“My work is all about people singing together in harmony. I love the way that singing can unburden you from daily life and it’s this that inspires my workshops and my songwriting.”
I’m a songwriter and workshop leader based in S.W. Scotland. I write songs then I teach them at harmony singing workshops and perform them with choirs. I also publish the songs and arrangements I write. Many workshops I do are open to the public but I also get invited by existing choirs to go in and work with them – either to teach them new material or to work on vocal quality and technique. I also run workshops on writing work for community choirs.
I’ve always been fascinated by the sound of voices singing: it doesn’t have to be a great voice – in fact quite the opposite – I think I’m inspired just by the fact that people’s voices are so closely connected to themselves and that they are prepared to stand up and sing – this is me – this is what I sound like! And when you put many voices together, the strong support the weak and the whole is such a magnificent thing – so much larger than the sum of the parts.
“I want to recreate the richness of harmony that makes songs of oral traditions around the world so satisfying and joyful to sing but with words that root the work firmly back in my own culture”
Songs and singing styles from all over the world are a huge inspiration to me and I certainly draw on them in my own writing but I’m constantly looking to bring that inspiration home and write songs that reflect my cultural heritage and life in Scotland. I’m drawn to elegantly sparse lyrics that leave the work with the listener. Accessibility and musical simplicity also fascinate me: I enjoy writing for singers with no particular musical background and where the parts are simple and easily taught but still musically satisfying. Because I teach a lot of my own material in singing workshops I find that I’m writing and arranging all the time. I love songwriting – the juxtapositioning of text and melody constantly fascinates me, but I also write because I have to – it’s how I process the inner landscape of my life.
“I love songwriting – the juxta-positioning of text and melody constantly fascinates me”
I’ve developed my own style of writing over the years. I’m interested in the early British folk hymn style of West Gallery music, developed after the reformation: one of the defining things of this style is that everyone has a great tune to sing and this suits my approach to workshops where I want every singer to go home with a great tune ringing in their head. I am not interested in the traditional western classical ways of harmonizing where often one part is based around three notes and perhaps another has a largely un-singable part that jumps between difficult intervals.
I’ve found over the last few years that by harnessing my attitudes to harmonizing along with folk text or imagery drawn from that text I’ve developed a style that people seem to recognize.