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Pupils perform a new Song for Haddo

By David Porter

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Over 120 young performers from across Aberdeenshire took to the stage at Haddo House for the premier performance of A Song for Haddo - Witness of Time on Thursday.

It marked the beginning of a three year project with the young people of Aberdeenshire by McOpera Outreach which has been built on months of researching and composing based on the lives of those who lived in and around Haddo House.

Back in June, co-composers Moira Morrison and Peter Kemp visited the children of New Deer, Rayne North, Tipperty and Udny Green Primary Schools to start the process of creating songs and music, taking a line from Moira's original Song for Haddo which was written for the festival in 2017 as their starting point.

It read: "Around the house stands ancient trees, And on the wind hang melodies, Of days gone by when folk sang all the time."

What had the trees witnessed, pupils were asked, and the answers were surprisingly profound, that the trees would judge us in simple terms (as good or bad) and would only remember what we left behind.

The result was an evocative and personal song-cycle based on a series of episodes taken from different time periods and stories including the Lairds of Gight and the Hagberry Pot; the innovation of Lady Ishbel and the 7th Earl of Aberdeen.

Five songs in total were framed with orchestral music by Peter Kemp including life behind the scenes at the house as told in Mary Welfare's A Scottish Childhood.

Some 85 younger members of the chorus were joined by string players from Ellon, Inverurie, Meldrum and Westhill Academies along with four local tutors and five professionals from the Orchestra of Scottish Opera led by Katie Hull.

Head of performing arts at Meldrum, Linda Moggach said: "This was such a great opportunity for the young musicians to play alongside their peers from other schools and professional players."

Lady Aberdeen said: "I can think of no better way to celebrate Haddo, the contribution made by our forebears, what it means to so many groups of people both locally and further afield, its living legacy of encouraging the young and providing opportunities to discover arts and participate in creating great music and song."

The Song for Haddo project will continue for the next two to three years and aims to work with as many schools as possible from within the local environs.

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