Making Music at Marchmont

Doctoral students Katrin Klose and Marianna Abrahamyan have just returned from Marchmont, having completed the first artistic residency by musicians at the home of Scottish artist Rory McEwen, marking a new partnership between the Royal Conservatoire and the Marchmont Estate.

Fogo Cottage, nestled on the ground of Marchmont, Greenlaw, in the Scottish borders, was once home to Rory McEwen – an artist, performer, poet, musician and sculptor who drew much of his inspiration from his natural surroundings. Forty years after his death, Fogo Cottage is still a creative hub, a space where artists can work and collaborate. The legacy of Marchmont – “a home for makers and creators” – and an influential part of the national visual arts and creative landscape for Scotland lives on through a new generation of artists.  

This new partnership between RCS and Marchmont offered the opportunity for doctoral students or recent doctoral graduates to apply for a two-week residency to access this unique creative space and progress their research.

Marianna, a pianist and Doctor of Performing Arts student applied with fellow student composer Katrin Klose with the aim of joining their research interests and creating a new piece for piano and orchestra. Here, they gave their insights into this one-of-a-kind artistic residency experience.

What is your research area?

Marianna: I am a pianist currently on the Doctor of Performing Arts (DPerf) programme. My artistic research focuses on the role of dexterity in Ligeti’s piano works.

Katrin: I’m doing a PhD in composition exploring the use of the voice in contemporary music.

The Marchmont residency is new for 2021. How does it feel to be the inaugural recipients of the residency award?

We were excited to hear about this two-week residency opportunity open exclusively to RCS/University of St Andrews doctoral candidates in partnership with Marchmont House.

We are aiming to join forces and bring together our research projects culminating in a new concerto for piano and orchestra. This concerto will be premiered as part of the RCS PLUG Festival 2022. The Marchmont Residency is the perfect opportunity for us to start an intense collaboration.

We are beyond thrilled to be the first residents of this exciting partnership programme and also the very first musicians to inhabit Rory McEwen’s Studio Cottage in Fogo.

Before you arrived, how did you prepare for your time at Marchmont? What were you hoping to gain from the residency?

Katrin: The application process helped us to develop our project. I was preparing sketches for the new piece and we were discussing how best to collaborate during our residency at Marchmont.

Marianna: As a performer, I was looking very much forward to this unique collaboration. It is exceptional that the composer and the soloist have this one-of-a-kind opportunity to work together so closely for two weeks discussing technical obstacles, aesthetics and extended techniques.

The project we had in mind is the collaboration on a new concerto. We hope to get deeper insights into each other’s research in the true sense of knowledge exchange.

Marianna and Katrin at Marchmont composing over the piano
Marianna and Katrin hard at work in Fogo Cottage

Tell us about Marchmont House. What is it like to be based there for the residency?

The Studio Cottage of Rory McEwen is an incredibly inspiring, quiet and cosy place. In addition to developing our artistic projects, we are now skilled in lighting a log fire!

We also had a chance to have a session in the Lorimer Music Room which has fantastic acoustics and a special atmosphere at Marchmont House. As part of our residency we were given a lovely tour exploring Marchmont House and its surroundings.

Fogo Cottage, photographed by Marianna and Katrin

How did your work develop during the residency? In what way did the surroundings inspire your work?

It has been an intense phase of writing. It is luxurious to be able to experiment with techniques and exchange thoughts in the process of writing.

Our expectations were surpassed by the warmth and helpfulness of the local people and the staff at Marchmont.

Now that the residency is over, what are your plans to continue your work?

We are already sad to have left “our” cottage. After the residency, we will have a clearer vision of our collaborative process. We are planning to continue this process throughout the next couple of months to complete the concerto.

How would you sum up the residency opportunity?

This residency is a fantastic opportunity to focus on creative projects and writing in general. We strongly encourage our colleagues to apply and experience this creative space. We hope they will enjoy it as much as we did!

Find out more about Marchmont House and their artistic residencies.

You can also read more about the doctoral study opportunities available at RCS and the Knowledge Exchange department.

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