Ailís and the hummers….

Contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain talks about her recent experience with the ‘hummers’ at Clitheroe Castle…

Ailis in front of the Castle Keep

Early on Friday morning the 8th of April 2011 I set off by train from my home in Todmorden to Clitheroe for Humming Day as part of my new commission at Clitheroe Castle. It was a glorious morning, I passed an opening daffodil on my way that wished me luck for the day ahead.

Beautiful day to be up at the Castle!

By 10am all twelve ‘hummers’ had arrived – 10 women and 2 men representing ‘The Pendle Witches’- those accused of witchcraft in 1612. This lively and enthusiastic bunch appeared ready for action! I asked each ‘hummer’ to hum me a song/tune which meant something special to them. I sat with each ‘hummer’ one to one for about 25 mins where I recorded them and discussed their choice of melody, why they had chosen it, what it meant to them and then broadening out to discuss how they felt humming differed from singing both physically and emotionally and then finally, touching on this new piece and the final weeks of those 12 accused awaiting their fate in a 20 foot by 12 foot Well Tower at Lancaster Castle.

Ailis and the hummers having their photo taken for the press

I was surprised and moved by their musical choices, some were quite jaunty, others very relaxed, some classical in origin, some improvised, some folk tunes, some pop including some that were quite a challenge to hum. It was a fascinating day. I very much enjoyed meeting each hummer one to one, in a calm, quiet space in the shadow of Clitheroe Castle Keep, sharing my thoughts and asking them for theirs. I appreciated their honesty, their humour and their tears.

Ailis composing

The commission is called TAKEN and will launch on Saturday 18th June 1-4pm (all welcome!)

www.midpenninearts.org.uk/contemporary-heritage-clitheroe

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