Lochan VIII | Steall Falls, Glen Nevis

Steall Falls, Glen Nevis was composed by Suzanne Parry, performed by Joanna Stark, and commissioned by poet Catherine L Ryan.

This piece is a response to the poem Steall Falls, Glen Nevis  by Catherine Ryan. Written at a time of mourning, her words describe a real moment in time when the falls flow by her, and through their metaphor she explores her loss. The water journeys onwards – as it has done for all time. With all its memories and secrets encased within, she lets it go. The music is simple; a familiar language of modes and fifths that feels old and honest. It lilts and bends but tends gradually downwards through the a plain 3 note motif and the development of a ‘song’ from the water. The cellist vocalises as she plays, embedded in a gentle soundscape built of river, birds and meditative singing bowls. 

Steall Falls, Glen Nevis
Where water falls,
earth embraces,
through magic places;
thin guardian
of thoughts
secret and sacred.
Element of the deadly,
equally, sublime:
evanescent as time.

What tears pooled
into this well,
now shedding?
through cooled igneous rock
slow bleeding,
in and out of stone
its story yet to tell –
like water in the glen
at Steall, ever falling.

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.

Suzanne Parry

Suzanne Parry’s practice is research-led, composing in a way which allows her to explore history, folk culture, literature and environmental stimuli. Her interests now expanded beyond the concert platform, exploring the intersections where music adjoins other artforms. Suzanne has enjoyed creative partnerships with a broad intersection of the Scottish arts scene, and clients include Hebrides Ensemble, Artisan Trio, Dunblane Cathedral, The Stove, Art Walks Porty, Voces Inauditae, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and NYCOS. She enjoys partnering with organisations who enrich the wider cultural landscape of Scotland and aims to challenge preconceptions, blur boundaries and widen participation. She lives in the conservation village of Torphichen with her two young children and husband, artist Ewan John, with whom she frequently collaborates. 

Joanna Stark

Joanna Stark is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist with an eclectic performing background in cello, violin, piano and voice.  Her broad musical interests have led her to performance engagements across the UK, including the BBC Proms and with her folk duo, Shamblestone, at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards Semi-Finals. More recently, Joanna has enjoyed performing with her newly established Piano Trio (‘The Forth Trio’), recording for experimental folk collective ‘Mother Julian’, as well as directing music projects at the Eric Liddell Centre’s Dementia Day Care Service.

Cate L. Ryan

I am a painter, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, and new writer of poems and short stories. I’m presently based in the Scottish Borders. Wild walks in the hills and along the east coast with Basil, the Cretan dog, are a constant inspiration! I love the magic and muted colours of the Highlands especially, discovered with late husband and soul-mate, Rin Ryan. Ancient waters in never-ending cycle – falls, lochs, rivers and seas – these evoke for me a sort of timeless journey, imaginings and memories of people and places gone before, the lost and found; transient and enduring.

I am never far from rivers or falls, and also love to get away to the coast. I believe waters have healing powers. The River Teviot, where I was married is my favourite place associated with water. Also, Ettrick River and the Aegean Sea, Crete. It has been a new adventure working with a composer. Fascinating and a privilege to be part of a new piece, and to hear how that will develop!