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A Timeless Flame

Ronald Stevenson and Scotland

Scottish historian, cultural activist and former European Parliament translator

In the confrontational, insecure, frightened and divided world of May 2017, imagine a fifty-minute long violin concerto that celebrates the unity of mankind. A concerto that begins in utter stillness, to the sound of an Indian dawn raga, and that then follows the westwards journey of the violin as a folk-instrument, brought by the Romany people first to Romania and Hungary, then north to the sounds of the Hardanger fiddle of Norway, and thence to Scotland and Ireland, finally crossing the Atlantic in a square-dance, with the concerto ending with an evocation of darkness and night. What a reminder of all that unites human beings such a concerto would be - a reminder of the fact that we live on one planet, circling one and the same sun, and that throughout history, we have expressed ourselves in melody and rhythm, in song and dance.

This concerto actually exists. Entitled The Gypsy, it was commissioned in 1977 by the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin from the Scottish composer and pianist Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015). Menuhin conducted the premiere in 1992. Ronald Stevenson’s earlier 2nd Piano Concerto, entitled The Continents, (1970-72), had likewise drawn on music from around the globe. One particularly heart-stopping moment in that work comes when an Indian raga, on plucked piano-strings, is accompanied by the orchestra playing a quotation from the pibroch entitled ‘The Lament for the Children’ (Cumha na cloinne) from Skye. One critic wrote after the première at the BBC Proms that it was as if “the Indian ocean were lapping the shores of the Hebrides”. In this concerto too, listeners are reminded of the essential oneness of humankind – the planet’s oceans know no barriers or borders.

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iScot May 2017 issue - the one with Theresa May.I.Am front cover 116 jam packed pages of the best craic in Scotland Alyn Smith MEP - " Putting Women down" Robbie Dinwoodie - Our Scottish Grandees Dave Bowman - Nightmare on Downing Street Zoe Weir - The Hiroshima Survivors Derek Bateman - I get it now! Dave Bowman - English for Indy Tom Morton - Brewdog Will McLeod - Letter from America Wee Ginger Dug - The Dug has eyes Blaze's Trail - Glen Nevis Peter A Bell - The Tides of History Grousebeater - Prof Ian Ritchie CBE RA Jason Michael McCann - Our Untaught Union Dr Steve McCabe - Into the Vallies Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter - A Timeless Flame Metal Guru - Jewel in the Highlands Vivien Martin - King's Cave Arran Sir Harry Lauder Poem iSpy iScot Book Review - The Bogeyman Chronicles iScot Short Story - David McVey Major Bloodnok and Mystic Mons Meg Heidbyler Soduko ( No, not Sudoko!) Readers Letters