Artisans Assemble in Kelso

Aisling O'Dea and Clea Friend.Aisling O'Dea and Clea Friend.
Aisling O'Dea and Clea Friend.
There’s a touch of class in Kelso next month as chamber group Artisan Ensemble head to the Tweedside town for the second of three dates in their Scottish Tour.

The mini-tour, which also takes in Edinburgh and Glasgow, marks the launch of Artisan Ensemble’s new album, Almost Unseen, which celebrates the works of composer Suzanne Parry.

Alongside clarinettist William Stafford, pianist Alexander Taylor, and vocalist Hannah Rarity, the duo will perform songs and instrumental works from the album at the Kelso concert, which takes place in the town’s Old Parish Church at 7pm on Friday, September 22.

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Founded in 2009 by cellist Clea Friend and violinist Aisling O’Dea, Artisan have consistently brought new and exciting work to the forefront of Scottish chamber music by supporting and promoting living composers and their work.

Since their inception they have commissioned over 10 new works, performing them alongside more well-known chamber music repertoire, and Suzanne is a composer the duo have wanted to work with for some time.

Aisling said: “I had said to Clea years ago, if we were to ever make a CD recording I'd love to record Suzi's music and get it out there in the public eye.

“She’s such a beautiful composer and folk need to hear her works.”

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And Clea added: “It’s a real joy to be able to celebrate the music of a wonderful composer who is also a friend.

"Post pandemic, it was magical to have the opportunity to come together after so long and play chamber music, it was so needed for both musicians and audience.

"This album comes at the right time for so many reasons, when the world needs comfort through melody and connection through music with a profound relationship to time and place.

"Sometimes modern music can be divisive and challenging, but I find Suzi’s music has a unifying and timeless quality, it’s a pleasure to play.”

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The programme includes three Borders songs composed by Parry, libretto by Hawick-born lyricist Jules Horne, and sung by Hannah Rarity, inspired by research Parry and Horne carried out at three Borders houses: Aikwood Tower, Abbotsford and Bowhill, and was developed with the assistance of three local primary schools.

Clea Friend

Most notably, in 2013

(supported by Creative Scotland), Artisan commissioned pieces from five

international women composers for their concert series, ‘Pendulum’, which was

critically acclaimed. Suzanne Parry composed “Haul Away from Heaven” for this

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series, one of many collaborations that has taken place between these musicians.“

Suzanne Parry is a renowned composer and chamber musician whose unique

musical language has been widely acknowledged as accessible yet distinctive. Her

musical voice has been developed not only through her work in classical and

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traditional music, but also by her exploration of poetry and fine art, and her ability to

draw on visual and oral stimuli for inspiration. Parry also draws from her

surroundings, leading to influences from the culture and history of both Cornwall

where she grew up, and Edinburgh where she has lived since 2006, being present

within her extensive body of work.

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During the pandemic, both Parry and Artisan were forced to rethink or develop their

careers, to reimagine how they could sustain their musical lives, and generate a

more reliable income. Clea trained as a yoga teacher and studied counselling,

Aisling has been developing her skill as animateur and presenter of musical

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workshops, and storytelling for children, and Parry retrained as a Mental health

nurse at the University of Stirling, from which she will graduate this year. Parry has

taken a post working with people with advanced dementia, and intends to develop

her clinical practice in a way that integrates music into the management of stress

and distress.

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This journey of upheaval and change, of joy and struggle, of life, is at the core of

Almost Unseen. Across thirteen tracks, the album carries the listener through Parry’s

evolution as a composer, giving a rare insight into how female creativity is shaped

through challenging circumstances and the support of strong friendships,

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demonstrating the key role that symbiotic partnerships have in sustaining the

creative spirit through difficult times. Opening with pieces Parry created as a young

musician, and closing with works she has written as a forty year old mother of two,

the album's trajectory follows the ups and downs of a woman’s life ever changing.

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Borders concert date: Friday September 22nd, Old Parish Church, Kelso, 7pm

Artisan have invited clarinettist William Stafford, pianist Alexander Taylor, and

Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year Hannah Rarity, to join them in bringing

Parry’s unique musical language to live audiences, and they will accompany the duo

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on their upcoming ‘whistle-stop’ tour of Scotland this September which includes anight at the Old Parish Church in Kelso.

Jules Horne noted: “I’m thrilled to hear my lyrics set and performed by such amazing

musicians. Suzanne and Artisan’s music is wonderfully haunting and Hannah Rarity

is an exceptional interpreter of the songs, which imagine women from local legend

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telling their own stories. The Reiver Wife is inspired by ‘the dish of spurs’ tale of a

woman sending her husband out reiving. The Kist Bride tells the fable of an ill-fated

wedding night game of hide-and-seek, inspired by an oak chest collected by Sir

Walter Scott. The Palimpsest reveals the thoughts of a debutante singing Robert

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Burns’ My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. It’s exciting that the songs will be heard in

the beautiful surroundings of Kelso Old Parish Church in its 250th anniversary year.”

This is the first performance of these works in the Borders since they were originally

written and performed in 2017, so don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear them live.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​