Emily Doolittle, Rody Gorman and Paragon Ensemble - Songs of Seals

Canadian composer Emily Doolittle, Gaelic poet Rody Gorman and Glasgow's Paragon Ensemble collaborate on Songs of Seals

Canadian composer, Gaelic poet and Glasgow group collaborate on new work

We all love to see their inquisitive friendly faces around many of Scotland’s coastal waters, but how many people have heard seals singing? Can they actually sing? According to the Canadian composer with the wonderfully apt name of Emily Doolittle, indeed they can. Whether or not there is the mutual understanding achieved by her fictional namesake, the world famous Dr Dolittle, is still not quite proven, but if Scottish seals do sing, it might be as well to communicate with them in Gaelic, the language of much of the rich tradition of folklore that surrounds them.

In commissioning Emily Doolittle to write a new piece for children’s choir and instrumental ensemble, Glasgow-based Paragon Ensemble are delighted with Songs of Seals, a series of Gaelic poems by bilingual writer Rody Gorman based on the sea and its magical inhabitants. ‘Emily and Rody have come up with a remarkable piece for Paragon. It really captures the mysterious relationship between human beings and seals,’ says Ninian Perry, creative director of Paragon. The children, who all come from Voice Factory, Glasgow City Council’s vocal education project for primary-aged children throughout the city, are not only learning music through the new piece, but Gaelic too.

‘Emily, who hails from Nova Scotia, has taken her inspiration from the music of these intriguing creatures of the sea,’ says Perry. Apparently, among all the mammals in the world, the seal’s larynx is the one that is closest to a human’s. Reports of their singing are not uncommon, although the plaintive, almost mournful sounds they make are unlikely to land any lucrative recording contracts.

CCA, Glasgow, Wed 26 Oct.

Paragon Ensemble: Songs of Seals

Of all mammals, the seal has a larynx most like that of humans; don't say we never teach you anything. CCA composer-in-residence Emily Doolittle has been inspired by seal vocalisations to write a piece for voices and ensemble, Songs of Seals, consisting of settings of Gaelic poems by Rody Gorman, performed here by Paragon…

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