Iain Morrison and Dalziel and Scullion’s major new artist commission – SÀL – to commemorate 100 years since the Iolaire tragedy, premiered to a rapturous reception at An Lanntair on Saturday.
The clocks went back in a very different way on Saturday evening for Sàl, composed by Iain Morrison with imagery by artists Dalziel and Scullion. A technical and emotional tour de force, it was the first major artist commission to commemorate the forthcoming centenary of the Iolaire disaster, co-commissioned by An Lanntair and 14-18 NOW, the
UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.
Sàl is the first of a series of special events at An Lanntair to mark the Iolaire centenary. The programme will continue this week with the launch of the book The Darkest Dawn at the Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival. This will be followed by a second An Lanntair/14-18 Now co-commisison, An Treas Suaile (The Third Wave) by Julie Fowlis and Duncan Chisholm, premiering on 9 November; Bho Mhoch Gu Dubh (From Dawn to Dark), an exhibition of work by Mhairi Law and Alec Galloway, also opening on 9 November; a new film by Catriona Black, Tha thu air Aigeann m’ Inntinn, premiering on 17 December; Iolaire 100 – an exhibition of 100 portraits of Iolaire sailors, one for each year since the tragedy, opening on 29 December; and finally, the unveiling of a major centenary sculpture by Arthur Watson, Marian Levan and Will Maclean on 1 January 2019.
On the morning of 1st January 1919 a war-weary community, exhausted by loss, who had prepared for peace, reconciliation and return, were engulfed by impenetrable grief. The Iolaire tragedy is an anguished story of wrecked lives and ravaged communities.
Notwithstanding the virtuoso performances across a suite of 12 nuanced musical chapters and the lyrical, powerful and timeless imagery, Sàl was also deeply personal. Iain Morrison’s great-grandfather was among those lost and left a widow and eight children. His grandfather was but a year old. It is threaded through his genealogy. It draws on the deep well of Ceòl Mòr and Gaelic psalm singing.
Sàl (which can mean, salt, saltwater, the open sea and suggest tears) brought a new language and dimension to the Iolaire disaster and how we comprehend it. Faces challenge and personalise the blank statistics. The bleak mantra – 201 lost, 79 saved – is inspired with a new reality. Grainy black and white portraits of sailors past are reanimated, inherited into the present, across the chasm of 100 years. Deeply moving but also uplifting it says: the people are the same. The land, the sea and the sky remain. The generations continue. We survive. There is hope.
Sàl will be performed again at An Lanntair on 29th December, just before the Centenary of the Iolaire disaster. The project was co-commissioned by An Lanntair and 14-18 NOW, and has been supported with grants from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Horshader Trust. 14-18 NOW is supported by the Heritage Lottery through the Heritage
Lottery Fund, and by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
For more information about An Lanntair’s Iolaire programme, and full event listings, visit http://lanntair.com/creative-programme/iolaire/.
Images from Sàl’s premiere are available on request. Contact Andrew Eaton-Lewis, events and marketing co-ordinator for An Lanntair, on firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
An Lanntair is a multi-disciplinary arts centre in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. An Lanntair welcomes over 200,000 visitors each year to celebrate the unique Gaelic culture of the Outer Hebrides, and is supported by Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Point and Sandwick Trust and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. www.lanntair.com
14-18 NOW is a five-year programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War. Working with arts and heritage partners all across the UK, we commission new artworks from leading contemporary artists, musicians, designers and performers, inspired by the period 1914-18. Since the start of the First World War centenary in 2014, 14-18 NOW has commissioned over 325 artworks, which have been seen by more than 30 million people. One hundred years later, today’s artists are opening up new perspectives on the present as well as the past. www.1418now.org.uk