Stepping out and walking miles of Scotland’s drove roads provided the inspiration for a soundtrack that captures the spirit of one of the last natural wildernesses in the UK.
Scots fiddle supremo Paul Anderson revealed a new string to his bow when he penned a classical symphony that encapsulates the majesty of the landscape of the Cairngorms.
Paul, who lives with his wife and two sons at Tarland in Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire, is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s finest traditional fiddle players. He is a composer, teacher, and adjudicator and has toured the world performing and has produced a number of albums.
Not only does the Cairngorms National Park have more high-level mountain ground than anywhere else in Britain or Ireland, it also contains the largest Caledonian forest, some of the UK’s purest rivers and is home to a quarter of the UK’s threatened species.
Little surprise that exploring this unique setting, and following the paths of Highland drover roads, known as Heilan Ways, resulted in a composition that has been lauded by music critics for its cinematic qualities.
Now, the Heilan Symphony is to be performed in front of audiences at its first major stage show at Aberdeen’s Music Hall on April 11.
Paul explained: ‘It has been performed only a few times in community halls in the Cairngorms region, so this will open it up to a far wider audience.
‘I’ve always thought that, with an orchestra of almost 50 musicians, it would lend itself to being performed on a big stage, and that’s the thought behind this concert at The Music Hall in Aberdeen.’
The accomplished musician, who is one of the finest exponents of Scots fiddle music and was a finalist in the Scots Trad Music Awards musician of the year, rose to a new challenge in composing the piece, his first experience of writing for a full symphony orchestra.
It was commissioned by Deveron Arts as part of a project which saw artists, poets, musicians and historians, celebrate the artistic merits and culture of Heilan Ways a few years ago.
Six months in the making, Paul set out of a journey of his own, exploring many ancient drover routes running through the spectacular landscape that sparked his creative energy.
Scottish droving was on a huge scale, fuelled by a growing demand for Scotch beef following the Act of Union in 1707. By 1770, Falkirk had become one of the biggest cattle markets in Britain and cattle from all over Scotland were walked along drove routes to be sold there.
The arrival of the railways in the 1840s was transformative and spelled the end of this tradition but many of the drove routes have survived.
Paul explained: ‘I read about and researched the drove roads and did about a week’s worth of walking which gave me a deeper understanding of the Heilan Ways.
‘Coming up with the music was a challenge, but it was well received, and it’s something that I would love the opportunity to do again.
‘It is a classical symphony that is very Scottish in style, and that features leads from all sections of the orchestra – woodwind, brass and strings.’
Piano accompanist, teacher and conductor Robin Versteeg described the experience of joining Paul for the Strathspey performances Heilan Symphony as ‘a joy’.
Robin continued: ‘The work juxtaposes folk and classical traditions in a direct and powerful way, incorporating original but authentically traditional-sounding tunes within a classical symphony orchestra canvas.
‘Paul Anderson is that rare thing, a fiddler of stylistic knowledge and facility, but one versed in both classical and folk techniques with a notably focused sound and an approach to performing entirely without artifice.’
The symphony will be performed by the Orchestra of the Cairngorms under the conductorship of Mr Versteeg at The Music Hall on April 11. Compere for the evening will be Scottish actor Iain Robertson, star of the movie Small Faces and television soap opera River City.
The evening will be supported by a group of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians, including Paul’s wife, the award-winning Scots singer Shona Donaldson.
The concert begins at 7.30pm and tickets are priced £22.50 and are available HERE.
For more information, visit Paul’s website at https://www.paulandersonscottishfiddler.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook at @paulandersonfiddler