The sabbatical finishes!

Well, that was quite a journey! Nearly 9 months spent devising, composing, planning in preparation for recording and launching my first solo album. 9 months = 9 Pure Gifts!

I’ve travelled to the Isle of Eigg (Scotland), Paris, The Gambia and Aldeburgh (Suffolk) as well as spending precious time at home.

I set out with the hope of improving my kora technique and collating my compositional portfolio. I can’t thank the McGillivray family enough for helping me to carve out some free time to do this. ¬†Without the Get a Life Fund, I would not have been able to take such a long period of time out to develop myself artistically.

My kora training with Hammay Saho in January really helped me to evolve the way I approach arranging traditional West African music. I wasn’t just learning the basic support patterns but I was learning how to put different variations together in order to create a meaningful, whole piece of music. Three of these pieces will feature on the album, arranged for kora with string trio and voices. I’m really pleased with these and can’t wait to share them in the Autumn when the CD is out!

Spending time in Eigg was a great source of inspiration for the theme of the album. I’ve always felt that Eigg had a significance for me as a place of ‘pilgrimage” – a place to be at one with creation/nature. Whilst I was there, I discovered the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of prayers and incantations from the Western Isles and it was from one of these prayers that I derived the idea for composing songs about each of the 9 Pure Gifts.

I was really lucky that Britten Pears Foundation gave me the opportunity to stay in Imogen Holst’s House at the beginning of April for a week. This residency gave me chance to work on arrangements of 5 of the tracks for the album, including two piano based pieces. It was such a privilege sitting at the writing desk of such an interesting and inspiring woman, being able to look at her collection of books and music and play her piano.

I’ve submitted a funding application for the continuation of my music and dementia project, developing a creative toolkit around the So Many Beauties oratorio that will support amateur and student musicians in bringing music and creativity into dementia care settings.

I’m also pinning down recording dates for the album in August and will be applying for further funding to develop an immersive performance narrative around the music, working with a visual artist, projection mapping expert and theatre producer. When the 9 Pure Gifts goes on tour in Spring 2019 you can expect something really unusual and special in the presentation and locations! Marland’s never been run of the mill.

I’m now easing my way back into working and building up my programme of work over the next 3 years. It’s been an amazing time on sabbatical but I’m ready to get back into the areas of my work that I am so very passionate about – sharing music making in hospital and care settings and also sharing my own musical voice with people, wherever they may be.

I’m working on bringing my teacher Hammay Saho over to the UK in October for some special performances with the different groups I work with, including Manchester International Roots Orchestra. If you would like to support this venture, please email me at Maybe you know of a venue that could host Hammay and players from his Wuli Band , maybe you’d like a kora or balafon workshop or perhaps you would like to contribute towards making this visit the best ever!

In the mean time, here’s a special thank you to the McGillvray family from Hammay and me. It’s unedited so please scroll along to just after 1 minute unless you want to see Hammay giving himself a pedicure and me tuning!

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