It’s twenty years since the death of one of Orkney’s finest writers. Bessie Skea wrote lyrically about Orkney’s landscape and wildlife, and readings from her work will be interspersed with music in a concert in St Magnus Cathedral on Sunday evening. The music will come from the Mayfield Singers and Paisley Abbey organist George McPhee.
The concert title – ‘The West in Wind and Sun’ – comes from an account of a walk along Orkney’s west coast. ”A brightness hung in the air but the wind blew bitterly, and blue-white heaps of sea moved below the craigs,” she wrote. “In the windy, close-grown turf gleamed the primula scotica; we searched each patch of purple for its vivid colour, more royal than the tints of thyme and self-heal appearing stemless in carpet-pile grass.” The readings will be given by two generations of her family – son Donnie Grieve, and grand-daughters Karen Walker, Sarah Jane Gibbon and Emma Grieve. There will be descriptions of journeys to Hoy, Shapinsay, Eday, Westray, Sanday, and North Ronaldsay.
The music will include Peter Maxwell Davies’s A Hoy Calendar, Clive Strutt’s In Sanday, and Ivan Drever’s Orkney Anthem. Other works will include Elgar’s Weary Wind of the West and organ music by Messiaen and the 16th-century Scottish composer John Black.