I am so happy to be starting my dream job as Athenaeum Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow. I’ll be doing a mix of research, composition, and a little bit of teaching. Upcoming projects here include interdisciplinary research on seal vocalizations with Prof. Vincent Janik at St Andrews University and writing a piece based on my research to be performed by the St Andrews New Music Ensemble conducted by Bede Williams, a new piece for the Fair Trade String Trio, and a set of spring wassailing songs with newly written poetry by American composer and poet Forrest Pierce.
An enormous thanks to Ensemble Thing, conducted by Tom Butler, with Alan McHugh, Catherine Backhouse, and Brian McBride, directed by Stasi Schaeffer, for a fantastic premiere of the fully-staged version of Jan Tait and the Bear on October 6 and 8 at the CCA in Glasgow. We received some lovely reviews from The Tempohouse, The Cusp, and Opera Scotland. We’re hoping to take it on tour next year. In the meantime, here’s a photo of Catherine Backhouse as Jan Tait and Brian MacBride as the bear, with costumes by Vicki Brown!
I’m so thrilled that Ensemble Thing, conducted by Tom Butler, will be premiering the fully staged version of Jan Tait and the Bear at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on Oct. 6 (8 PM) and Oct. 8 (1 PM). This performance stars Alan McHugh, Catherine Backhouse, and Brian McBride, and is directed by Stasi Schaeffer, with costumes by Vicki Brown.
For a little preview, here is a trailer, with beautiful illustrations by Meilo So and animations by Jason Brown of Greenlight Creative.
Tickets are available from the CCA, in advance or at the door. I hope to see you there!
I’m so excited to announce that I’ve been awarded an Opera America Discovery Grant to have my chamber opera Jan Tait and the Bear premiered by Ensemble Thing at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on October 6 and 8, 2016. More details of the upcoming performances to follow soon.
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.