Make Music Day is a grassroots yet global music festival. It takes place on 21st June, which is the summer solstice. The festival was originally launched in France in 1982, as Fête de la Musique, and its popularity continues to grow organically. Musicians from all over the world will be participating this year in a celebration which spans 1,000 participating cities, and over 120 countries. Make Music Day UK this year has commissioned internationally acclaimed Scottish musician and composer Hamish Napier and in-demand drummer Cat Myers to create a special arrangement of Auld Lang Syne for the project. Hamish spoke with The Fountain about the project in more detail.

TF: Hamish, what inspired you to create a rendition of Auld Lang Syne for this project?

I was invited to create this new arrangement by Make Music Day UK, who wanted a contemporary arrangement of this much loved Scottish classic. I wanted to create an arrangement that would work for a broad range of instruments, but still leave space for performers to get creative.

What has the reception been like?

The project has proven really popular with music makers of all ages, with many people saying how much they have enjoyed having a project to participate in during lockdown. 

The quality of the submissions has been excellent, and includes a really wide range of instruments, such as the gaohu, which is a Chinese stringed instrument, and a Indonesian angklung, as well as the more traditional instruments more typically involved in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

I hear a few famous faces have sent in submissions, so I’m really looking forward to the video premiering on Make Music Day UK’s social channels on 21 June.

TF: And how was the process, doing this all in lockdown? 

Auld Lang Syne is such a classic Scottish song – it fairly lifted the spirits!

I would normally do all my recordings with ace engineer/producer Andrea Gobbi at Glo Worm Recording Studios in Glasgow, but I’ve had to set up a wee makeshift home studio in my livingroom here in Strathspey! I’ve been recording music videos with fiddler Duncan Chisholm (check out #COVIDCeilidh) as well as doing live concerts from my living-room to launch my new solo album The Woods (my whole album launch tour around Scotland had to be postponed by a year to March/April 2021).

I normally perform with Duncan Chisholm, Nae Plans and Jarlath Henderson. All of our gigs have been cancelled/postponed indefinitely and nobody knows when we will be able to perform live on stage next…the Autumn, Spring next year…nobody knows. We have found alternative ways to work: 1-to-1 music tutoring online via Zoom, taking on new composition commissions (I’ve written several birthday tunes for people), making music videos and doing music session recording work.

My partner Su-a Lee, who is normally busy performing each week with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Nicola Benedetti Sessions, has been living with me since lockdown. I’m very grateful that we have been able to help each other out with all the new online music work that’s been coming in each week.

It’s challenging – we have found ourselves having to do the jobs of social media PR people, TV presenters, online music lecturers, online music examiners, producers, cameramen, sound engineers, set designers and stylists! The whole livingroom gets turned upside down and rearranged several times a week to do each ‘broadcast’. It’s a big disruption to our home to be honest but this what so many people around the world have been experiencing with the ‘lockdown office’.

TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year?

My next solo album The Hill – composed about the stunning Cairngorm Mountains. This will be solo album number 4 of a ten year project, The Strathspey Pentalogy, making five albums of brand new original folk music inspired by my home area of Strathspey. The River (released 2016 for the river Spey), The Railway (2018 for the old steam railway lines in the area) and The Woods (2020 for the beautiful Caledonian pine forests here) have been my main focus over the last 5 years. I have been exploring the heritage, legends and natural world of the Cairngorms – it’s a fascinating place.

I’ve also been building a Polytunnel with my Dad and so every bloomin’ windowsill in house is covered in trays of vegetable seedlings for planting in the tunnel when it’s complete. Lockdown is a time to get back to nature, listen, observe and be more curious about the natural world. After the lockdown easies, I hope that we will all want to retain a closer bond with the families, communities and nature around us.

Full information on the Auld Lang Syne Project can be found here.