Music to make you feel better

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 BA Applied Music students at Old High Church, Inverness, 9/9/2015. A review.

As the last of the sunshine illuminated the Old High Church stain glass windows yesterday, 7 groups of BA Applied Music students from the UHI took to the stage having only met each other 48 hours ago.  There they stood together as a band for the first time in public to deliver pieces of music practically new born.

The students were set the theme Health and Wellbeing to build their piece around, most teamed with other instrumentalists and styles they had never created music with before.  Working together, learning from and inspiring each other towards the creation of 1 track for tonight’s performance, where each group delivered very different interpretations.

Starting with Group 7, ’Rage against the answer machine’ who began first with a beautiful melodic folky sound to then followed with a funk finale, as the band reminded us, ‘funk is good for your soul’. It stimulated not only the ears but also the brain and eyes with subtle switches of instruments, creating even more layers.

The running order went numerical now with Group 1 ‘Blushing Melons’.  The two contrasting styles of musicians combined Scottish folk and rock.  Gentle electric guitar riffs danced and duelled with accordion notes finished with beautiful vocals to start with, and like many Scottish idioms this group played 2 contrasting pieces.  The second starting with strong beats that pulled you in before they played a connected and synchronised rock reel.

Group 2 whose name I didn’t catch had reflected on the concept of tribes and parables from old times to view the dark side of health, thinking about how things had to be bad before they got better. Lead male vocals from piano (which I couldn’t see) threw me at first scanning crazily whilst trying to look calm to find the barer of the stunning voice.  It was slower and dark, as they checked in with each other to connect on vocal harmonies, ‘Going down’ they sang, ringing true with the dark places illness can take you too.

In contrast Group 3 ‘Moth and Meth’ talked of healing stones and powers in belief. With a melody that felt like a happy walk in the sun seeing that world a brighter after it being grey, there were no vocals but 2 flutes created the sound of words with their note. Words no one could hear but that everyone could understand.

Group 4 ‘Rag tails’ remarked on the fact they were all strangers in a room 2 days ago abstract journey from sick to well and it didn’t disappoint. There was something in the haunting vocals, accompanied by alternating contrasting fusion of the 3 guitars and a violin that initially delivered a sound that summed up the insurmountable feeling that comes when ill, and something  conjured metaphorical images of a far away land, struggling through a desert with nothing but sand ahead.  Delightfully flipping things near the end to uplifting beats filled with relief and joy.

Next Group 5 ‘Smuluck’ took us on another journey from illness to health but this had a folk twist. Female vocals and the band captured a feeling of struggle with the whistle floating in hinting at loneliness.   Following some stunning plucks on electric guitar the mood brightened and the music lifted heads, connecting with the realisation that things are better, life if good.

I think Group 6 was called ‘You know’ and they took us through their musical interpretation of a day in the life of someone with mental health issues.  It was a gentle song to begin with 2 accordions creating the feeling of slowly waking up were joined by sax and although the song was gently upbeat there was a lingering feeling of nervousness created by the guitars that heightened to an emotional crescendo, till there was silence. And then clapping.

I really associated with this showcase having gone through health issues in the past and I was blown away by the talent that delivered such an amazing connective experience through their interpretation of a theme. The bonds of having worked so intensely over just 48 hours were obvious in the emotive musical collaborations and the understanding, respect and friendships which formed were not only visible on stage but also amongst the tutors and team involved.

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Dawn Stella McArthur
Dawn Stella McArthur
I can’t promise you intellectual chat about structure or comparisons to other bands but I am going to try and put the feelings I have into text. That being said you might hear the word tingle more than occasionally and other words like fantastic, amazing and delighted are favourites! Honestly I am only learning about instruments and how music goes together, possibly as most of my 20’s I was reaching for lazers. Live music baffles, intrigues and delights me!! However I have not a musical making bone in my body but I love to dance and make the occasional badge for talented musical folks. ;-) If you enjoy excited ramblings about music tickling my senses as I learn and fall more in love with it, then you might like things I try to write.

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