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Resources for upper secondary pupils, exploring James MacMillan’s work Tryst

Watch, Listen and Learn

Meet the Composer

Rachel Leach interviews Sir James MacMillan about becoming a composer, and the influences behind Tryst.

Musical Concepts in Tryst

Rachel Leach explains how musical concepts are used in Tryst. Musical excerpts are performed by the SCO and conducted by Sir James MacMillan.

Sir James MacMillan and the Tryst

Watch a short interview with Sir James MacMillan in which he discusses the influences behind his music, and William Souter's poem The Tryst. Also have a listen to Jamie McDougall reciting the full poem.

Performances of Tryst

Have a listen to some full performances online of Tryst and the related piece After the Tryst for Violin and Piano.


Sir James MacMillan was inspired by the poetry of William Soutar. Here is an excerpt:

Supper Poem

Steepies for the barnie

Sae moolie in the mou

Parritch for a strappan lad

To mak his beard grow

Stovies for a muckle-man

To keep him stout and hale

A noggin for the auld carl

To gar him sleep weel

  1. Choose a line from this poem and say it out loud a few times
  2. Try to match how you say it using your instrument. Follow the inflection of the words by shifting up and down in pitch, perhaps using one note per syllable. Don’t think too much about notes, key or pulse. For example, see ‘stovies for the muc-kle man’ below.
  3. Join several of these lines together to make a disjunct melody. Try it out with some friends or colleagues so that you can play the whole melody together.

Download the full resource pack here

Kindly supported by

The Misses Barrie Charitable Trust, Aberdeen City Council Creative Funding, PF Charitable Trust, AMW Charitable Trust, Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust, JTH Charitable Trust, The Educational Institute of Scotland, Tay Charitable Trust and Aberdeen Endowments Trust.