Slains Castle inspires new musical work

Joe Stollery at Slains Castle, the inspiration for his new musical piece
Joe Stollery at Slains Castle, the inspiration for his new musical piece

The eerie clifftop setting of Slains Castle is thought to have paved the way for the creation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and now it has provided the inspiration for a new piece of orchestral music.

The 16th century ruin, near Cruden Bay is the subject of a new piece by north-east composer and University of Aberdeen PhD student Joe Stollery.

The piece ‘Slains’ will be premiered by the University of Aberdeen Symphony Orchestra and Aberdeen Youth Orchestra on Sunday, February 24.

Joe, 25, has used a number of local landmarks as inspiration for his work leading to a myriad of locally-inspired compositions from his opera ‘The Maiden Stone’, to ‘Grampian Picture’ a piece written for a student orchestra, which had recently been performed by the Aberdeen Sinfonietta.

Aberdeen student Joe said: “I have always been interested in local landmarks in the North East, having visited many of those places from a young age. They have strongly influenced my music and ruins and prehistoric sites provide me with a lot of ideas.

“When drawing on certain landscapes, I tend to get inspiration from a variety of things involved in these places. I also tend to look into the cultural ideas associated with them.

“Slains has many of these stimuli. The ruined castle itself is dark and imposing against the long horizon next to steep cliffs.

“When you come up to the castle, you find that it is quite a treacherous place, with spiral stairs leading haphazardly to non-existent top floors. Stringing all these things together give the potential for a dark but exciting piece.”

Writing for orchestra presented Joe with a challenge but it also provided greater opportunity to create the climactic moments which Slains Castle and its association with Dracula requires.

Joe has been able to dedicate the time to creating the piece thanks to a grant from a Year of Young People Creative Funding award from Aberdeen City Council.

The first performance of the piece will take place at the University of Aberdeen’s Butchart Centre at 5pm on Sunday, February 24.

The concert is free and open to all.

Those looking to attend should arrive before 5pm.