Summer School 2017

Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 July in Orkney. Landscape & History > Sound and Music.

Through music...

With wind, string, orchestral, vocal ensembles and workshops in composition, contemporary piano, music theatre and on-location sound recording projects. Plus a programme of concerts and première performances in Stromness, Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral and the Orkney landscape.

... and exploration

In Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and the 900th Anniversary of the Death of  St Magnus.

With guided tours and time to travel by land and sea through Orkney’s archipelago of wild landscapes, nature reserves and world heritage archaeological and historical sites.


Music making

The Summer School offers instrumental and vocal ensembles together with a range of workshops, talks and walks, concerts and opportunities to experience, respond to and interact with the landscapes of Orkney, including:

  • Interpreting and performing four Summer School commissions, Open Score works by composers Samantha Fernando, Drew Hammond, Vasiliki Legako and Bill Sweeney for contemporary music ensembles
  • Joining with local musicians – in a Choral Ensemble directed by James Weeks and a Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Conway – to rehearse and perform works inspired by Orkney and the Scottish islands
  • For the string orchestra, focussing on game-changers – composers who have contributed to the transformation of western music and the string repertoire , from CPE Bach and Beethoven to Webern and Arvo Pärt
  • Also the chance to premiere Bee Haven, a new work written by James Weeks specially for the Summer School strings
  • Chris Watson ( introducing his work and location-based artistic practice in Acoustic Landscapes, with recorded examples, including works related to Orkney
  • Exploring the sounds of the unique no man’s land between the tides of Orkney’s island shores in Turn of the Tide
  • Using hydrophones Below Sea Level, revealing something of the songs and signals which occur under the surface of the largest and most sound rich environment on the planet
  • Developing ideas artistically and technically through critical analysis of field recordings in post-production sessions
  • Imagining the world of Stone Age Sounds and interpreting these within the Orkney landscape itself with James Weeks and Chris Watson
  • Using the practice of Deep Listening in midweek walks with ornithologist Laurence Rose to respond creatively to the Orkney landscape in words, images and music
  • Joining Lore Lixenberg’s Refugee Chorus in a choral and film driven project based on Brecht poems set by the Danish composers Niels Ronsholdt, works interspersed with Arabic, Sephardic and Croation songs – and plans for public performance on an island ferry crossing
  • Making and interpreting graphic scores from maps and charts of Orkney and its surrounding seas in Mapping Voices
  • Spells and Charms offering vocal works derived from Orcadian and other languages and with works by Peter Maxwell Davies
  • One to one tutorials and composition options with Alasdair Nicolson, inviting string trios based on Orkney’s Ancient sites, flexibly (Open) scored works on the theme of Pilgrimage and its relationship to the martyrdom of St Magnus, and a composer’s ensemble creating a new work based on the Hymn to St Magnus
  • Mindfulness and music-making as a means of addressing issues relating to creativity, nervousness, physical embodiment, music – function and place
  • Piano Masterclasses with Rolf Hind and the opportunity to compose piano works that reflect Orkney’s natural world
  • Attending concerts in Stromness, Orkney Theatre and St Magnus Cathedral, including programmes by Summer School resident string trio Sara Woltstenholme, Ruth Gibson and Robin Michael and pianist Rolf Hind
  • Taking part of the final concert in St Magnus Cathedral with contributions by all Summer School participants



William Conwayorchestras
Max Bailleviolin, strings, composers' trio
Hollie Hardingensemble
Rolf Hindpiano, composition, mindfulness
Ruth Gibsonviola, strings, composers' trio
Loré Lixenbergvoices, music theatre
Sarah McWhinneyimprovisation
Robin Michaelcello, strings, composer's trio
Alasdair Nicolsoncomposition
Janet Oatesvoices
Chris Watsonsoundscapes
James Weeksvoices, strings, composition


A varied series of concerts, open to the public:

  • Sat 22 – Acoustic Soundscapes: soundtracks and talk by Chris Watson. Orkney Theatre 7.30pm
  • Tue 25 – Tributes to Max: Rolf Hind (piano) and string trio including Peter Maxwell Davies Dove Star Folded. Stromness Town Hall 8pm.
  • Thu 27 – Refugee Chorus:  Lore Lixenberg directs Niels Ronsholdt’s Exile, settings of Brecht poems. Details later.
  • Thu 27 – Chamber Concert:  Rolf Hind and string trio featuring Alasdair Nicolson’s piano trio. Orkney Theatre 2.30pm.
  • Thu 27 – Goldberg Variations: Max Baillie, Ruth Gibson, Robin Michael. St Magnus Cathedral 10pm.
  • Fri 28 – Summer School Showcase: Orkney Theatre at 1.00pm. Free
  • Fri28 – Stone Sounds: Directed by James Weeks. Brough of Birdsay 10.30pm. Free.
  • Sat 29 – Orkney: Sound and Music: Final concert. St Magnus Cathedral at 7.30pm


There are a range of options available.

  • Papdale Halls of Residence is only a short walk past the playing fields to where we hold most of our music activities. This lovely modern building which has lifts to all floors, communal spaces and a library. Towels and bedding are provided in single and twin en suite rooms, all with walk-in showers.  Several booking options are on offer from £288 for the week, ranging from room only to half board. However, this option is almost fully booked. One place is currently available. If you are interested in this option, please email before sending your booking form.
  • Otherwise there are plenty of local hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts at a range of prices, which you can organise yourselves. There is a campsite in Kirkwall and another cost effective option would be for a group of people to hire a holiday cottage outside Kirkwall and also hire a car, which gives you additional opportunities to explore the islands. See the Visit Orkney web site for details.

We recommend getting to Orkney on the Friday if at all possible, or as early as possible on the Saturday.


Course fee – £560


Bookings are now open using the ‘advance’ application form below. Completing this will give you priority when it comes to choosing your options, a distinct advantage given the unprecedented interest shown in this course.

The deposit is returnable at this stage and will only become binding once details of all the options have been published in full and you have had a chance to make your choices.

If you have any questions, please contact

Booking formdoc


The Summer School is run in partnership with St Magnus Festival and the Hebrides Ensemble, with support from Orkney arts organisations.


The Summer School receives financial support from the PRS for Music Foundation.

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Summer School 2017

More information...
Residential Course

22nd July 2017 to 30th July 2017

A week of composition, instrumental ensembles, strings, piano, sound installations, voice and music theatre plus exploring landscapes, nature, archaeology and history.

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