Friday, November 26, 2021

Holiday Gift Ideas: Stories Told in Music

Stories: they make a vital part of life. They are ways we share, how we learn, how we connect with each other.

As you prepare for and celebrate winter holidays, consider the work of these storytellers in music as gifts for those on your list. They make great gifts for yourself, too.

Did you know of the connections between the people of Orkney, in Scotland’s Northern Isles, and Hudson’s Bay in Canada? There’s a fair geographic distance between the places, to be sure.

There’s deep historic connection as well. It is a story which has fascinated Graham Rorie since his days as a young boy growing up in Orkney, where the port of Stromness was the last port of call before Orcadians went went off to work in far away Canada.

The Hudson’s Bay Company recruited Orcadians during the 18th and 19th centuries, thinking that the hardy folk of Scotland’s north would be well suited to the equally challenging conditions in Canadian wilderness.

Rorie, whose instruments are fiddle and guitar, composed a set of tunes that celebrate and investigate these stories and connections. They include the aspects of the life of explorer John Rae, who discovered the last navigable link in the Northwest Passage. There’s also the story of boats based on an Orcadian design and long used to work the waters in Canada, a tune dedicated to a town settled by folk for Scotland, and the tale of that last calling port, along with much more.

The Orcadians of Hudson’s Bay is engaging music, well played by Roriie along with James Lindsay, Kristan Harvey, Padruaig Morrison, Rory Matheson, and Signy Jakobsdottir. The tunes are well told stories; they are added to the booklet that goes along, both with words and with artwork from Jen Austin.

Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan join up to share ten stories, some from the tradition of Scotland, some form contemporary writers, and several which Karine wrote. Their collaboration is called Still As Your Sleeping, a phrase which draws from one of the songs Polwart wrote, a track called Travel These Ways.

Polwart is a singer and songwriter; Milligan is a piano player and composer. Though they are both well used to collaboration and have worked on other projects before, the spark for this oen came from two lockdown projects on which they were both involved. They found challenge in the spare sound of just voice and piano.

They meet that challenge well, too. Karine’s thoughtful takes on songs including Craigie Hill, Heaven’s Hound, The Old Man of the Shells, and The Path Winds Before Us are supported, though one could as well say intertwined, with Dave’s equally thoughtful piano lines.

Well chosen stories, and well told. Music you (and the lucky person on yout gift list who receives it) will want to hear many times.

Stay along the music road for more gift ideas to come as this winter holiday season unfolds.

You may also enjoy
Karine Polwart also works as part of Spell Songs
If you are considering late autumn, Thanksgiving in the US, Saint Andrew’s day in Scotland: Music for Autumn’s Landscapes at Wandering Educators offer good things to explore
Learn about Dave Milligan’s albumMomento
Learn more about The Orcadians of Hudson’s Bay
The first story in this season’s holiday gift ideas

In times when you are able to listen to much music at no cost, if you enjoy this music, I encourage you to help support the work of these artists and the cause of good, thoughtful music everywhere by purchasing their music. Direct purchase from an artist’s site is one way. Bandcamp is also a platform which supports artists’ work.

Speaking of support, if you’re in a position to do so this holiday season, your support for Music Road is most welcome. Here’s one way:

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