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Dances In The Wilds - A New CD From Karen Steven

17th December 2002

Karen Steven a Caithness violinist has brought out her next CD with more local connections.

Karen says "Two years ago I was asked to represent Caithness and was commissioned by the Highland Festival to compose some music to be performed at their millennium concert in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

My original arrangement was one set of six tunes. These were to reflect Caithness in some way. The themes I chose were landscape, seascape and weather. The tunes were; Slow Air, Jig, March, Jig and two Reels. The music was performed by myself on fiddle, James on Accordion and Niall on Cello. Elise Lyall from Wick provided four dancers for the performance and we choreographed some highland dancing into the piece.

Ever since we performed the piece two years ago I have wanted to produce a cd of these Caithness tunes as a recording, composed and performed by local musicians. I see the recording as a representation of one aspect of what the Caithness area has to offer and one which promotes Caithness as a thriving musical community.

Sincere thanks goes to; James for your wonderful musical talent, commitment and fantastic chord arrangements; Niall for taking the plunge from the Classical into Traditional world and doing a brilliant job virtually overnight; Nick for providing an all round truly magnificent studio experience; Mario for the exceptional photographic quality, my very special nieces and nephews Charlene, Ashlyne, Darren, Craig and Kyle who are the five Dancers in the Wilds on the back cover, my sisters Pauline and Maree for your help on the day the photos were taken, George for pressing the practice cds in the run up to the studio recording, the tutorsIan, Alasdair, Buddy, Mairead and Jerry, Stuart for your constant support and encouragement, granny for the informed feedback, mum and dad for the upbringing steeped in music,"

The new CD is available from Karen direct for 5.75 incl. p&p or from local Craft Fairs.

Dances in the Wilds

The title of the commission, "Dances in the Wilds" comes from an essay by Dunbeath writer Neil Gunn. The essay appeared in the Glasgow Herald on 31 May 1952.

1. The Wild Spell (Jig) refers to a particularly bad storm in Caithness in September 1990 when many fishing boats were either damaged or capsized, even while tied up in their harbours.

The Brig O'Trams (Reel) is a natural headland arch situated to the south of Wick. Starting out as two caves either side of the headland, weather and sea erosion result in a single arch forming.

The Stroma Swelkie (Reel) is a busy whirlpool, where at the bottom it is said there are two millstones which grind the salt for the sea.

2. The Hills of Reay (Pipe March) are Cnoc Stanger, Keoltag and Beinn Ratha, their names evidence for both Norse and Gaelic presence once in the county. At 795ft, Beinn Ratha is the tallest of the three.

3. The Breck (Slow Air) is a stretch of ground designated as common grazing up on the hill behind John O'Groats. It is an area of unspoiled land comprising mosses, heathers and peat. Looking east across the Breck you can see the peak of one of the stacks of Duncansby.

The Merry Men O'Mey (Jig) If you look out from St. John's point in East Mey you will see where many tides cross one another. The 'men' are the white horses produced by the crossing tides.


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