Music review: Hanna Tuulikki: the bird that never flew, Glasgow Cathedral

Taking its title from a poem inspired by Glasgow’s coat of arms, Hanna Tuulikki’s new Historic Environment Scotland commission is a spine-tingling song cycle for three voices, writes Fiona Shepherd

Hanna Tuulikki: the bird that never flew, Glasgow Cathedral ****

Last year, British-Finnish musician Hanna Tuulikki released the bats for her Hospitalfield-commissioned show Echo In The Dark – essentially a bat rave with electronic music blending the human voice and bat echolocation calls. Now she’s away with the birds, partnering again with sound designer Tommy Perman for a Historic Environment Scotland commission which references the miracles of Glasgow’s patron saint St Mungo right in the heart of his old ’hood.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Taking its title from the poem inspired by the city’s coat of arms, the bird that never flew is a spine-tingling song cycle for three voices, delivered against an immersive soundtrack of sampled birdsong and electronic drones, which played out as an avian alarm call of climate catastrophe from a succession of endangered woodland species.

Hanna TuulikkiHanna Tuulikki
Hanna Tuulikki

Tuulikki’s fellow songbirds were acclaimed Gaelic vocalist Mischa Macpherson and Glasgow-based voice artist and composer Lucy Duncombe, who harmonised elegantly with knowing glances, like the Bulgarian choirs whose traditional lamentations were evoked by Tuulikki’s score.

The trio were dramatically dressed like three art punk craws with fancy crepe plumage and flashes of red, and there was a simple but arresting ritualistic allure to their still, dignified performance which drew on the traditions of sacred music, devotional incantation and Nordic ululation to create a neo-classical protest piece, ranging in tone from urgent staccato clamour (“under attack, what do we do? stand up and fight back”) to soaring sadness.

The atmospheric acoustics and brooding backdrop of the Cathedral only enhanced this special performance, one which deserves repeating as long as ears are closed to dire environmental forecasts. As the gloaming light faded outside, the crepuscular cry – “dear green place, we cannot flourish on a dead planet” – rang out with a cappella power and hands raised in supplication.