A new piece of music for saxophone orchestra and choir, Rhymes and Recollections, has been nominated for a Creative Lives award. The piece, funded by Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Music Creator’ scheme, was written by composer Ben Lunn for the Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra and singing group Ugie Voices. The scheme pairs composers with ensembles, so he was faced with quite the challenge; bringing together voices and saxophones. Ben was inspired by the poems of William Thom, an early 19th-century handloom weaver who lived and worked near Inverurie. As well as creating and playing the music, the participants incorporated readings of the original Doric and Scots poems into the work.
Ben said: “As both groups are based in Aberdeenshire, I wanted to make sure I found something which could tap into that in some way – as the combination is so rare I wanted to make a piece they’d want to work together on again. Dialect was the way into doing that. In Aberdeenshire, they have the unique dialect called Doric, which is a regional variation on Scots, and has a long historic poetic tradition. Through that opening, I looked for poets and poetry that I was drawn to. From there, it was about building a multimovement work which drew on various poems of Thom’s which allowed us to explore various combinations within the group – be it small quartet, or just the higher saxes and just the lower, which helped make the interaction with the choir feel wildly different every time.”
The two groups began meeting online during the pandemic, but then switched to in-person rehearsals, despite being based 30 miles away from one another. They were the first ‘double ensemble’ to enter the scheme, which was welcomed by Making Music. “The members of our two groups hardly knew each other before tackling this. Together we took on a very challenging project, which was made much more difficult by Covid and stormy weather, with people struggling to travel across Scotland to meet,” said Foss Foster, of the Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra. “We feel our groups have broken new ground with this collaboration, added to the body of Doric work and to Scottish music in general. We’ve demonstrated that this sort of thing is not just for professional ensembles to tackle.” In February 2022, the groups produced a professional recording of the music, and a month later they performed the world premiere, conducted by Richard Ingham at the Acorn Centre, Inverurie. The results of the awards were still pending as the magazine went to press, but will be announced on 8 March; they will be available at www.creative-lives.org