It all started with a chance conversation, as most things do.
‘’Fiona, would you like to be involved in collaborating in a song for peace?
“Sounds very interesting, if a tall order, but tell me more!” I said.
Neil McLennan, head of leadership at the University of Aberdeen, then told me about his founding of an initiative called iplay4peace with the aim of bringing musicians from around the world together to simultaneously play the same piece on Remembrance Sunday as a new way to further reflect on the importance of peace.
The aim for ising4 peace in 2020 was to build on iPlay4Peace but instead of limiting this to instruments we would ask people from all over the world to join us as a global choir – and use our voices to sing, harmonise, hum or sign.
“Count me in!”, I said.
It was impossible to predict when we first came together to plan out the project that it would take on an even greater significance as the Covid-19 pandemic brought restrictions to all our lives and curtailed performance opportunities almost completely.
Like many people, I quickly found myself in an unfamiliar world of virtual meet-ups and the idea of creating music in this way was going to be challenging. But our initiative – which became iSing4Peace and has the amazing talents of Aberdeen composer Paul Mealor and lyricist Grahame Davies on board – quickly developed a life of its own.
The barriers put up by Covid-19 were soon overcome through technology in a way I could never have imagined just a few months ago. Together – virtually, of course – we were able to create a beautiful new song Stronger for the Storm. Paul was inspired to write the music as he walked along by the river Don and Graeme and I collaborated on the phone on the words, which have taken on even more resonance and seem so apt as we face the continuing challenges of this pandemic.
I recorded the lead vocal part, in a local church, guitarists Nils Elders and Calum MacColl recorded their parts in Inverbervie and London respectively, fiddle player Thoren Ferguson played in Edinburgh, violinists from the RSNO, Scotland’s premier orchestra, recorded their own parts in their own homes. No mean feat. These were then seamlessly brought together by producer Calum Malcolm at his Fife studio.
But my version of Stronger for the Storm, which will be performed for Remembrance, is far from the end of its journey – it’s the beginning. Our hope was always to connect with people across the world and it seems iSing4Peace has really captured the mood during these difficult times.
We’ve had contributions from Africa, America, Asia and across Europe and, when the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay promoted iSing4Peace on their official social media channels, we had to move back the submission deadline to accommodate the burgeoning interest. We are also thrilled to have Singing Hands join us, signing.
Calum Malcolm will now weave these amazing contributions together into a charity single which we hope to release in time for Christmas. iSing4Peace will support four wonderful charities through downloads of the sheet music and sales of the single. Two charities are based here in Aberdeen and are very close to my own heart – VSA, which has provided care, support and vital services to our community for more than 150 years, and the University of Aberdeen’s Development Trust, which funds vital research and provides support which makes a life-changing difference to students.
Money raised will also be shared with the Red Cross Disaster Fund and the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL).
It is wonderful to be able to make a contribution to these fantastic organisations through the international language of music at such a difficult time for them and when more conventional fundraising activities are not possible. At a time when there is such confusion and fear, music, songs and the arts can really help us all – it’s fundamentally important to our health and mental wellbeing.
From the outset we wanted to write and record a new song to help heal and which would touch people and resonate around the world – we never imagined it would be so needed.
Our real hope now is that 2020 will indeed make us Stronger for the Storm.
Read more about Fiona Kennedy.
Fiona Kennedy is a singer, songwriter, broadcaster and charity ambassador and an honorary graduate of Aberdeen University and trustee on its Development Trust Board