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JOHN SOMERVILLE - The Voyage Of The Hector

JOHN SOMERVILLE - The Voyage Of The Hector
Fis Rois FEISROIS003

John Somerville, the renowned accordion player, offers an orchestral interpretation of a voyage made by some of the earliest Scots emigrants to Canada (in 1773). The ship herself (The Hector) was a rotting hulk, and her journey between the ports of Ullapool and Nova Scotia was one of great drama, tragedy and endurance.

Drawing on his extensive experience, John Somerville has composed 40 minutes of music describing the story of the voyage, featuring combinations of harp, fiddle, flute, whistle, bagpipes, keyboard and accordion, plus Gaelic vocals. The piece was commissioned by Fèis Rois, an organisation promoting participation in, and enjoyment of, Gaelic music and cultural activities.

The eight tracks seek to convey the experience and roller-coaster emotions of the journey. Beginning with the passengers gathering at Ullapool, the music moves to the new and unnerving sensations of being at sea (only two of the entire company had ever crossed the Atlantic before) and to the poignancy of Scotland disappearing over the horizon. Tracks then express the griefs of hunger and outbreaks of disease - 18 children died. Then, within sight of land, a storm agonisingly blew the ship back out to sea for 14 days. However, the final track is a Jig Of Hope. Two songs are included – one being a waulking song and the other a Gaelic tribute to the piper on board.

The application of an orchestral approach to an episode of Scots migration is unusual and thought-provoking, providing a different perspective on events which still arouse passions.

Jim McCourt


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This album was reviewed in Issue 110 of The Living Tradition magazine.