In March 2021, musician and composer Esther Swift presented The Call – a stunning outdoor performance that saw a group of musicians gather (socially distanced) to perform a piece composed by Esther, conducted using handmade flags. This was an epic performance from a very special location somewhere in Edinburgh.
“During lockdown, as I reflected on my life as a musician, I gained a new perspective on the importance of rituals, of creativity through connection, of the context of sound in a community, and of the benefits of social music making. I have been lucky enough to connect with people around the world through music alone; when I have not spoken their language, or even shared an understanding of reading music, I have still developed a deep and meaningful relationship with them based on listening and responding. A “Call” is a powerful way to demonstrate a desire to connect with someone or something, and is as communicative when it’s a baby crying, as when it’s an alphorn on the top of a Swiss mountain.
“So…through a commission from Hidden Door Festival I created an outdoor piece which includes improvisation and semaphore. It is for any number of musicians, of any levels, ages and abilities. This score is an open letter to the world of music that can be passed around and shared on both large and small scales by all. The piece concludes with a summary of its conception.”
Esther Swift combines her love of folk, jazz, classical and all things in-between in this brand-new commission from Celtic Connections. Joining Esther (harp and voice) are masterful instrumentalists Emma Lloyd (viola and violin), Patrick Kenny (trombone and alphorn) and Owen Williams (multiple percussion and drums) who together share the stage with electronic musician Matthew Collings to explore intimate and epic soundscapes through rich harmonies, flowering textures, improvisations and pre-sampled recordings. Featuring settings of poems by Rachel McCrum, William Butler Yeats and Glasgow's own Edwin Morgan.
"a wondrous blend of folk and electronica in a sold-out amphitheatre."
EDWIN MORGAN SECOND LIFE
As part of the Edwin Morgan Second Life grants scheme, Esther Swift composed two new musical pieces responding to Edwin Morgan poems 'One Cigarette' and 'Archives'.
“Having experimented with many different ideas for this project, I decided to present these two settings to show some of the contrasts in Morgans work, as well as my own. One Cigarette is intimate, playful and vulnerable, and I chose to use ambiguous, tentative chords and chord structures that hang, cascade, but almost never fully resolve, as though one is trying to inhale the final trail of smoke left hanging in the air. The voice was inspired by Morgans sing-song presentation of his own works, and also by one of my favourite singers, Bjork. I wanted to create a line that could almost pass as exuberant spoken word.”
THE LIGHT GATHERER
To mark the centenary of women being given the vote in this country, Esther Swift was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival to write a new work which showcases seven of Carol-Ann Duffy's poems in a contemporary jazz-meets-folk language. Our Glasgow hailing poet laureate's brave, raw and intensely honest work is taken on a journey with voice, harp quartet, string trio and jazz quartet of friends, all having studied together in Manchester and all prestigiously working in their respective fields of music making.
Esther's style draws on her folk roots in Scotland and combines her love of jazz, minimalism and dance music.