Marking the Armistice centenary

To mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice, communities across Scotland recorded their local church bells to contribute to the composition of a new work by SCO Associate Composer Martin Suckling, Meditation (after Donne).

Composer Martin Suckling describes the composition process and legacy of his new work.

From where have you received your recordings?

Around 100 recordings have been received, with contributions from as far north as Orkney down to the south west coast of Galloway. Together with their recordings, people have been kind enough to provide little bits of local history, like the Lanark bell being the oldest cast bell in Europe, or the sometimes circuitous journeys that bells have taken to reach their current towers, as well as lovely details about the recordings made, such as one of a ring by an 11-year-old Sunday School attendee, and a quarter peal in memory of a recently deceased bellringer. 

How can bell recordings be used in a new composition?

I've used the bells in different ways throughout the piece. The opening features them all ringing near-simultaneously, but for the most part they're used much more sparsely, gently tolling and outlining the harmony.  The bells have quite distinct personalities and ambiences that come with them and I wanted to make sure there is space to take all of this in.  They create a kind of landscape for the orchestra to sing within.

How will your new composition live on?

I have been approached by other groups for arrangements for this piece including Helensburgh Orchestral Society and Lanark Music Society. It was always the plan that this piece should be approachable by a wide range of groups.

I'm also really excited about a series of workshops with the SCO and young people (in St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh), where we'll be using their own material alongside the bells recordings to create their own compositions. It's not every day you get the opportunity to be part of something like this, and I hope the experience will live long in the participants’ memories.

Explore our CLASSROOM RESOURCE PACK for Meditation (after Donne) by SCO Associate Composer Martin Suckling. 

Proudly sponsored and match funded by

Insider / CBFS––––––
Martin Suckling’s new work is kindly supported
by Cruden Foundation and RVW Trust

RVW Trust