Echoes from Perthshire
40 years ago the City of Perth provided me with a musical and cultural education which, building on my Glaswegian school and family foundation, forged my future in music. Here I was, returning for the first time since then, with memories of the City Halls concerts where I first encountered violin virtuosi Yehudi Menuhin and Kyung Wha Chung among others. There were weekly chamber concerts; unforgettable events – like going to hear Jacqueline du Pré; the fine Rep Theatre company I so enjoyed, and the many opportunities to hear local bands, and folk musicians. Much has changed in Perth, they have a brand new concert hall for one thing, but it is still the beautiful town with its expansive green (the Inch)I remember.
This was the perfect place for our final project in the #EchoeScot tour which had begun in June 2018. We had the perfect partners too in the energetic and brilliant team from Culture Perth and Kinross – Jordan Irvine and Dougie Scott – who found us the best possible schools to work with and supported our performances on Mon 11th & Tues 12th November 2019 at their base in the AK Bell Library. The schools were Letham Primary School, Errol Primary School and Bertha Park High School who all helped to celebrate the lives and work of women in science and music from Perthshire.
The best thing I learnt was about lots of women scientists and what they did Letham Pupil
The primary schools were both treated to a talk from our wonderful researcher, Catherine Booth about the life of WW2 heroic marine engineer Victoria Drummond , inspiring them to write their own songs about her. She came from Errol, so the children there concentrated on what it had been like for her growing up at Megginch Castle in contrast to their lives now, while Letham P5 focused on her professional life. You can hear both songs on Victoria’s page or the school pages:- Letham P5 & Errol P7. They completed their songs for performance with Bea Webster, who was an engineer but who is now an actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She taught them how to interpret their song words in British Sign Language.
Bea’s support was invaluable as our context this term is “senses” and we were learning about hearing disabilities. Gillian Collins, Teacher, Letham
They also worked with Jordan from Culture Perth and Kinross who brought books and exhibits of stuffed rabbits and hares to illustrate Catherine’s talk about Beatrix Potter – not just a famous writer but a mycologist with strong Perthshire links. Jordan also helped the Letham children to work out how to make a pretend boat that would float! Nina Baker – who had also helped out on our previous project Echoes from Inverclyde – provided technical information on Drummond’s ship building days. Both schools made a version of Turing and Welchman’s Bombe Machine, which I had been lucky enough to record at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, ready to help us perform my own piece about the life of Perth’s own codebreaker, Jean Valentine. There are photos on her page, kindly provided by her children Stephanie Valentine and Grahame Rooke, who were contacted through the amazing Professor Sue Black who fought hard to save Bletchley Park as a museum site for future generations.
….excellent challenge for pupils all of whom relished the opportunity to showcase their new learning and skills to the rest of the school and parents/carers Susan Morrison, Teacher, Errol Primary What a lot of cross curricular learning has taken place for my class over the last few weeks. Gillian Collins, Letham
As for Bertha Park High School, well, they had a very special collaboration with 3 scientists from the School of Astronomy & Physics, University of St Andrews. Astronomer Dr. Anne-Marie Weijmans, Dr Kristin Arnardottir (Theoretical Physicist) and Dr Lethy Krishnan Jagadamma (Experimental Physicist) had the task of explaining their science to students from S1 and S2, and inspiring them to create music from it. This fascinating process generated some astonishing work using samples of the scientists and composers voices and instruments. Have a listen on their pages by clicking on their names above.
….the pupils gained so much Jason Blyth, Head of Music, Bertha Park High
The performances, both at AK Bell Library and in the schools, featured music from Perth’s own traditional song collector Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and song writer Lady Carolina Nairne who was born at the ‘Auld Hoose’ of Gask in Perthshire in 1766.
Both had their music performed by Margaret Cameron of the BBC Singers :
We found it surprising that Margaret from the BBC came Pupil from Errol Primary
The electric voice theatre team on this project
- Frances M Lynch – Soprano, Composer, Researcher, Writer, Artistic Director
- Margaret Cameron—Mezzo and Workshop leader
- Bea Webster – BSL Performer
- Herbie Clarke – Guitar, Sound Design & PR
- Catherine Booth – Science Historian
- Amy Whiten – Set illustrations
- Ian Todd—Set Design
- Nina Baker – Engineering Historian
Created by electric voice theatre, Echoes is a Minerva Scientifica project that brings together professional performers with community musicians and school children. Together, we raise awareness of the rich heritage and deep connections between music and science, and inspire the next generation of future scientists. Sign up to our newsletter for updates.