This work was commissioned by the 17th Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival and the 1st Burns international Festival. The first performance was given on 1 June 1996 at Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, Scotland by Marie McLaughlin and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joseph Swenson.
This commission, to celebrate Robert Burns on the occasion of the 200 years since his death, has caused me to revisit my Scottish heritage. As much as this heritage is inevitably part of my life, so, in this work, the tunes to which Burns wrote his inimitable poems are embedded in the musical texture – sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background.
The poems were carefully chosen with a view to creating a song cycle describing the ‘events’ in the life of a woman, from the flirtatious young girl, to the young woman betrayed, to her eventual fulfilment in the mature love which has lasted many a year.
The challenge was how to integrate Burns’s 18th century world with our own, both emotionally and musically. Musically this meant finding a melodic and harmonic language that though recognising and incorporating the original tunes, they would nevertheless be heard from a contemporary viewpoint. The past can only ever be revisited with our own contemporary imagination and sensibility.
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