An opera in an ice cream van, an international online choir and a site-specific birdsong project on a remote Scottish island are among the musical highlights of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, announced earlier this week. The eclectic and wide-ranging project, with a budget of £4m, will bring arts events to the whole of Scotland, running up to and alongside the city’s 2014 hosting of the Commonwealth Games in two strands ‒ Culture 2014 and Festival 2014 ‒ from summer 2013 through to beyond the Games’ closing ceremony.
Although there is no overarching theme to the Cultural Programme’s events, which has led to some accusations of incoherence, the voice is central to many of its musical strands. The programme’s headline music project, Big Big Sing, begins in autumn 2013, and will establish seven community choirs across Scotland, providing them with a songbook of newly-commissioned music and linking them up with an online choir combining singers from across the Commonwealth. As part of Big Big Sing, Hands Up for Trad will coordinate a network of community folksong performances across Scotland to accompany the Games’ baton relay.
Video from the launch on 26 July
Scottish Opera is to stage a new oratorio on the theme of friendship by composer Pippa Murphy, with a libretto by novelist Alexander McCall Smith, involving singers from six Commonwealth nations ‒ Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa and Botswana ‒ alongside Scottish musicians. And Air faibh leis na h-eòin (Away with the Birds), a birdsong-inspired work for female choir by Glasgow-based composer Hanna Tuulikki, is to be performed on the island of Canna, where Tuulikki carried out much of her field research.
New music also plays an important role in the Cultural Programme. The first ever New Music Biennial, involving commissions from 20 composers across a wide range of musical genres, takes place in Glasgow in August 2014, following performances at London’s Southbank Centre the previous July. The Scokendia Ensemble will bring together 24 young musicians from Scotland, Kenya and India to perform newly commissioned music from composers based in all three countries. And composer Oliver Searle collaborates with writers and theatre makers on The Pokey Hat, a touring performance based on stories from Glasgow’s east end set in an ice cream van ‒ with audience members promised an ice cream at each performance.
Chair of the Games’ ceremonies, culture and Queen’s baton relay committee Eileen Gallagher commented: ‘Our best artists and performers are about to showcase the very finest of Scottish and Commonwealth culture to the world.’ Creative Scotland’s recently appointed chief executive Janet Archer said: ‘Culture 2014 and Festival 2014 are going to be incredible. Work will be cutting-edge, insightful, fun, spectacular and intimate. It will challenge and delight.’