Downs and Scotland are Ned’s inspirations

Ned Bigham credit Clive Barda
Ned Bigham credit Clive Barda

Ned Bigham, otherwise known as Lord Mersey, draws on his love of Scotland for his new CD of classical works.

But, living at Bignor, he is sure the influence of the South Downs also comes through strongly.

“We had childhood holidays in Scotland, and there is a great magic in the scenery there, but looking at the album overall, I do get a lot of inspiration from the South Downs. I live just beneath them, and with some of the other pieces on the album, I look back and think what the inspiration was, and I am sure it was gazing up at the chalky hills above us. Landscape is definitely a big inspiration for me. I would love my music to have panoramic qualities where possible, and that’s why I love working with an orchestra and with the palette that an orchestra has – to create those panoramas.”

The new album is Staffa. Building on the success of his first album of orchestral works Culebra, which reached number 11 in the specialist classical charts in 2014, Staffa looks set to solidify Ned’s reputation as an artist whose tuneful music is accessible to a wide audience whilst having real compositional depth.

The title piece, for orchestra and three large screens, was created in collaboration with BAFTA and Grierson award-winning visual artist Gerry Fox. Scored for full symphony orchestra, celeste and two harps, Staffa evokes the fleeting moods of the Inner Hebridean island’s elemental location.

Gerry’s visuals pay homage to Mendelssohn’s famous 1829 visit to its haunting Fingal’s Cave by exploring the unique hexagonal, basalt column formations of the interior and its surroundings.

Whilst inspired by Mendelssohn’s journey, Ned’s music is new and ground-breaking, he would like to think.

“The idea began back in 2014 with Gerry, the visual artist, and me when we sat down and talked about collaborating on a new project together. We had collaborated on a couple of projects together, working with multi-screen surround-sound. Gerry is very easy-going, very open to new ideas and also full of his own ideas. Gerry suggested that we look at Mendelssohn’s journey to Scotland and in particular his journey to the Isle of Staffa. Fingal’s Cave is part of Staffa. It is remarkable. You really feel like you are entering a cathedral or a great gothic structure as you travel up inside the cave.

“Gerry’s idea was to get drones travelling around, able to go where humans can’t get, and he got some amazing images. At the same time, I decided to write some new music inspired by Mendelssohn, but not a pastiche of Mendelssohn. And the more I listened to Mendelssohn, the trickier it got. Mendelssohn has got such strong melodies and such strong movements. The more you listen, the more it gets under your skin. I decided not to listen to Mendelssohn for a good few months before writing Staffa! With the Mendelssohn, you get a sense of the swirling waves and the white horses crashing against the cliffs. I wanted to get a similar sense of drama into my piece.”

The album is released on Aruna Records on September 8.

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