For viola and piano
The starting point for this piece was a poem from ‘Carmina Gadelica’ – Gaelic songs and prayers collected by Alexander Carmichael in the 19th Century. The poem is called ‘Lullaby of the Snow’ and is supposed to have been sung by a young mother to her child, fleeing the massacre at Glencoe.
The story is that an officer heard the sound of a child crying, and a young soldier was despatched to kill it:
‘The soldier came upon the mother lulling her child to sleep the sleep of death amid the snow. And it chanced that the gentle croon of music that the child’s mother was singing in the snow was the very same music as he had last heard when he left his kin and his home many a day and a year before that. The soldier wrapped the woman and her child in his plaid, gave them what food and drink he had, and left them, to overtake his comrades. On the way he slew a wolf and showed the officer the blood upon his sword. By the mercy of God and through the soldier’s compassion mother and child survived. Descendants of the child are still living, and the tradition is current and believed throughout the districts of Appin and Lochaber.’
Under the Wing of the Rock is a line from the lullaby – and refers not only to the crag which hides the mother and child, but also to the wings of angels and of the ‘Rock’, the ‘Son of Tears’ Himself.
The piece is inspired by Celtic song and psalm, beginning and ending with an extended, quasi-extemporary slow section for the solo viola. The central section, marked Allegro, is a restless counterpoint, drawing on rhythms and chants from Celtic working songs.
Under the Wing of the Rock was commissioned by the Scottish Ensemble, with the generous support of
Scottish Arts Council