VisitAberdeenshire chooses winners of ‘Sound of the North-east’ competition

Paul Anderson, Nikki Morris-Laing (VisitAberdeenshire), Joe Robinson (VisitScotland) and Benjamin McMillan

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A COLLABORATION between two Aberdeenshire musicians has been selected as the winner of VisitAberdeenshire’s ‘Sound of the North-east’ competition, supported by VisitScotland.

Renowned Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson and Stonehaven-based composer Benjamin McMillan have created ‘The Ballad of Blue, Granite and Green’, a ten-minute composition that will be used by VisitAberdeenshire in promotional marketing activity, designed to help attract visitors.

The music will be used in events and campaigns locally, nationally and internationally, and will be made available for the wider tourism sector to use. ‘The Ballad of Blue, Granite and Green’ is broken down into four sections, each inspired by Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire landmarks: Linn o’ Dee, Bennachie, Aberdeen city and Dunnottar Castle.

The ‘Linn o’ Dee’ segment is designed to evoke a sense of adventure, ‘Bennachie’ represents the region’s rich history, ‘Aberdonia’ embodies the city’s bustle while ‘Dunnottar’ represents the pride of the region.

Benjamin and Paul’s alternative music genres combined, with traditional musician Paul Anderson creating the melody in December before heading off to the States on tour. Benjamin added synths and drums before the track was remastered and rerecorded in full.

Benjamin McMillan said: “The melody Paul created was stunning, so the accompaniment came easy. Over the few weeks before Christmas I received many themes from Paul, mostly in the vernacular of fiddle dances, strathspeys, reels, jigs and airs that he had created himself. These melodies were beautiful to work with. We used three of Paul’s melodies, each of which we thought encapsulated different aspects of Aberdeenshire’s heritage, the fourth melody was my own composition, Aberdonia.

“His writing and his performance gave me the greatest canvas to work on and I feel very lucky and honoured not only to be able to represent the North-east but also to have worked with him.”

Paul Anderson has been playing for more than 40 years and welcomed the opportunity to create music with new emerging talent from the region.

He said: “Working together with Benjamin was great, he’s incredibly talented and together we’ve created an inspiring piece of music. I hope we get the opportunity to work together again in the future, and possibly even perform the music live.”

The duo was selected to create the track by a team of esteemed judges, including Professor and royal composer Paul Mealor, Dr Tom McKean from the Elphinstone Institute, Aberdeen Performing Arts Chief Executive Jane Spiers and VisitAberdeenshire representatives, Chris Foy and Nikki Morris-Laing. Judges were so impressed with Paul Anderson and Benjamin McMillan’s individual submissions, they asked them to collaborate.

Nikki Morris-Laing, Head of Marketing at VisitAberdeenshire, said: “We realised last year that strong, evocative music was a missing ingredient from our award-winning promotional work, so we set out to address that through this competition. Research tells us that travel promotions score highly for empathy and emotive power when the right music is applied. There is no shortage of emotive power in what Benjamin and Paul have created.”

“We’ll be launching the music in a new marketing campaign soon and we look forward to using it in our marketing activity for years to come. We’ll also be sharing the music with our tourism partners for use in ways that help them promote their own visitor experiences.”

The competition is supported by VisitScotland and is part of a wider initiative. The North-east Scotland’s Cultural Renaissance project aims to grow tourism in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and has received a £35,750 VisitScotland Growth Fund award. The Growth Fund, delivered by the national tourism organisation supports national, regional and sectoral tourism groups across Scotland to deliver partnership marketing campaigns.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “Our Growth Fund award supports collaborative campaigns that use new and exciting ways to grow Scotland’s visitor economy. VisitAberdeenshire’s new project has done just that with its ‘Sound of the North East’ competition and I’m delighted to see two local musicians selected as winners for their wonderful composition which captures the beauty of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“At VisitScotland we want to champion collaboration and spearhead innovation to promote local areas and ensure the benefits of tourism are felt across the country. I can’t wait to see VisitAberdeenshire’s upcoming marketing activity which will use this music to bring more visitors to the region.”


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