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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

The Willow Trio Unveils Debut Album 'The Swan of Salen' A Marriage Of Classical And Gaelic Culture

The Swan of Salen is the captivating debut album from Glasgow based clarsach group The Willow Trio. Set for release on Friday 17th February, the 15-track record weaves a compelling narrative based on the heartbreaking tragedy of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and of the parallel Gaelic legend, Eala Shàilein.

With an aim of bridging the gap between classical and traditional culture and music, The Willow Trio have produced a modern and unique retelling of the well-known ballet, marrying sections of Tchaikovsky’s iconic score with delicate Gaelic melodies.

The group’s beautiful debut album forms the musical backdrop to the cultural project of the same name created by The Willow Trio and production company Ballet Folk. The Swan of Salen Project is a multimedia adaptation of Swan Lake, taking Gaelic and traditional influences from stories and songs from the Loch Sunart area.

Set to tour across Scotland, the production features a unique blend of Tchaikovsky's iconic music and traditional melodies played live by The Willow Trio. Enchanting footage of ballet dancers performing stunning choreography by Deborah Norris of Ballet Folk will be projected behind the musicians as they perform, transporting audiences to another time and place.

Within The Swan of Salen album, the trio’s clarsachs are used to represent a full orchestra, demonstrating not only the group’s musical skill and undeniable ability to convey feelings of love, tension and heartache through their music, but also the notable capabilities of their chosen instrument.

The Willow Trio comprises three multi-award winning female harpists, Romy Wymer, Sophie Rocks and Sam MacAdam, who are celebrated for their skilled compositions of both classical and traditional music. Romy, Sophie and Sam each bring their own innovative style to the group, with musical influences ranging from harp-extraordinaire Catriona McKay to Debussy to Radiohead.

Sophie Rocks of The Willow Trio said: “The tale of The Swan of Salen is one of love, loss and heartache. It’s a beautiful story, and we wanted to make it accessible to everyone, particularly to those in communities who would not usually have easy access to ballet or live music. By choosing the Gaelic story as our setting, and adapting the music of Tchaikovsky to fit within Scottish and folk traditions, we hope to remove some of the cultural and personal barriers that may stand in the way of people pursuing or simply enjoying performances of ballet and folk music alike.

By presenting the cultures of ballet and Gaelic Scotland as equal within The Swan of Salen, we hope to highlight the beauty of each, and shine a light on the value of both traditional and classical music, dance and storytelling in Scotland."

Sam MacAdam of The Willow Trio said: “When we came across Ballet Folk, we knew they'd be the perfect fit for The Swan of Salen Project. As a company, they explore the rich and diverse stories of folklore, combining contemporary ballet with folk music to create beautiful theatrical works. We cannot wait to tour our collaborative production with them next year.”

Having released their debut EP Oystercatchers in 2021, The Willow Trio have performed at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sofar Sounds and Celtic Connections on the Danny Kyle Stage. The trio have also been featured on Talking Harps, Opening the Harp Chakra, Northern Soul, Local Heroes and BBC Scotland.

Outwith the group, each member has a diverse and successful career - multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Sam MacAdam has had her original compositions played on BBC Scotland; composer Romy Wymer has won second prize and the audience award in the World Harp Competition and is now writing her first album, and Sophie Rocks tours her award-winning solo show Notes from Shetland to Shanghai across the UK.

The Willow Trio recorded The Swan of Salen at Dystopia Studios in Glasgow with sound engineer Luigi Pasquini.

Sam MacAdam:

Romy Wymer:

Sophie Rocks:

The Willow Trio Perform The Title Track From Their EP 'Oystercatchers'


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