Musician and composer of ‘The Seer’, Lauren MacColl tells us about her upcoming performance at An Lanntair and how she felt inspired to tell the story of The Brahan Seer.
I’m delighted to be bringing ‘The Seer’ to An Lanntair this month. It feels important to be playing on the island the Brahan Seer supposedly hailed from. I last playing in An Lanntair with RANT in 2016 and can’t wait to return. Here’s a little background on the writing of the music. We’ll start the concert with some new tunes, and The Seer will be the second half. I hope you can join us!
In the summer of 2016 I was commissioned to write a piece of music for Fèis Rois, Ross-shire’s top arts organisation. It was to be the second in their series of commissions after John Somerville’s ‘Hector’ which told the story of a boat which left Wester Ross for Nova Scotia in 1773 and those on board. My ‘story’ was to be that of Coinneach Odhar, or The Brahan Seer, a 17th Century prophet who settled in Brahan, Easter Ross.
The story of the Brahan Seer was one I’ve heard since a very young age, as his prophecies are a huge part of the Highland oral traditional. I’d written a tune almost a decade ago, a strathspey for the seer called The Prophet, as the man himself had long fascinated me. In that respect I was completely comfortable with the brief and excited for the challenge ahead. But on the other hand I had accepted a huge personal challenge which was to write and arrange 40 minutes worth of music. I’ve written tunes/melodies for years but never taken it further, and all my arranging within bands etc has always been by ear. But something my late grandfather used to say has always stuck with me – ‘Say yes and worry about the ‘how’ later!’
The process led me to a lot of thinking about how we as musicians speak about music, and how the terminology we use can often be intimidating to others in folk circles. I have certainly never regarded myself as a composer, rather if I had written a tune I’d like to think of it as adding to our big ‘trad’ pile of communal music. But we can’t do our music down, and over some intensive writing periods (sprinkled with some serious outbursts at the computer program Sibelius… at which I am a complete novice) I began to come to terms with the fact that what I was creating was a significant chunk of music to be proud of.
Although the writing process brought a large sense of personal development, the creative element was very different to anything I had done before, as there was no musical communication with others during the process. How great to unveil the music to the performers at the first rehearsal and like a newly-hatched chick, let it fly off and take care of itself.
The process different musicians use to write and create fascinates me, and it is one that on any level requires huge self-discipline and motivation. I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to have stretched myself within my own practice.
Tickets for The Seer are available here – http://lanntair.com/events/event/the-seer/