Red Note Ensemble's song cycle inspired by motherhood

The Watching Over You score explores a range of emotions, from conception to post-natal depression

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Red Note Ensemble's song cycle inspired by motherhood

Karen Cargill / c KK Dundas

Mother’s Day in the UK will be long over when Red Note Ensemble premiere their new commission in celebration of motherhood. But the equivalent in the US and Canada, both countries with which mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill has close associations, will have just happened.

The first performance of Watching Over You with Cargill in the solo role is therefore rather timely. A cycle of seven songs with specially written poems by Dilys Rose and set to music by composer Rory Boyle, explores what it’s like to be a mother, especially in the first, often baffling, early days.

The piece has grown out of the developing artistic relationships between Rose, Boyle and Cargill. ‘Karen was a relatively new mother at the time we started to talk about doing something together and she was really interested in a new piece about motherhood,’ explains Rose. ‘The songs are really varied and cover a wide range of a mother’s emotions.’

Scored for an ensemble of ten instrumentalists plus voice, they move from conception and pregnancy through to the arrival of a baby and post-natal depression.

‘Then there’s looking after a sick child, and trying to get a child to sleep, and then the last, possibly terrifying, moment when a child leaves home and goes to school,’ says Rose. ‘There’s joy there, but also rage and fear. It’s an exhausting business being a mother and it can also be isolating.’

For those audience members who are parents, Rose hopes that there will be emotions with which they can identify. It is not, however, a piece with any sort of overt message. As Rose says: ‘first and foremost, it is music.’

St Andrew’s in the Square, Glasgow, Tue 19 May; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 20 May.

Red Note Ensemble: Watching Over You with Karen Cargill

A new song cycle by Rory Boyle, featuring settings of poems by Dilys Rose about the experience of motherhood, sung by acclaimed mezzo Karen Cargill. Also, Janáček's quartet Intimate Letters.

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