THE RINNS OF ISLAY
Recorded in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with PARMA Recordings. David Watkin, Conductor. Released 2022, Navona Records. Awarded in the 2022 Global Music Awards.
Join the RSNO for a musical journey around the coastal shores of the Inner Hebridean island of Islay, home to my grandparents and generations before. Known for its rich terrain, complex climate, and peaty whisky, Islay’s stunning natural environment served as the creative inspiration for the work.
EXPLORE THE RINNS
Five short thematic movements adopt distinct characters as they take us on a tour of the island by day and night. The work centres around The Rinns – a beautiful peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Rinns themes are introduced in the first movement, with shimmering strings, echoing and falling, against soaring melodies in the piccolo.
Movement two, “Islay Sunrise,” brings a glorious dawn.
Flute and cello interplay with a duet, as the morning light dances across the peninsula.
NINETY DAYS OF RAIN
“Ninety Days of Rain” was inspired by documentation of nearly 90 continuous days of rain on the island in 1923. Beginning with pizzicato droplets, the movement builds up a rhythmic momentum of raindrops circling across the glockenspiel, woodwind, and strings. Amidst the intensifying rain shower comes further development of The Rinns themes by the woodwind.
A solo trumpet call connects movements three and four. The call offers a pause for reflection in memory of the tragic loss of two American troop ships off the coast of Islay in 1918. High upon a cliff on The Mull of Oa, looking out to sea, stands a memorial to commemorate the troop ships. In the final movement a short horn melody introduces a moment of heroicness, representing the American monument. Tubular bells toll to recall the passing of those who lost their lives.
“Whisky Fancies” is a playful nod to Islay’s abundant whisky industry, as we stop by a watering hole for a dram. A spirited jig plays in canon to the backdrop of a dancing tambourine, before a boozy bass clarinet joins double-stopped violins. The jig fades out as our journey takes us sweeping past the celebrations and out into the stillness of The Rinns at night.
Facing the peninsula is a lighthouse, built on a small adjacent island. The violins and glockenspiel simulate the steady flash across the night-time sky. “The Lighthouse,” exposes the volatility of the environment. Stormy seas and strong tides surround the island, with fortissimo brass, timpani and cymbal crescendos creating power and crashing waves. The relentless storm reigns, meeting the shimmering motifs heard earlier. The work closes with a solo horn and violin call, offering distant echoes of The Rinns of Islay themes.
Legends and Light Vol 2, Album Review
"Helen Mackinnon’s “The Rinns Of Islay” opens the listen with a radiant, cinematic quality that brings lush, bold moments as well as calm, dreamy ebbs of winds magic"