2021: George Mackay Brown Centenary Project

Words into Music: Continuity and Change

GMB1921-2021 52021 sees the Centenary of the birth of the Orcadian writer and poet George Mackay Brown whose work had such a powerful influence on the composer Peter Maxwell Davies. In an exciting collaboration between the George Mackay Brown Fellowship and Orkney Camerata, writers and composers are invited to create new work to mark the Centenary.

We are asking people to think about continuity and change – ideas which can be seen throughout the work of George Mackay Brown and which may have a particular resonance for us now.

In the first part of the project we have invited writers to create a short poem or prose piece reflecting, in some way, on change and/or continuity. Contributions are being published as they come in and you can read them here: Words into Music: Working with Words.

The deadline for writers’ submissions is midnight on Friday 21 May. From Monday 24 May all the work can be seen here and a PDF file will be available to composers.

From Monday 24 May, we are inviting composers of secondary school age and above to create a short piece of music inspired by one of these pieces of writing.

Composers’ Brief

Composers should select one of the pieces of writing – or a section or quotation from it – and create either:

a) a setting for voice and instruments, or
b) an instrumental piece inspired by one of the pieces of writing – or a section or quotation from it.



Pieces should be composed for one of the following combinations of instruments:

  • string duo – violin/cello
  • string trio – violin/viola/cello
  • string quartet – violin1/violin2/viola/cello
  • mixed quartet – string trio plus one of the following: flute/clarinet/oboe/bassoon/trumpet
  • string ensemble – normally 6-5-3-3-1, though covid restrictions may necessitate reduced strings.

High voice (soprano/tenor) may be added to any of these combinations.


4 minutes (maximum)

It may be possible for composers to ‘meet’ with writers (e.g. on Zoom) to discuss work in progress; requests should be sent to gmbfellows@gmail.com. Other queries may be sent to camerataorkney@gmail.com

Submitting your piece

We wish to encourage the participation of young people and so compositions may be submitted in one of the following two categories:

  • composers aged 21 and under
  • composers over the age of 21

Submissions should be sent by email to camerataorkney@gmail.com and should include:

  • a full score in pdf format (please do not include your name on the score as compositions will be assessed anonymously)
  • a short programme note, acknowledging the piece of writing which has inspired your composition, giving its title, writer’s name and, where relevant, the line which has provided a starting point
  • a short biography, maximum 50 words
  • name, contact details and age (if under 21)

Deadline for submissions: Friday, 20th August, 2021

Opportunities for composers

All composers wishing to write for voice will be invited to explore ideas in an online workshop with a professional singer.

Composers of the compositions that are selected for performance will be offered a variety of opportunities:

• Those who would find this helpful will be invited to attend an online mentoring session with a professional composer. The session might include discussion of instrumentation, vocal and/or instrumental techniques, the use of Sibelius software for notation, printing the piece and preparing the score and parts for performance.

• Composers will also be invited to attend a Camerata online workshop/play-through of their piece.

• The selected pieces will be recorded and composers will be able to request feedback on the recording and discuss suggestions for development opportunities as required.Pieces selected will be performed as part of an Orkney Camerata concert.

Please note that, depending on covid restrictions, the performance may not happen until after the Centenary year.

Copyright and permissions

By submitting a score a composer grants Orkney Camerata the right to give the first performance. If Orkney Camerata has not performed the work within one year of the submission deadline the composer has the right to make alternative arrangements for performance. Copyright after the first performance remains with the composer.

Download a PDF file of the Composers’ Brief

Orkney Camerata

LogoFounded in 1995, Orkney Camerata is established as Orkney’s own small chamber orchestra. Led by violinist Elizabeth Sullivan, the ensemble is made up of instrumental teachers and other experienced musicians based in Orkney. Camerata aims to bring high quality performances to the local community and has performed in venues throughout the islands. The ensemble has given regular concerts in St Magnus Cathedral and its performances at the St Magnus International Festival have been well received.

Camerata performs a wide range of repertoire from the 18th century to the present day and has premiered several new works. Orkney Camerata’s Facebook page includes details of some of the ensemble’s most recent repertoire.

Featured image: Orkney Camerata in rehearsal in St Magnus Cathedral, 2017

Where next . . .?

You can read more about the collaboration between Orkney Camerata and the George Mackay Brown Fellowship on the GMB Fellowship website.

Read more about our joint project Words into Music: Continuity and Change

Read the work submitted to the project at Words into Music: Working with Words