Lost songs of St Kilda become chart-topping success

Composer Sir James MacMillan plays songs from the album' The Lost Songs of St Kilda', which has shot to the top of the charts. Picture: James Glossop

Composer Sir James MacMillan plays songs from the album' The Lost Songs of St Kilda', which has shot to the top of the charts. Picture: James Glossop

Share this article
4
Have your say

The haunting music of a deserted Scottish archipelago once feared lost forever has shot to the top of the charts.

Renowned composer Sir James MacMillan was among the musicians who reimagined the melancholic tunes from the Hebridean island of St Kilda, which have been recorded for the first time.

Stocks of the album entitled ‘The Lost Songs of St Kilda’ sold out within hours of its release, topping the Classical album chart and becoming the fastest-selling posthumour artist debut in history.

The achievement is all the more extraordinary as the collection was first recorded on a £3 microphone by Trevor Morrison, an elderly resident at Silverlea Care Home, in Edinburgh.

As a young boy living on Bute, Mr Morrison was taught to play the piano by an former St Kilda resident who left the island when it was evacuated in 1930.

He wrote a letter thanking those who helped him record the songs which had haunted him all his life, conveying his wish, “that these few tunes from the long-forgotten isles can be preserved and given a future.”

After his death in 2012, the recordings were passed onto Decca Records who commissioned a string of leading composers to take on the old songs.

The finished product contains some of Trevor Morrison’s solos, orchestral arrangements and some new pieces that were inspired by the work.

Sir James said: “It has been a delight being involved in this project.

“Trevor Morrison’s playing of the old St Kilda songs are genuinely poignant and haunting. He plays with a true musician’s sensitivity, and communicates the beauty and simplicity of this lost music.

“It was marvellous that so many Scottish musicians and composers from different genres have responded to the originals with their own unique perspectives.”

To celebrate the release, Sir James gave a piano performance on St Kilda last week.

It was the first time a piano had been played on the archipelago and the instrument had to be transported flat-packed by boat and rebuilt for the performance.

Back to the top of the page