Uniting global voices in music

The University of Aberdeen is playing a leading role in the creation of a new international song of friendship and healing - launched on the anniversary of the signing of a treaty which officially restored peace to the world.

The University of Aberdeen is playing a leading role in the creation of a new international song of friendship and healing – launched on the anniversary of the signing of a treaty which officially restored peace to the world.

Featuring Scottish singer, song-writer and broadcaster Fiona Kennedy and royal composer Paul Mealor, iSing4Peace aims to unite choirs, soloists and musicians around the world at a time when performing together is severely restricted.

The virtual initiative launched at Dunnottar Castle on June 28 - the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which brought an official end to the First World War, will culminate in a special performance on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday.

It will bring voices from around the world together with Scotland’s premier orchestra the RSNO, award-winning musicians Calum MacColl and Aberdeenshire’s Nils Elders, poet Grahame Davies, and will be produced by Calum Malcolm who has also produced albums for Mark Knopfler, Simple Minds, Big Country and The Blue Nile.

iSing4Peace is a development of the successful global initiative iPlay4Peace, created by the University of Aberdeen’s Neil McLennan and Scottish fiddler Thoren Ferguson as a new form of remembrance.

Over the last three years, it has seen musicians around the world join together to play the same piece of music in real time thanks to technology developed by Edinburgh Napier University.

This year, Mr McLennan said they wanted to open the initiative up to even more participants by including an instrument we all have access to – our voices.

“The current difficulties created by the Covid-19 crisis have shown the importance of coming together in new ways and the important healing power of music,” he added.

“We had planned to develop iSing4Peace at the beginning of the year but we could never have foreseen the upcoming need to bring performers together  – or the parallels we would see with the world which, at the time the Treaty of Versailles ended World War One, was tentatively beginning to emerge from a global  pandemic of Spanish Flu.

“Remembrance is not about glorifying war, but about reflecting on the difficulties faced by the generations that have come before us. The Covid-19 pandemic has reawakened many people to the human suffering from the devastation caused by war and international crises like the Spanish flu 100 years ago.  Music provides an important outlet for reflecting, remember and uniting as a global community.  It is an international language we can all connect to and enjoy.”

But the Covid-19 crisis has also brought on a challenge for writers and performers in working together. After more than 25 years singing and broadcasting, Fiona Kennedy considers her collaboration in iSing4Peace as a ‘first’ for her in terms of both virtual creation and performance.

Welsh poet Davies penned the lyrics to Stronger for the Storm while Paul Mealor began work on the musical score.

Over the last two weeks, Kennedy has added her voice to the musical score while the RSNO, Nils Elders and Calum MacColl individually recorded their parts. These are now being brought together by producer Calum Malcolm. This version will provide a musical footprint to which voices will be added from around the world.

“It has been a great challenge as well as a fantastic opportunity to work together in new ways,” Kennedy added.

 “As a singer it has been wonderful to be involved in a musical collaboration of this kind right from the very beginning.

“Covid-19 emerged in such a cataclysmic way and its effect has created such confusion and fear - I think many people feel that music, songs and the arts can really help us all - it’s fundamentally important to people’s health and mental wellbeing. 

“We wanted to write and record a new song to help heal which would touch people and resonate around the world. 

“We of course have the best example of this to guide us with Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, regarded as the international song of friendship.

“We hope to bring people of all musical abilities together to join us in creating something memorable and magical.”

Royal composer Mealor, renowned for composing Ubi Caritas featuring at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and for writing the hit music of the Military Wives Choir, said the score will change and grow with every new voice added.

“The song is written so that each performer can attach their own meaning to it,” he said.

“It will be exciting for me to see how it changes and develops as musical styles from around the world come together.

“I began with the idea of a Celtic lament, so it is very much rooted both in Scotland – my home for the last 20 years – and in my own Welsh heritage.  But I am looking forward to hearing how other musical traditions shape and influence this.

“iSing4Peace is a fantastic initiative which I had agreed to participate in long before Covid-19 was on our radar, but the restrictions this pandemic has brought to musical performance mean that iSing4Peace is now more significant than we ever imagined it could be.

“Choirs and musicians from around the world are crying out to sing and perform and we hope that – although they can’t be together in person – they will join together, with us, through iSing4Peace.”

The musical score will be made available over the coming weeks with singers and invited to submit their own parts and it is hoped that the initiative will develop into a charity single.