Song Wave 1 – How to write a song?

Yesterday was both a new moon and two days after Candlemas (or Imbolc if you are thinking in terms of Celtic fire festivals – which I often am). So what better time to start writing a song?

This is a special song (I hope). I’m writing it in response to Frightened Rabbits’ “The Loneliness and the Scream” and it will be for people all over the Scottish Borders (an actual county for those who don’t know) to sing on 17th May. It will be inspired by this year’s festival theme “Connected”.

Why this date? Because it is in the middle of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. Song Wave is a project that wants to encourage people to sing. Singing is uplifting and community forming and very good for our mental health.

But how do you write a song? In this case I started with asking for contributions of words, musical phrases, thoughts. I actually received several whole songs, a video and some words.

The next step was to listen repeatedly to all the songs, watch the video many times and take down notes. Notes of some of the words and images that caught my attention. I wrote down everything inspired by each work separately then hung the words around my room.

I walked up and down looking at and repeating the words out loud. Then I sat down and started to write.

This is the ideas phase and anything goes at this stage. In fact it is important to reject nothing that comes up because it is all a necessary part of the process. Bits of tunes slip into my head and I go to my trusty zoom R8 to record what comes.

After a while I felt the need to move so decided to go for a walk before the light went. Yes, walking is also part of my process. The sun was streaming over the valley and everything was looking gorgeous. I was walking back up the hill thinking about rhythm and the heart. I started clapping a heartbeat. I was breathing heavily as I got to the top of the slope. That sounds interesting, I thought, and rushed to get home to record it. As I said, this is the phase of anything goes.

Last Night in Hawick

Singing in Hawick. The last night.

What a long winter! Are we emerging from it at last? Today is April at its most cheery. All sunshine, daffodils, warmth and smiles. Is this only for today? This picture says it all, perhaps. No it isn’t Hawick but the isle of Rumm at sunset several years ago.

Yesterday evening I was in Hawick at the Cornucopia room, the last night of my little singing group. We sang through most of the songs I’d taught this year. Follow the clyp link below to listen to the two songs I recorded.




Singing at the Brotherstones

I always like to do something “different” with the Smailholm Singing Group in the summer. Last year we had a meet up in my garden. One time we sang to Giant Heads (sculptures, I hasten to add) in Glentress Forest. This year we sang at the Brotherstones at midsummer, a suggestion from one of the group, which I was very happy to take up.

brotherstones 4

There are two Brotherstones and they stand on the top of a hill a short drive from Smailholm Village Hall, our usual meeting place. It was good to walk up the hill and also get a chance to talk to many of the group individually. One of them told me a story that he had found about the stones.

Brothersontes singing 1

There were two brothers who grew up in the area but moved away as young adults. During their years away one became a catholic and the other a protestant. Many years later they returned. They met up the hill by chance and failed to recognise each other. On discovering that they adhered to different faiths they began a fight which ended in both of their deaths. The stones were erected in memory of them.”

brotherstones 7

We got to the top and it was windy. Well of course it was. That’s how it often is around here. AND what a view!  I thoroughly recommend going up that hill.

We sang some songs in our usual circle, sang in front of the stones and then went to stand on the ridge looking out into the view. A skylark was fluttering above and singing too. The cows in the field below were delighted with the impromptu concert and gathered together against the fence as near to us as they could get.

brotherstones view

Surprising things to accompany you when you are doing an activity in the countryside.