23 January 2014

Acclaimed folk musician announces cultural performance series

Northumberland's planned new Landscape Discovery Centre will connect people to the magical landscape of Northumberland National Park and now a series of cultural performances set to inspire just that, have been announced by folk musician Shona Mooney.

Shona is an acclaimed Borders fiddle player and one time BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year, who has been commissioned by Newcastle University's Northumbrian Exchanges to compose a piece of music inspired by the landscape and traditions of Northumberland and the Borders. The commission is intended to celebrate the landscape of the Northumberland National Park area, and the dissemination of the resulting piece of music has been adopted as a shared objective by Northumberland National Park Authority and Newcastle University.                                     

If funding for The Sill is successfully achieved, it will become a gateway to Northumberland National Park, offering an inspirational experience for everyone who visits the breath-taking Northumbrian countryside. The project aims to connect the rich culture and history of all corners of Northumberland National Park, and Shona's composition, entitled 'Sensing the Park', will reflect this theme. As part of the development phase of the project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Shona and her band The Mosse Troopers have launched this programme of cultural events, kicking off with the first performances of the composition from 7.30pm on Friday 31 January at King's Hall, Newcastle University.

Subsequent performances are set to take place at venues around the National Park, including the UK's only earth-sheltered village hall, Bardon Mill Village Hall on 14 February, Alwinton Church on 28 February and Bellingham Town Hall on 14 March. Tickets cost £3 on the door across all venues.

As someone who has been moved by the rural landscape, wildlife and dramatic features of the countryside all of her life, Shona's work will capture all of these elements and showcase the intrinsic role that the environment plays within the North East's cultural heritage. Shona will be joined for the performances by The Mosse Troopers, made up of Paul Knox who plays the Northumbrian pipes and fiddle, clog dancer and accordion player Amy Thatcher, guitar and mandolin player Andy Watt and David de la Haye who will bring another dimension to the piece with electronics and bass guitar.

Whilst writing the piece of music, Shona has spent time visiting different areas of the National Park, from the haunting Moss Peteral along the Hadrian's Wall corridor and scenic Coquetdale, to evocative Thirlwall Castle and its legends of the past, all of which have helped her to gather the inspiration for her atmospheric piece.

Speaking about her involvement in The Sill project, Newcastle University graduate Shona said: "Our rich landscapes have inspired so many musicians. As I developed this piece of music, I spent a great deal of time in Northumberland National Park, getting a feel for the landscape – it is wonderful to see how culture and folk music can have a real connection with the natural world.

"I grew up in the Borders between England and Scotland and music to me has always helped evoke a real sense of place. It can help you return to ancient traditions and rituals of the past, whilst looking forward to the future – something I feel really represents what The Sill project is all about – the timelessness of the landscape. I'm currently in the process of working with my band, the Mosse Troopers, to rehearse and refine the piece – we're all very excited about performing the piece for the first time to an audience on 31 January."

Stuart Evans from Northumberland National Park Authority is The Sill Project Director. He said: "Northumberland National Park and YHA's vision to create a new national Landscape Discovery Centre is a concept that is already inspiring many people. In working with Shona to create something tangible with which to showcase the innovative new Sill development, we are very excited. Music has a way of really connecting with people, I'm looking forward to seeing how Shona has interpreted the piece and having something which will become an intrinsic part of The Sill project. We hope to welcome many people to share the experience at the upcoming events."

The first performance of 'Sensing the Park' by Shona Mooney and The Mosse Troopers will take place on January 31st2014 at King's Hall, Newcastle University, from 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £3 and are available on the door. Visitwww.thesill.org.uk or www.shonamooneymusic.com for more information.

Agustín Fernández, head of music at Newcastle University, says: "As we approach the end of our one-year-long Northumbrian Exchanges project, we are proud to collaborate with Northumberland National Park on this commission which celebrates the power and beauty of the area's landscape and the strength of its traditions. Northumbrian Exchanges, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims to strengthen networks of rural music-making in Northumberland, and to promote work opportunities for our music graduates in the area. We also seek to repay a debt to the communities that have produced music of unsurpassed beauty, by bringing in new work that engages with the tradition and promoting its performance locally. It is very fitting that Shona should be working with some of our most prominent graduates to produce and perform a work that engages with the legacy of local musician Archie Dagg (1899-1990)."

Anyone interested in supporting The Sill can do so by volunteering, attending one of the project's consultation events, making a donation towards the £3.7million target or contributing toward the development of The Sill's activity programme. For more information about The Sill, find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject.

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