University project commissions music inspired by Northumberland landscape

Newcastle University’s Northumbrian Exchanges project has commissioned a folk musician to compose a piece celebrating the Northumberland landscape

Folk musician Shona Mooney
Folk musician Shona Mooney

Music inspired by the landscapes and traditions of Northumberland will be aired for the first time at the end of this month.

Folk musician Shona Mooney has been commissioned by Newcastle University’s Northumbrian Exchanges project to compose a piece of music to celebrate the landscape of Northumberland National Park and the Borders.

If funding for The Sill discovery centre near Hadrian’s Wall is successful, the aim is that it will connect visitors with the culture and history of Northumberland National Park.

Park officials believe that Shona’s composition, entitled Sensing the Park, will reflect this theme.

As part of the development phase of the project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Shona and her band The Mosse Troopers are launching a programme of cultural events, kicking off with the first performances of the composition at 7.30pm on January 31 at King’s Hall, Newcastle University.

Subsequent performances are set to take place at venues around the National Park, including the new earth-sheltered village hall at Bardon Mill on February 14, Lanehead (venue to be confirmed) on February 28 and Alwinton Church in March (date to be confirmed). Tickets cost £3 on the door at all venues.

The Mosse Troopers are made up of Paul Knox who plays the Northumbrian pipes and fiddle, clog dancer and accordion player Amy Thatcher, guitar and mandolin player Andy Watt and David de la Haye with electronics and bass guitar.

While writing the piece of music, Shona visited different areas of the National Park, all of which have helped her to gather the inspiration for her atmospheric piece.

Newcastle University graduate Shona said: “Our rich landscapes have inspired so many musicians. As I developed this piece of music, I spent a great deal of time in Northumberland National Park, getting a feel for the landscape. It is wonderful to see how culture and folk music can have a real connection with the natural world.

“I grew up in the Borders and music to me has always helped evoke a real sense of place. It can help you return to ancient traditions and rituals of the past, whilst looking forward to the future – something I feel really represents what The Sill project is all about – the timelessness of the landscape.”

Stuart Evans from Northumberland National Park Authority is The Sill project director.

He said: “Northumberland National Park and YHA’s vision to create a new national Landscape Discovery Centre is a concept that is already inspiring many people. In working with Shona to create something tangible with which to showcase the innovative new Sill development, we are very excited.

“Music has a way of really connecting with people, I’m looking forward to seeing how Shona has interpreted the piece and having something which will become an intrinsic part of The Sill project. “

Agustín Fernández, head of music at Newcastle University, said: “As we approach the end of our one-year-long Northumbrian Exchanges project, we are proud to collaborate with Northumberland National Park on this commission which celebrates the power and beauty of the area’s landscape and the strength of its traditions.”

Northumbrian Exchanges, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims to strengthen networks of rural music-making in Northumberland, and to promote work opportunities for music graduates.

Mr Fernandez said: “We also seek to repay a debt to the communities that have produced music of unsurpassed beauty, by bringing in new work that engages with the tradition.”

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