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New musical experiment The Secret North to tour Scotland

The Secret North

The Secret North is a new musical collaboration that brings together six world-class musicians from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Scandinavia in a cross-cultural celebration of new music that bridges the divide between folk, classical, traditional and avant-garde in six new compositions.

The Secret North was the brainchild of Ailie Robertson (Harp) and Donald Grant (Fiddle) who have been friends since they were teenagers. Both have played folk music all their lives, but are also heavily involved with the UK classical scene - Donald plays with The Elias Quartet, one Britain’s leading ensembles, and Ailie is gaining a reputation as one of Scotland’s brightest young composers, picking up the prize for ‘Achievement for New Music’ in the inaugural New Music Scotland Awards earlier this year. They have worked together on several occasions, including Ailie's recent collaboration with The Elias Quartet on her single, ‘Haven’ which reached number 2 in the iTunes Classical Charts last year. 

Joining Ailie and Donald in the ensemble are Sondre Meisfjord (Double Bass), Karen Tweed (Accordion), Jarlath Henderson (Whistle, Pipes) and Marit Fält (Mandola). The group will come together to premiere their six new compositions in a series of concerts of enthralling new music, grounded in tradition but shot through with contemporary influences, across Scotland in June.

Ahead of the tour we caught up with Donald Grant to find out more about the project and what audiences can expect at The Secret North’s performances.

How did the project come together?

"We first met in 2014 when Ailie had met musicians she wanted to work with and thought shared a similar vision and curiosity.  This first project was so exciting that we wanted to repeat and explore the idea again. We've had terrific support from Creative Scotland, the PRSF and Culture Ireland."  

How did you select the musicians who are involved?

We put together a dream list of musicians and waited to see who wanted to give it a go! We're totally thrilled with the team! I have admired all these musicians over the years and am incredibly excited to be working and performing with them. You can never tell exactly how the dynamic will go... it'll be exciting to see how it unfolds. 

Why was it so important to involve musicians from different cultures?

"Music is meant to be shared and I love to keep learning and evolving. I am fascinated by many folk traditions and this is an opportunity to look through a new window for a period of time. People say that music is a language spoken without boundaries and its true. By crossing these boundaries we hope to create something totally new."

The Secret North has been described as a ‘musical experiment’, what makes it so?

“Taking musicians from different backgrounds and countries, putting them in a house for a week to create new music and then on the road for 8 gigs is not just a musical experiment, it’s a social one! 

“We have no idea what will come out, just that we have fantastic ingredients and the chances of making something truly spectacular. 

“I also come from a background of Classical music, as does Ailie, so we are also looking to extend the music in this direction... Rather than songs or sets of tunes we are hope to create larger scale pieces. We shall see!” 

What can audiences expect at your upcoming Scotland tour dates?

“Fireworks! The calibre of musicianship is kinda crazy. It's going to be fresh, new and packed with integrity.”

Tour Dates

June 18 - Edinburgh, Soundhouse at The Traverse

June 19 - Glasgow, Folklub at The Admiral Bar

June 20 - Isle of Mull, An Tobar

June 21 - Isle of Skye, SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

June 22 - Lyth, Lyth Arts Centre

June 23 - Lochinver Village Hall

June 24 - Ardross Community Hall

June 25 - Inverness, Eden Court Theatre


The Secret North received support from Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, Culture Ireland and the PRS Foundation.

Find out more and book tickets at https://www.thesecretnorth.com/

This article was published on 07 Jun 2017