterson@nts.org.uk. The workshop costs £4 (£2 for concessions).  

Copyright text and image Petra Vergunst