Northeast communities compose and prepare to perform Northlight

Community groups from across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have joined together with GRAMMY Award-winning British composer Cecilia McDowall and Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and founder / director of the annual WORD Festival Alan Spence in producing an original fifteen-minute work to open the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's (RSNO) first concert of the Aberdeen Concert Series.

Over the past eight months, enthusiastic participants of all ages and abilities have been collaborating with Cecilia McDowall, Alan Spence and musicians from the RSNO to produce a substantial work for Chorus and Orchestra. The resulting composition, which is still in the process of completion, is entitledNorthlight, taking its inspiration from the geography and communities of the northeast of Scotland. The work will be performed by a combined Community Chorus comprising people involved in the composition, members of the RSNO Chorus and the RSNO at the Music Hall, Aberdeen on Thursday 6 October 2011.

This is the first project of its kind to be seen in the UK, where multiple local community groups have been mobilised to contribute to the composition and subsequent performance of a major orchestral commission. Groups involved in the project include St Fergus School, St Fergus; Inspire Choir, Banff;Aurora (formerly North Aberdeenshire Community Choir), Huntly; Aberdeen Youth Choir, Aberdeen; The Burns Quoir (including members of the Youth Burns Quoir),The Mearns; Tullos Primary School, Aberdeen; and staff from TOTAL E&P UK Ltd.

The Northlight Community Composition project, in conjunction with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council and supported by TOTAL E&P UK Limited, has involved substantial preparatory work from the local people working alongside musicians from the RSNO, Cecilia McDowall and Alan Spence over the past year. A significant element of the Northlight composition project is providing community group leaders involved in the project with the skills and confidence to lead creative workshops. A comprehensive programme was created by RSNO musician and animateur John Logan, offering a flexible framework as well as practical ideas, useful hints and tips. So far over forty local musicians have attended training sessions.

Aberdeen Youth Choir senior group leader, Jayne Carmichael Norrie:

Both the group leaders and children of the Aberdeen Youth Choir have found working with the RSNO incredibly valuable. We have been given the opportunity to showcase young talent from the regeneration areas of Aberdeen to a world-famous composer, and have had loads of fun with our visiting orchestral musicians. We will all feel incredibly proud when we see our contributions to Northlight displayed in the Music Hall.

Hugh-William Johnstone, Musical Director of Inspire Choir, Banff and also Aurora, Huntly:

This is a terrific opportunity for something of this scale to come to the northeast. The progress we've made has been significant and we've really got on well with the RSNO musicians and other participants. We sincerely hope that, following this project, we can work together again in the future.

Composer Cecilia McDowall:

It has been a most exciting experience, having the opportunity to meet with some of the choirs involved in the Northlight project and to gather ideas for the commission from their workshops and from hearing them sing. The coming together of local musical communities, the musicians from the RSNO and the poet and writer, Alan Spence, has been very inspiring and special indeed and has given me a rich source of musical ideas to draw from. I am greatly looking forward to the moment when it all comes together on 6 October in Aberdeen!

RSNO Assistant Conductor Christian Kluxen leads the RSNO and combined Chorus for the performance of Northlight. RSNO Music Director Stéphane Denève takes over for the remainder of the programme: Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No3 with Nikolai Lugansky, and Debussy's Images, part of the RSNO's 2011/12 Debussy anniversary celebrations. The RSNO is also producing a video presentation of the community groups' preparations with Cecilia McDowall, Alan Spence and orchestral musicians. The film features the creative process leading up to the final performance and will be available for viewing prior to the opening concert of the new Aberdeen Concert Series at the Music Hall on Thursday 6 October.