Last Saturday, around 30 singers celebrated the 500th anniversary of the weaving trade in Dundee in a singing event at Verdant Works. This was the final event of Warp and Weft, a community music project commissioned by Dundee Heritage Trust with money from Dundee’ Weaver Craft. This project started last August with a memories weekend in which people who worked in the mills or who had family who did so shared their experiences of the jute industry. Together with the exhibition at Verdant Works this provided the inspiration for community musician Petra Vergunst to write We Can Dance, We Can Swing.
In composing We Can Dance, We Can Swing Petra Vergunst took inspiration from opera in more than one way. The storyline unfolds in the first three scenes after which in an epilogue the singers are held up a mirror to reflect on their own experiences. This contrast between an involved and detached stance is expressed musically through the contrast between singing and narration. We Can Dance, We Can Swing also contains many of the usual ingredients of opera: solos, duets, choruses, and instrumental passages.
The rehearsal was followed by an informal performance of We Can Dance, We Can Swing for family and friends. The Dundee Free Voice Singers, led by Margaret Mathers, rounded off the afternoon by singing some traditional Dundee weaving songs.
A big thank you to all who contributed to making this afternoon a success.
Copyright text and images Petra Vergunst