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Isola is an album of contemporary music performed by Sequoia, and featuring the music of emerging Scottish based composers Fergus Hall, Aileen SweeneyRylan Gleave and Sonia Killmann with poetry and narration by Alexander McCall Smith and Hamish Henderson. 


The music of Isola explores the tactility and fragile timbres of string instruments, shifting between melodic line and gesture, spoken word and grit. ​


Sequoia, adopting its name from the species of tree, is a Glasgow based string duo comprising violinist Alice Rickards and cellist Sonia Cromarty. Since launching at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe, they have firmly rooted their place in the Scottish arts scene, revealing an innate desire to use music to explore, recognise and engage with the natural world as well as championing new music by Scottish based composers.

The album features four emerging composers from the Scottish music scene, Fergus Hall, Aileen Sweeney, Rylan Gleave and Sonia Killmann. Though individual in our compositional voices, there is a commonality to the way we approach string instruments that focuses on the grittier side of the instruments with heavy influence from folk music and free improvisation. 


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The title track of the record, Isola (meaning island), examines the wildlife and landscape of the deserted St Kilda Archipelago. This sets the scene for the rest of the album with much of the music being concerned with landscape and natural phenomena but also distance, separation and the fragility of the natural world. Isola was written in collaboration with celebrated Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith who also features on the recording reciting his poetry. 


The other main body of work on the album, Crossing the Simeto, also features poetry. Archival recordings of poet and folklorist Hamish Henderson, obtained with the blessing of his family, are heard throughout the track, which was written in 2019 during the centenary of Henderson’s birth.


I was thrilled that the album also features the music of Rylan Gleave, Aileen Sweeney and Sonia Killmann, three composers I admire greatly. They each have various solos and duos throughout the album. I am immensely grateful to them each for agreeing to be part of this project.   


The album was recorded over three and a half days at Luss Parish Church in Loch Lomond. It was recorded on site and mixed by Gus Stirrat and mastered by Geoff Allan.

The album is available to buy and download via bandcamp.  


All music performed by Sequoia, who are Alice Rickards (violin) & Sonia Cromarty (cello) 


Produced by Fergus Hall 

Recorded by Gus Stirrat at Luss Parish Church, Loch Lomond on the 6th-9th of December 2021. 

Mixed by Gus Stirrat at Solas Sound Studios, Glasgow. 


Mastered by Geoff Allan 


Cover design by Iain McIntosh 


Crossing the Simeto features extracts from Ballad of the Simeto (for the Highland Division) and So Long, written by Hamish Henderson during WWII while fighting in North Africa and Sicily with the 51st Highland Division. The poems are performed by Hamish Henderson. Permission for use of extracts from Hamish Henderson - Pipes, Goatskins and Bones (The Songs & Poems Of Hamish Henderson) was granted by STV Footage. Permission for use of poetry by Hamish Henderson was granted by The Estate of Hamish Henderson, for which we are incredibly grateful. 


Isola was written and performed by Alexander McCall Smith who has been immensely supportive of this project from the very beginning. 


Alice, Sonia and Fergus would also like to thank to following people for their help and support throughout the process of making this album; 


Alexander McCall Smith, Gus Stirrat, Iain McIntosh, Rylan Gleave, Aileen Sweeney, Sonia Killmann, John Taylor, Donald Hardie, Luss Parish Church, Janet and Kätzel Henderson, Stuart MacRae, Chamber Music Scotland, Lea Shaw, David Fessessy, and Martin Wiggins. 


This album was made possible with support from Creative Scotland and The Hope Scott Trust. 

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