Music composers have often found cities to be inspirational – Elgar and Vaughan Williams focused on London, Mozart wrote a symphony for Prague while Puccini’s opera Tosca is set entirely in Rome.
Popular music in all genres has long been celebrated in song as well – from Will Fyfe’s ‘I Belong To Glasgow to ‘New York New York’ by Frank Sinatra.
But Scottish pianist and composer, Euan Stevenson stayed close to his roots, reflected on the happy times he had growing up and just what his hometown, Falkirk still means to him for an album that has just been released.
‘Sound Tracks’ by Earthtones Trio is a suite of nine, accessible contemporary classical music pieces influenced by the Central Scotland town’s people, places and landmarks plus the area’s rich history and culture.
All of this moved Euan, who was born and raised in Falkirk with family living there for many generations, to create the music for the Earthtones Trio comprising the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Principal flautist, Katherine Bryan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Principal cellist, Betsy Taylor, with Euan on piano.
While honouring family, community and familiar places, world famous landmarks such as the Roman Antonine Wall and the modern-day iconic structure that is the Falkirk Wheel also inspired the music, which was commissioned by Chamber Music Scotland and Classic Music Live! Falkirk.
“I was honoured to be asked to compose a body of work relating to my hometown,” said Euan, who now lives in Surrey but heads back to see family in Falkirk most months.
“Sound Tracks is like my personal love letter to Falkirk but I think it will speak to many other people as well.
“There’s no doubt that working on the music increased my fondness for the town and made me feel so glad I was brought up there and involved with people who cared about me.
“Growing up there, performing at a young age at the church, going to school and playing tennis, all of it laid my foundations for my career as a musician and composer, and I’m hugely grateful.
Euan – he is also a highly acclaimed jazz musician and has written and released albums with Jazz FM Vocalist and Jazz Act of the Year, singer Georgia Cécile – started working on the project during the summer UK lockdown of 2020. With no concerts to play he was able to concentrate entirely on crafting the new music.
“As lockdown restrictions eased, returning to old stomping grounds of course stirred up childhood memories and emotions and inevitably a sense of nostalgia and melancholy found its way into the music,” said Euan.
The music, which also celebrates the award-winning Falkirk Core Path Network – some 300 miles of interconnecting pathways in the area – was motivated by the stories and imagined feelings of the myriad of people and communities who used the original pathways to travel to and from the region throughout the centuries.
“The album embodies my own feelings in many ways, but it also dares to capture the travellers’ feelings and stories, celebrating the people who have played a role in Falkirk’s fascinating history while shining a light on the present and the future,” said Euan.
Although he said the music wasn’t written to accompany any pre-existing visual elements, all the pieces on the album are cinematic in quality.
“In the manner of a film composer, I wanted to encapsulate in music the feelings and thoughts of a range of characters,” said Euan.
“These included me as the composer, as a young boy/adolescent and subsequently a parent, to Roman Centurions, Dark Age tribes, early 20th Century Italian immigrant families and even an 18th century female aristocratic composer who once lived in Callander House.”
Falkirk’s own multicultural heritage allowed Euan to draw from a diverse mixture of musical styles from across the globe so the album, released on the new Scottish label, iOcco Classical, is a vibrant mix of styles. “There’s a healthy dose of Scottish folk, jazz and western classical music which remain my core influences,” said Euan. “I start by improvising at the piano until a seed of an idea takes hold and then I gradually develop the idea into a finished composition.
“Writing music inspired by my formative years has been a revealing and extremely musically nourishing process.
“I owe gratitude to this community. In writing and recording this music, I hope to give something back to the people who came before me and to those who have helped me, and continue to help me, with my musical journey.”
Sound Tracks is available to stream and download and a limited number of signed CDs are available to purchase. Concerts are planned to promote the album throughout next year www.euanstevenson.com/soundtracks