Fourteen music students from Stevenson College Edinburgh together with two staff members, Laurie Crump and Ken Thomson, spent two weeks in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania in March, where they produced an extraordinary piece of music theatre for a performance at the Birstonas Jazz Festival, one of the most important events in Eastern Europe's jazz calendar.
The musical director was Vladimir Chekasin, a legendary figure in European jazz. With the College‘s sixteen musicians, thirty or so players, singers and dancers from Vilnius College, and the phenomenal electric violin virtuoso Tadas Dešukas, Mr Chekasin created an absolutely unique fusion of Scottish folk songs, ethnic Lithuanian music, jazz and free improvisation, abstract and Highland dance, and narration.
Many of the Stevenson students took solo roles in some of Chekasin's brilliant musical arrangements of Burns' songs: 'Charlie is my Darling' was transformed into a dreamy jazz ballad; 'John Anderson my jo' became a vehicle for increasingly wild scat singing; 'Ca' the Yowes' was reworked in lazy lounge style. The programme also included arrangements by Laurie, Ken and their colleague Tommy Fowler, and original compositions by Chekasin.
The final performance, previewed twice in Vilnius College, was a triumphant success, deemed one of Chekasin‘s ‘greatest creations‘ by Lithuania‘s national newspaper.
The students from Stevenson College Edinburgh also performed contemporary and traditional Scottish music in two independent concerts: one at Vilnius College and another in one of the capital‘s most prestigious jazz clubs. The group‘s exuberant blend of fiddles, whistles, pipes, acoustic guitar and keyboard with horns and a rock rhythm section proved very popular. Our singers, who contributed original material as well as brand new arrangements of Burns songs, also received many plaudits.
Ken Thomson, Stevenson‘s Head of Music and Drama, said: “In addition to public performances, our students took part in and observed several college classes, of which the singing lessons were particularly inspiring. Many Scottish-Lithuanian friendships were formed, and we take away memories which will last a lifetime.“
Notes to Editors
- For the first time in September 2010, Stevenson College Edinburgh is planning to introduce a new BA (Hons) degree in Music Performance (subject to approval by Abertay University, Dundee) with a duration of one year for ordinary degree and two years for the honours degree.
- The College is also planning to introduce a Degree Foundation course in Traditional Music Performance. This Traditional Music course is ideal for aspiring musicians who want to become Traditional Music performers. The course examines folk music through performance, composition and academic studies as a preparation for University progression.
Contact: Ann Robb