Sean Shibe on softLOUD – 'I wanted to do something that would sum up the emotions of Scotland's young people'
- Carol Main
- 13 June 2017
Scottish guitarist discusses the merging of styles in his new show
Proudly bearing a highly coveted Royal Philharmonic Society trophy, awarded in London in May, it's the second time that the East Neuk Festival has received this prestigious endorsement of its work in engaging audiences. But never complacent, each year's festival brings something new to East Neuk followers. This year, guitarist Sean Shibe premieres his project softLOUD, which brings together Scottish music of the 16th-18th centuries by the likes of James Oswald and Lady Wemyss with contemporary music for electric guitar, inspired by current affairs in his native Scotland.
As an initiative which aims to break down genre barriers in music, it's an innovative approach that is also a tangible reminder that rock's electric guitar started off life way back as the much gentler lute. 'When I was asked by East Neuk what I might want to do, I was feeling angry,' says Shibe. 'We'd had Brexit and Trump, and as someone in my early 20s I wanted to play raucous, loud music on electric guitar. I wanted to do something that would sum up the emotions of Scotland's young people. There's been a lot of political flux and I sometimes feel classical music hasn't represented that enough.'
In softLOUD, Shibe plays classical guitar repertoire, some of it very definitely in the soft and sweet category, but also Peter Maxwell Davies' universally-loved 'Farewell to Stromness', written as an anti-nuclear protest, driving the programme towards the louder music to come. 'The show ends in a cathartic outpouring of grief and anger,' he says. 'Slowly wailing, ancient, grieving "LAD" was written after the death of a friend of its composer Julia Wolfe, and David Lang's "Killer" is abrupt and ironclad in its fury'
St Monans Church, East Neuk, Thu 29 Jun; Dreel Hall, East Neuk, Fri 30 Jun; The Space @ Niddry Street, Edinburgh, Mon 21–Sat 26 Aug.