Sunday, 26 May 2013

Celebrate summer singing

Celebrate summer singing out of doors! This spring and summer there will be a number of opportunities to sing in woods, parks and next to a burn in the company of others. Letting our voices blend in pretty harmonies or shouting it out loud, singing out of doors means that our voices blend with the song of birds, the soft breeze through trees or the gurgling of a stream. What’s more, the rounds to be sung will tell the stories of the natural world around us.

The singing workshops are part of the community music project Burn of Sound, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage, that started with a series of creative experience workshops with schools and general public. The creative writing in these workshops has provided the words for the rounds.

Some of the singing workshops will be with schools or community groups, but there are also a number of public singing workshops:

  • Saturday 15 June, 10.30 and 2.30 pm: two hour-long singing workshops at the Burn o’Vat visitor centre at Muir of Dinnet.
  • Wednesday 3 July, 7 pm: an hour-long singing workshop at the stone circle in Aboyne as part of the Aboyne and Mid-Deeside Festival.

If you would like to participate in any of the public singing workshops, please register your interest at There is no need for singing experience or a good voice, only a willingness to share your voice with others. 

Copyright text, image and music Petra Vergunst

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Stifled flames


Stifled flames
At the side
Of a loch

Charcoaled twigs
The warm light of the flames after sunset
Turned the deepest black at sunrise

Tomorrow boys may come
Small boys
Sandals and swimming trunks
Their squealing voices conspiring
Balancing on the stones to dry themselves in sun and wind
Testing their strength when rolling the stones to the water
They may put a white feather in between the ashes
Extinguish their pretend fire with a bottle of muddy water
Hum London’s Burning
Whilst warblers spin their coins

Gathered from a field
Enclosing a fire
Scattered in play

The poem and music for Stifled Flames have been written as part of the project Said in Stone.
Copyright words, image and music Petra Vergunst

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

I felt moss, I held water

The creative experience workshops for the community music project Burn of Sound, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage, have now taken place. Finzean, Logie Coldstone and Ballater primaries are rural schools and their pupils were clearly at home in the outdoors environment of Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve. The creative activities encouraged the pupils to observe, listen, feel, smell and imagine and write down their experiences in poetry and prose. In the end of the workshop each pupil was invited to write down their best writing on coloured pieces of paper that were collected in a sketchbook. The result has been an imaginative account of the children's nature experiences.

Reading through the pupils’ contributions to find material for the rounds, three things stood out. The children’s writing showed a wide vocabulary to describe their experiences. The ‘I spy’ activity generated long lists of words which were arranged in different combinations to make little sound pictures. The letter B, for example, allowed for the little poem ‘Burn, Bridge, Bank, Boulder’. At other times, pupils used simple words to capture evocative imagery. After looking for tadpoles in a boggy patch along Burn o’Vat one pupil wrote: ‘I felt moss, I held water’.

The writing also revealed unlimited imagination and ability to go beyond themselves. In one of the activities the children were asked to imagine they were the burn and describe their experiences. One pupil described the flow of the burn in the following manner: ‘Drifting downstream, turning, swirling, around and around, away in the blink of an eye’.  

During the workshops it tended to be sunny but blustery and this came through in much of the writing. The pupils were very attentive as to the effect of the wind on the trees and water and found a wide range of ways to describe this. I have included some of these observations in the round Wind Whispers (click here to listen to the tune:

Wind whispers
Leaves flutter, branches sway
I feel free, I feel free
Free when the wind blows down on me.

As part of the workshop, children were also asked to listen for the pitches and rhythms of the sounds in The Vat. In the round The Vat I’ve created a sound picture of the gorge (click here to listen to the tune:

Drip drop, drip drop
Echo, echo
Crashing down, crashing down.
Copyright text, images and music Petra Vergunst.