St.Kilda und The Island Tapes

Die schottische Folksängerin und Schauspielerin Alyth McCormack, geboren und aufgewachsen auf der Insel Lewis, berichtet von der Entstehung und Realisierung des multimedialen Projektes "The Island Tapes". The Island Tapes beschäftigt sich mit der Evakuierung des einzigartigen Inselarchipels St.Kilda, die 1930 stattfand, sowie in historischen Filmdokumenten mit dem Leben auf den abgelegen Inseln Schottlands:

"I was approached to become involved in the project The Island Tapes back in 2004. David Allison, who is a musician and journalist, enjoys working with film. He has a great interest in archive film, and was already touring a show where he played accompanying music to a silent film called St Kilda - Britain's Loneliest Isle. This film recorded back in 1929 is a glimpse of the end of an era. St Kilda, which lies 40 miles west of the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides where I am from, was eventually evacuated in 1930 as it had become impossible to sustain a living there. The population of 300 had through time dwindled to 35 and Islanders could at times, because of the weather, be cut off from the rest of the world for up to 9 months of the year. Only the very hardy could survive.  Many of the Islanders did not wish to leave, others saw it as a new beginning but it poses interesting questions 'Where do you go?' 'Why do some wish to leave a place and not others?' 'What is home?' It is a very powerful film, filmed almost by accident really; a holiday film made by visitors, but it shows the innocence of the St Kildans and is a lasting insight into their lives.

To expand on that project David asked fellow guitarists Allan Neave (classical guitar) and Ian Melrose (acoustic guitar, dobro and low whistles) and myself to come on board. I was very excited at the idea as I knew I was going to get to explore a little of my own history, see it for myself. Our remit was to go into the Scottish Screen Film Archives and choose a short film that we felt we could write an accompanying piece for, something we felt we could respond to. Allan commissioned a piece for his film 'Handba at Kirkwall' by composer Andrew Robinson (Moments in awe) and also incorporated a piece by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (Farewell to Stromness). This film traces a day's fun in Kirkwall on the Island of Orkney where the whole town turns out to play 'Handba'. It's very physical game lasting sometimes hours and the music is very fitting. Allan's classical style of playing suits it perfectly.

Ian wrote several pieces for 'Crofting in Skye'. It’s quite a jovial film. It was recorded in 1939 and entered into a film competition at the time so a bit of license has been taken with the drama and Ian’s music reflects this storyline. I enjoyed spending several hours in the film archives and watched many films. The films I loved where of the trawlers back in the 1940's sailing out of Buckie on the search for catch. This kind of footage is easy to see nowadays but back then cameras were not so advanced and importantly the boats were not so well equipped and unless you were a fisherman you would have no idea what these men had to deal with. There were many, many fishermen in Lewis, it is still a part life for Islanders, so I could relate it to what they would have had to deal with.

There were several films from Lewis also all very entertaining and it took me sometime to decide on what to settle on. My choice was also guided by taking into account the variety of the full programme and also as we didn't wish to edit any of the films - what you see is the films in their original form. The film I chose was 'Holidaying in Harris' a much different film to that of St Kilda. It's quite simple but what attracted me to it is the people - I know these people. Not literally, as most will have passed on, but I know their faces and their clothes, their manner, their chores and the landscape. I chose to accompany it with a song from Harris called 'Eilean Scalpaigh na Hearradh' which is a very well known song by Iain Moireasdan about the Island of Scalpay, just off Tarbert.

We all collaborated on each others pieces and some new pieces were composed too. There are 7 films in all and the blend of the different instruments works well rangining from David's sampling and looped guitar and Ian and Allan’s finger picking and classical styles respectively. I spent many of our first gigs watching and watching the films as we played as opposed to singing directly to the audiences as audiences are watching the films and the films are just so charming - little moments in history, my history but also everyone's history - simple films about people going about their daily work. Over the years we humans, at the core of it all, haven't really changed that much.

The show therefore resonates with many people (we've performed it throughout Scotland, England, Germany, Ukraine and America) as we all work, we all love, we all wish to have fun and we all at some point leave home. This in particular lead to us working with another film called 'A New Way to a New World' which follows the journey of a passenger ship from Glasgow to New York and on to Boston. We were privileged enough to perform this on Elllis Island, New York but that is another story altogether. Footage of that performance and interviews from Ellis Island are included on the DVD as are interviews with one last remaining St Kildan Norman Gilles - he's quite a character…as any St Kildan would have had to be.

Alyth McCormack

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Autor:  Alyth McCormack
Datum: 16.Juli 2012