On the Shore of the Mind explores Scottish-Caribbean connections
The project works by Mr McFall's Chamber, Errollyn Wallen, Ian Hamilton Finlay and more
The links between Scotland and the Caribbean are centuries old but it is a history that has been largely hidden. Only in more recent years has the darker side come to light. As Glasgow prepares for the Commonwealth Games, welcoming the world to Scotland provides a timely trigger for Mr McFall’s Chamber to bring together several strands of thought that have been simmering for a while. A combination of hearing the inspirational black Jamaican activist, Geoff Palmer, and Michael Marra singing Burns’ ‘The Slave’s Lament’, led artistic director Robert McFall to come up with On the Shore of the Mind as a celebration of Scottish links with the Caribbean.
‘It is good to be upbeat about the close connection,’ he says, ‘and to bring history out of the shadows and celebrate. We’re taking Geoff Palmer’s lead here and not being shy about the brutality of what went on.’
One sad note about the programme is that Gabriel Jackson has been unable to deliver new work On the Shore of the Mind due to personal circumstances. Stepping into the breach is Belize-born Errollyn Wallen, whose Are you worried about the rising cost of funerals? song cycle captures the lively atmosphere of a Caribbean township through soprano voice (provided here by Susan Hamilton) and string quartet. Happily, the addition fits neatly with McFall's original vision.
‘I had an idea that the whole programme could be about the theme of islands,’ he says, ‘and we also have Susan Hamilton singing Burns songs, including the love poem "Ae Fond Kiss", which also reflects the sub-theme of departure as it was written for Nancy Maclehose as she departed from Scotland for Jamaica.’ With a handful of Caribbean poets – Derek Walcott, Dennis Scott and Lorna Goodison – in the mix too, it’s an evening of oppression weaving in and out of images of ‘waves, seaweed, salt, sails and far sea vistas.’
An Lanntair, Stornoway, Wed 18 Jun; Brodick Hall, Isle of Arran, Thu 19 Jun; St John’s Church, Edinburgh, Sun 22 Jun; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Sat 2 Aug.