Cappella Nova - Voices of Scotland
St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, Fri 4 Jul
A fascinating concert of sung Scottish texts from the 6th to the 16th centuries seems the ideal way to close an international conference on the language and literature of Scotland in mediaeval and Renaissance times. Not that all of Cappella Nova’s Voices of Scotland performances for number twelve of these triennial conferences will be music from the distant past. More modern settings of ancient texts are by Scottish composers Rebecca Rowe and Ronald Stevenson, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year.
Long time champions of his music, Cappella Nova had a wide choice of the many settings Stevenson has made of Scottish poems throughout his career. For the purposes of the conference, which is hosted by Edinburgh University’s School of Literatures, Languages and Culture, his Mediaeval Scots Triptych, from 1965, will give delegates the chance to hear the words of 15th and 14th century writers Blind Harry and John Barbour, who tell of the suffering, heroism and idealism of the Wars of Independence between 1296 and 1314. Stevenson, who was born in Lancashire of Scots and Welsh parents, and is proud of his Celtic roots, came across his texts in the anthology of Scottish poetry, Golden Treasury, edited by Hugh MacDiarmid.
Rebecca Rowe’s setting, composed in 2000, is an Elegy for Colum Cille, and is framed by the atmospheric plainsong chants for St Columba, originally from the abbey at Inchcolm – island of Columba – and for St Kentigern, patron saint of Glasgow. Another saint to be featured is St Magnus of Orkney with the 12th century hymn Nobilis, humilis. From Renaissance Scotland comes David Peebles exquisite Si quis diliget me, written just prior to the Reformation.
Altogether, no less than 15 Scottish writers, including Mary Queen of Scots, will be heard in this remarkable celebration of the nation’s language and music.