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Atlantic - FOREST?

10th March 2006

Photograph of Atlantic - FOREST?

Thursday 16th March at 7.30pm in Mackay's Hotel, Wick

Just which uncharted waters is the Pictish naval commander steering his vessel into now?

Well, seeing is believing - isn't it?

In his autobiography, Time Bends, playwright Arthur Miller describes the vivid impression left on his six year-old mind when he saw his first 'movie', an open-air affair screened against a sheet in a make-shift theatre on the roof of the apartment block his Jewish family shared in Harlem, New York, around 1920. Miller is fascinated by the story flickering in front of him - and totally bewildered when the 'people' disappear:

Now the light went out - the whole thing had lasted only ten minutes or so - and I asked my father where these people were'.

These celluloid 'people' had been so real to him that he grips his father's hand, peering behind the sheet 'still expecting some wonderful vision full of light and strange scenery and a room where the action I had just witnessed had taken place'.

George Gunn, like the writer this small Arthur Miller grew into, deals in the alchemy of transformation. In his poetry and his plays, he takes the base metal of tired old daily language, and magics new meanings. Witness his latest book, Winter Barley, published
Chapman 2005

Likewise Gordon Gunn. From the elemental table of musical notes, Gordon conjures brand new phrases, new meanings, new feeling.

'Atlantic Forest' is an ambitious new project from Scotia Review, uniting two of Caithness' most successful professional artists. Scotia was given a commissioning grant from the Scottish Arts Council, to enable Gordon Gunn to write original music to accompany a sequence of poems by George Gunn, entitled 'Atlantic Forest'. Spanning Time & Space, musically and verbally, the result is a powerful work which George Gunn hopes will resonate politically and globally as well as personally and locally with a Caithness audience.

'The genesis of these poems is in cutting peat with my father and brother on Dunnet Head. We found these weird branches of Scots pine, some 2,000 years old I now learn. Remembering that I thought of the landscape and environment we once had - one with trees. Also what I am trying to show is that there is no such thing as a periphery: Dunnet Head is the most northerly point of Scotland, but it is also the centre of the world, because the centre of the world is wherever you are. Yet it is our essential humanity which connects us no matter who we are or where we are: Caithness, Brazil, Africa - we all live on the same planet.'

Gordon Gunn is admired internationally as a superb fiddling technician, and is loved by the many enthusiastic learners he currently teaches, as well as by the audiences he travels the country playing for. With Session A9, and with Irish flute player Nuala Kennedy, Gordon's fiddle is seldom in its case.

Perhaps under-rated is his talent as a composer of new music. Many folk can probably hum along to the beautiful compositions 'Orkney' and 'Slow Air for Margaret' without knowing Gordon created them.

Part of Scotia Review's mission is to create opportunities for Caithness writers, musicians and visual artists to show themselves at their best without leaving the county. It is hard at the best of times to make a living as a professional artist, and well-neigh impossible to achieve acceptance at home - 'I-kent-his-faither' is still a favourite Scottish put-down.

'Atlantic Forest' is one example of local talent being given its head to develop on its own terms. George and Gordon have combined their skills to produce something of which they are proud, and which makes a statement about themselves as individual artists, about themselves as Caithnessians, and about us all, as custodians of the planet.

A bonus of the evening is the additional talent of Brian MacAlpine on keyboard. Gordon is fulsome in his praise of Brian's ability to add depth to the musical skeleton.

In addition, Orkney-based John Aberdein will read from his novel Amande's Bed, which won the 2005 Saltire Best Book of the Year Award . Here, too, language dodges, dives, swells and ebbs, showering us with the shock of the familiar, making us believe we know these citizens of Torry in the paranoia of post-war, post-Fascist Aberdeen.

'Atlantic Forest', with George Gunn, Gordon Gunn, Brian MacAlpine & John Aberdein will be performed on Thursday 16th March at 7.30pm in Mackay's Hotel, Wick. 6 (3 concession) - at the door. For info. Tel. (01847) 892599

- Christine Russell, Editor Scotia Review


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