Composed by Lewis-born musician Iain Morrison, whose great-grandfather was among those drowned, and presented with pioneering Scottish artists Dalziel + Scullion, Sàl (Saltwater) has its roots in ceòl mòr (the classical music of the pipes).
'Seaman John Morrison was one of the 205 drowned that night. He was 44 years old and left a young family of 8 children. The youngest was a one year old son who was my Grandfather John Morrison, whom I am actually named after. John is the official name on my birth certificate, although I get called the Gaelic version ‘Iain’. The Iolaire story has lived with me since I can remember.' - Iain Morrison
It is therefore in his musical and biological DNA and there is a sense of duty, obligation and responsibility to ensure that he does justice to it. Being representative of the community he is a conduit to the story, an instrument and a voice.
The link between past and present will be a thread throughout, from the perspective of one man’s journey. To ground these aspects of the piece, Iain will draw on his own family experience. His father Iain Murdo Morrison will initially compose a ceòl mòr and this will ‘seed’ themes for the full composition.
This piece will experience the journey of war and its aftermath, for those leaving and those at home. The tragic journey of the Iolaire, the boundless grief and the scale of loss within such a small island community. It was a further burden imposed on the population in the aftermath of the Great War and brought intense grief, silence, confusion, restlessness and questioning. And yet there was hope, the drive to carry on! 'I am here, the great-grandson of John Morrison.'
In the visual aspects of the performance Iain will work closely with Dalziel + Scullion, drawing heavily on an environmental perspective. Dalziel + Scullion are among the most innovative and acclaimed contemporary artists working in Scotland today. Their work is ecologically driven, connecting with the sense of a place, its authentic features and unique character. Integral to the narrative, all the visual, musical and dramatic aspects will be in conversation during the development and the performance.
Sàl is to be a suite of music, poetry and songs performed by a full band (Pete Harvey, Lori Watson, Chris Stout, Joe Smillie & Gordon MacLean).
Co-commissioned by 1418 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and An Lanntair.