Here is some coverage of Jan Tait and the Bear in The Scotsman. Please note that the bear was not actually drunk, he was put to sleep with a complicated mixture of butter and Shetlandic and Norwegian herbs. And he did not starve to death: Jan Tait kept him well fed with buttered oatcakes. We’re planning a concert performance of Jan Tait this summer, and staged performances in the winter.
In 2010 I spent 10 days in Yell, one of the Northern Isles of Shetland, with a group of killer whale researchers. Although we didn’t see any killer whales, I was there long enough to fall in love with the land, people, and folklore of Shetland.
While I was there, I got to know the musicians of ffancytunes, the UK’s northernmost chamber ensemble. They asked me to write a piece for them, and I decided to write a chamber opera based on the Shetlandic folktale Jan Tait and the Bear. It takes a long time to write a 40-minute chamber opera, and I was interrupted several times (by a violin concerto, by the birth of my son, by my hermit thrush research, etc.), but I finally completed it in October!
In November I spent a week in Yell, where we began rehearsing Jan Tait. I’m really looking forward to the performances, which will be in the summer and fall of 2015.