Lochan III | Bay of Laig, Fergus Hall

Bay of Laig was written by Fergus Hall, and commissioned by the Jobson Family (Jackie, Jonny, Niamh, Finn and Betsy-mae) from the Isle of Eigg, one of the ‘Small Isles’ along with Rùm, Canna and Muck.

The piece is about the restorative nature of beaches and sea swimming and the sense of being grounded that one can feel when standing in the sea. Fergus says:

This piece began with a conversation with the Jobson family who live on the Isle of Eigg. We spoke about lots of things to do with living on Eigg like diving, the many caves around its coast, the constantly changing light and weather, and the community itself. Something that came up a few times was swimming in the sea. We spoke about this at length and about Laig beach where they often swim which sits in the Bay of Laig near their home.

Sea swimming is known to have significant health benefits and for many it brings a real sense of connection to one’s surroundings and can be an incredibly mindful experience. It is an important part of the Jobson’s lives on Eigg and is also something my mum and my granda have both very much enjoyed throughout their lives.

The piece is about sea swimming in that it is about the feeling one can have when standing in or near the sea. It is a very quiet piece. It is also very reflective having been written during a period that was, for many reasons, a very uncertain time. Though it is not a sad piece it is a piece that speaks quietly rather than calling out.

Nevis Ensemble’s Lochan Sketches are a series of 10 commissions for composers to write short solo works for specific members of the orchestra. Each composer is paired with individuals from across Scotland to take inspiration from the country’s coasts and waters.

Each work received its broadcast premiere on BBC Radio Scotland’s Classics Unwrapped programme. The series is part of Nevis contributions to the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Fergus Hall

Fergus Hall is a composer based in Glasgow. His debut recording Shores, a setting of poetry by Sorley McLean for folk singer, jazz ensemble and string orchestra is currently due for release towards the end of 2020 with support from the Sorley McLean Trust.

Fergus is one half of the improvising performance duo Long Green Jaws along with cellist and artist, Sarah McWhinney. Together they create immersive improvised performances using improvised projected visuals, the sounds and movements of water, live vocals and close interplay between violin and cello. Long Green Jaws have performed at a number of arts events in Scotland including Sound Thought Festival, RIG Arts, Anatomy Arts, Galoshans Festival and Manipulate Festival

YeYe Xu

YeYe is Nevis Ensemble’s principal violin, and joined the orchestra’s first project after working with Ricciotti Ensemble (Nevis’ sister group) in the Netherlands. Until recently she worked for the Royal Philharmonic Society, and is about to go return to study at the University of Oxford. Born in London to Chinese parents, but growing up in Edinburgh she attended St Mary’s Music School, before moving to London to study and work, and has performed with NYOS and NYOGB, and helped to establish a Sistema project in Alsace, France.

The Jobson Family on the Isle of Eigg

Jackie Jobson talks a bit about life on Eigg, and working on the Bay of Laig.

We are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on our small island and our home is near the shore. There is a burn called Allt a’ Bhlair Mhoir which runs by our cottage. Our access to water has helped immensely during the COVID-19 crisis, but it always does at any time of life. However, when we think about what others have gone through during lockdown, we appreciate it even more.  

We have a wide and varied taste as a family. We have a strong family allegiance to traditional music which we are lucky enough to be immersed in, in the Highlands. Additionally, we all have our own preferences for various kinds of music from classical and jazz to indie, soul, disco, hip-hop and pop. We are all big fans of electronic music and love to dance. 

Niamh plays fiddle, bass and piano, Finn plays drums and bass and Betsy-mae plays fiddle. We have listened to music as much as usual during lockdown, but we have taken advantage of live streams and concert videos which have been made available online in addition to online Fèis music lessons. 

Working with a composer has been an interesting and intriguing creative process and one which we have all enjoyed immensely. It was a pleasure to spend time with Fergus and YeYe, albeit via Zoom (a word that, thanks to COVID-19, needs no explanation!)