The global premiere of a new work by Glasgow based British-Finnish artist and composer Hanna Tuulikki is to be performed at Glasgow Cathedral later this year.
Commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) with Arts&Heritage, Tuulikki’s extraordinary new vocal musical composition the bird that never flew explores the ancient Cathedral’s roots in ornithological entanglements, bringing together sacred lament and ecological political protest to raise the alarm for critically endangered birds and the impacts of climate change.
Taking place live on Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September, the innovative piece will be performed by Tuulikki, alongside award winning Scottish vocalist Mischa Macpherson and Glasgow-based voice and sound artist Lucy Duncombe.
Drawing on sacred music traditions, myth, and ecology, Tuulikki's new composition for three voices, field recordings and electronics, weaves together what the robin knows of past, present, and future. With its distinctive red breast and warbling song, the European robin plays a prominent role in the life of Glasgow’s patron saint, St Mungo, who is said to have brought a dead bird back to life by holding it in his hands, smoothing its feathers, and praying until the lifeless creature revived.
In a time where the numbers of wild birds in Britain have declined drastically, Mungo’s story of empathy with nature prompts us to consider how they might support other species faced with the dangers of climate change.
Claire Whitbread, HES Exhibitions Manager who commissioned the piece said:
“We are delighted to announce this powerful, visually and aurally stunning work by Hanna, which melds the historic and the contemporary into an engaging evocative performance, played out in one of Scotland’s much-loved historic sites,”
Commenting on the work, artist and composer Hanna Tuulikki said:
As a starting point for the composition, I ask: What if we were able to translate the alarm calls of birds into human language and discovered these signals were alerting all beings to the destruction of the earth? What if these alarm calls were a collective call to rise and protest?
“The invitation to respond to the historic and sacred setting of Glasgow Cathedral has been such a privilege and I felt so inspired by St. Mungo's robin – the bird that never flew. The story prompted me to consider how we might show compassion to bird species who are severely impacted by human-made climate chaos. With this new work, I hope to create a space that both mourns biodiversity loss and sounds the alarm.”
Marie-Anne McQuay, Director of Projects, Arts&Heritage, an agency which works across the UK to forge connections between artists, communities, historic sites and museums said:
"Hanna Tuulikki's vital new vocal composition the bird that never flew responds to site, history and legend, while asking us to listen deeply to the changing patterns of bird song as warning cries from nature."
This urgent new work follows on from Tuulikki’s silent ‘bat rave’, Echo in the dark, 2022 at Arbroath’s Hospitalfield, and Seals’kin, 2022 commissioned for the Biennial of Sydney and shown at British Art Show 9. Memorialising biodiversity loss, the bird that never flew is an animal fable for tomorrow which brings the alarm call of nature into a space of human sanctuary, sounding a red alert through a cacophony of human and avian harmony.
As well as the two performances in September, Tuulikki is also inviting audiences on a “Dawn Chorus Walk” on Sunday 10 September at 6am in Glasgow’s Necropolis for a deep listening exploration of the urban bird habitat that inspired the work. Those involved can walk, listen, and reflect on what they can do to raise the alarm for the precious bird species they share their city with.
Find out more and book tickets
Photo credits: Hanna Tuulikki, the bird that never flew, 2023. Commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland with Arts&Heritage. Image courtesy the artist. Photography Laurence Winram. Make-up by MV Brown
Notes to editors :
The project is commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland for Glasgow Cathedral, supported by Arts&Heritage.
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About the Artist
Hanna Tuulikki (1982) is a British-Finnish artist, composer and performer based in Scotland. Her multi-disciplinary projects investigate the ways in which the body communicates beyond and before words, to tell stories through imitation, vocalisation and gesture. With a largely place-responsive process, she considers how bodily relationships and folk histories are encoded within specific environments, ecologies, and places.
Selected for British Art Show 9 (2021-2022,) she was Magnetic North Theatre’s first Artist Attachment supported by Jerwood Arts (2017-19) and shortlisted for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women (2020). She was a finalist in the Arts Foundation Music for Change Award (2022), won a Scottish Award for New Music in Sonic Arts (2017), and was twice shortlisted for a British Composer Award (2015, 2017).
Recent projects include Echo in the Dark (2022), a multi-artform project weaving together music and live participatory performance to explore interconnections of raving and bat echolocation as a model for ecological coexistence; Seals’kin (2022), a short film, visual score and participatory vocal performance drawing on myths of human-seal hybridity and folkloric musical practices to offer alternative forms of mourning through sensuous identification with more-than-human kin; Under Forest Cover / Metsänpeiton Alla (2021), an audiovisual installation and site-specific performance exploring Finnish folklore and the emotional trauma that comes with ecological awareness.
Hannah Tuulikki on Instagram @hanna_tuulikki and Twitter @HannaTuulikki
Photographer Laurence Winram on Instagram @winram and Twitter @WinramPhoto
Makeup Artist MV Brown on Instagram @mvbrownmakeup
Arts&Heritage (A&H) is an agency working across the UK to forge connections between artists, communities and historic sites and museums. We challenge how heritage is explored by centering artists that have participatory and people-based practices, while prioritising a diversity of voices within the narratives presented.
Across the last fifteen years of commissioning and collaborating in heritage contexts, A&H has expanded its definition of heritage to include intangible cultural heritage and environmental heritage. Common Lands, the working title for our new 18-month programme for 2023-25 focuses on environmental heritage that speaks to histories of people, place, land ownership and collective action in the climate crisis. The starting point for projects comes from artistic and academic research, community activism and museum & heritage partnerships which value and support environmental quality, inclusivity, community well-being, and biodiversity. We want to bring to light, progressive historic environmental movements to inspire change in the present and give voice & value to radicals from the past, while connecting their stories to today.
Arts&Heritage on Instagram @artsheritage and Twitter @ArtsHeritage
About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
- We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting, and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
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