MGCD1Release news: Song of the Silent North

17 Jan 2011
News of 

Song of the Silent North

MGCD1The landscapes of Scotland and Scandinavia sing with a transfixing physical silence. Dark in the shadow of listening mountains, in the sensuous silence of the land, we find our natural Nordic voice and identity - our song of the silent north.          Sally Garden

Mons Graupius MGCD1
Released December 2010
CD available for purchase at

In collaboration with Donald Hawksworth, her long-standing musical partner, Sally Garden unfolds the silences of her northern world through lyric artistry and written word. 

Taking northern landscape, language and lyric as her theme, and the colour and rhythm and cadence of language that forms dark in the shadow of listening mountains, she brings together Scottish and Scandinavian song to sing with one Nordic voice. 

At the heart of the CD is Grieg’s song-cycle masterpiece ‘Haugtussa’, sung in the original ‘country’ Norwegian of poet Arne Garborg, along with 3 of Garden’s own ‘Haugtussa’ translations, sung in her native Scots. Under the title ‘The Cairn Quinie’ her Scots translations – the first of their kind and making their debut in the CD - are set in a real ‘sister’ landscape to Garborg’s Jæren - his west Norwegian setting. Seldom championed outwith Scandinavia, for the ‘untranslatability’ of its dialect-infused text, Garden finds for the love story a natural sibling home in the lilting ‘speak’ and landscape of the Howe of the Mearns. And in calling on the Doric, and the idioms of her own farming background, she brings ‘Haugtussa’ ‘home’ through the very dialect of Edvard Grieg’s own north east Scottish ancestors.  

Specially gathered, and performed for the first time as a group, 4 Scandinavian settings of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns – a delightful  ‘spate’ of Burns, including two settings of ‘Afton Water’ from father of the Norwegian romanse, Hjalfdan Kjerulf, and composer of the first Finnish language opera, Oskar Merikanto - introduce the CD. 

In 6 portraits of sea and land – a first set of ‘northern crossings’ - Garden brings together Scots and Norwegian composers in an entirely fresh context. From the C20, songs by Norwegian composers Øystein Sommerfeldt and Johan Kvandal sit, in a delicate juxtaposition of voice and identity, alongside those of two Scotswomen, Marie Dare and Isobel Dunlop. Humour and sentiment feature too – not least in Norway’s beloved ‘Anne Knutsdatter’. And a boisterous ‘Up with the sail’ by the adventurous C19 Scots poet and lover of Norway, J Logie Robertson, shatters the silence of the north with the scream of sea-birds and crashing waves - a reminder of old Scottish-Scandinavian maritime links. 

A second set of ‘northern crossings’ features a special lyric tribute to Edvard Grieg – Garden’s setting of the beautiful Scots love lyric ‘Logie o’ Buchan’, the words written by C18 Buchan schoolmaster George Halket, a neighbour of Edvard Grieg’s great great grandfather, John. Garden writes of discovering the signature of the two men on a document in the National Archives of Scotland and how it inspired her to compose a setting in the style of Grieg, which she first performed, together with Donald Hawksworth, at Norway’s Vestkystfestival on the island of Sotra in 2007. 

The CD completes with Scots composer Hamish MacCunn’s ‘The ash tree’ - a last song of the silent north with its visions of snow and ice and the soft voice of the north wind. A gentle elegy on old age and celebration of landscape, it brings to a close a CD filled to the brim with life-giving images of the northern natural world – the lyric of the land from mountain to shore: the song of the silent north. 

In addition to a comprehensive set of sleevenote translations, the CD comes complete with introductory notes and photography by Sally Garden.  


Composers & Poets 

Sally Garden (Robert Burns)

A Spate o’ Scandinavian Burns

Halfdan Kjerulf, Hugo Alfvén, Oskar Merikanto, Agathe Backer-Grøndahl  - (Robert Burns)

Northern Crossings I -Landscape

AC Mackenzie (J Logie Robertson), Marie Dare (C Ethel Evans), Øystein Sommerfeldt (Knut Hamsun),  Johan Kvandal (trad Telemark), Isobel Dunlop (William Soutar), Eyvind Alnæs (CP Riis)

Haugtussa – The Cairn Quinie

Edvard Grieg (Arne Garborg)

Northern Crossings II - Language & Lyric

Sally Garden (George Halket), Edvard Grieg (Arne Garborg): Haugtussa Scots performance translations by Sally Garden (1st perf.), Edvard Grieg (AO Vinje)

A Last Song of the Silent North

Hamish MacCunn (Thomas Davidson)


• Mons Graupius is an artist-owned classical label from Scotland presenting the lyric artistry and writings of mezzo-soprano Sally Garden.

• Forthcoming - Sally Garden is also a published author. Her forthcoming book contribution presenting a fresh and detailed perspective on Edvard Grieg’s Scottish ancestry, has been described by renowned Grieg biographer Finn Benestad as ‘brilliant’ and ‘very beautifully written’. (Bodoni Forlag, Bergen, with plans for separate Scottish publication 2011).



“a superb mezzo” “astonishingly rich” “warm and direct” 

"a distinguished finalist in the Mary Garden International Singing Competition” 

"From the Vivaldi bel canto aria that opened the recital to the arrestingly odd imagery of the songs by Satie and a marvellous rendition of five French songs by Britten, Sally Garden paid a worthy tribute to her namesake, Mary Garden” 

“Francis George Scott’s setting of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘The man in the moon’ sung so persuasively and exquisitely as this, seemed the equal of anything by Hugo Wolf”


Sally Garden (mezzo-soprano) was born in Angus, north east Scotland. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen. Her recital and research career encompasses international collaborative work, festival appearances, concert promotion, publishing, editing, new media work, and composition. 

Sally was educated at the Universities of Aberdeen, Heriot-Watt, and also Edinburgh where she gained her doctoral degree in music. After initial vocal studies at NESMS (Aberdeen), and an appearance as finalist in the Mary Garden International Prize, she was fortunate to be able to continue her studies with the distinguished Italian mezzo Laura Sarti. 

After several years working in business, Sally turned to music full-time in 2002 with a research appointment at the University of Glasgow. In 2003 she was appointed Historical Musician in Residence at the Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee, where she directed a 3-year programme of events to unfold one of Scotland’s finest music archives. 

In recent years Sally has completed a variety of research commissions and working freelance, has been able to devote more time to her distinctive recital work. She has also travelled by special invitation to Norway and Germany to develop her work on Edvard Grieg. 


  • Dr Sally Garden gave a beautiful performance of the art songs on Saturday afternoon, with Donald Hawksworth at the piano, and it was a reminder to us all how this composer [Ronald Center] had a temperament and a taste that encompassed the traditional musical cadences of Scotland… and the German romantic tradition, whose passions he understood. James Naughtie 2008
  • Garden’s work goes on, extending beyond Grieg to other, lesser-known Norwegian composers (her determination to get inside the country’s culture prompted her to learn Norwegian) and she expresses enthusiasm for the new Centre of Scandinavian Studies at Aberdeen University: “ It’s really exciting that Scotland is thinking again about another northern identity.” Jim Gilchrist 2007
  • This Norse connection was celebrated recently with the launch of an ambitious multi-media project called Blowing Nordland's Trumpet, by Sally Garden, Historical Musician in Residence at the Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee… For Garden, the opportunity to build on [Norwegian-Scottish] fellow feeling by exploring our musical and literary connections is rewarding... “ Through this project I hope we can find a rich part of our heritage… a new path to cultural exchange and understanding that mirrors the trade routes of the past.”  Magnus Linklater 2006
  • How do you turn the Caird Hall into a cosy little concert room? Simply curtain off the front of the stage, turn the piano around, and seat the audience on the choir galleries. This musical togetherness on the platform last night, the brainwave of Dr Sally Garden, couldn’t have been more appropriate, emphasising as it did her determination that the music of the city’s Wighton Collection should not be something set apart for scholars and musicologists, but a treasure trove to be explored and enjoyed by music lovers amateur and professional, young and not so young. Russell Reid 2004

Mons Graupius