Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lost Songs of St. Kilda

This kind of story and endeavor resonates with me. Although the Catholic faith and culture in England didn't come down to one man giving that knowledge to another, there was a remnant left to sustain it and help revive it when the time came. The new CD, The Lost Songs of St. Kilda represents an even more tenuous remnant: one man remembering the old songs of a forsaken home and teaching them to another; that other man in old age remembering the old songs of that forsaken home and playing them; and a third man, recording the songs for the rest of us to hear and glimpse the life that is gone. As BBC Scotland News tells the story:

It all began when Trevor Morrison sat down at the piano in Edinburgh's Silverlea Care Home 10 years ago and began to play.

The magic did not go unnoticed.

The tunes were simple, naive even, but memorable and with an extraordinary emotional depth.

As a 10-year-old child on the west coast island of Bute during World War Two, Trevor had been taught piano by a former resident of St Kilda.

His teacher had left the remote archipelago in the outer Hebrides when they were evacuated in 1930.

Somehow, a lifetime later and in failing health, Trevor managed to remember the tunes his teacher had shown him.

Stuart McKenzie, who had been volunteering in the care home, offered to record them.

"He played the most astonishing tunes. They were so different. Complicated, but simple," Mr McKenzie says.

"I went home, got my computer, downloaded a bit of software and went along to a local electrical store and paid £3 for a microphone we could put down the back of the piano for him. And away he went."

Decca has combined the recordings of Morrison made by McKenzie with orchestrations of the melodies and works inspired by the music. This website has samples of the music and a timeline of the history of St. Kilda, which is not really named for any saint as far as anyone can tell.

The album won't be released in the United States until early October. It is a remarkable survival of aspects of a lost culture.

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