The Edge Of The Sea

Composers Craig Armstrong and Calum Martin released their brand new collaboration on Modern Recordings, ‘The Edge of the Sea’, an album exploring the unique spiritual tradition of Scottish Gaelic psalm-singing.

‘The Edge of the Sea’ consists of two new works: ‘Martyrdom’, and ‘Ballantyne’; with the concept being realised by bringing together a curated congregation by Calum’s from the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, along with the outstanding talent and enthusiasm of the Scottish Ensemble.

‘Martyrdom’ is based on an existing traditional melody of the same title, from the late eighteenth century and is still used in Gaelic church services today. The combination of its melody and the variations created by the composer was to become the beginning of a unique collaboration between Craig and Calum.

‘Ballantyne’ was originally commissioned by Alex Macdonald from the Lewis Arts Centre, An Lanntair, as part of their Creative Places Awards concert in August 2016.

‘Ballantyne’ is originally based on the Ascension story of The Acts of the Apostles (chapter 1, verses 6-11). Compositionally ‘Ballantyne’ also contains a melody by Calum Martin and features original composition by Craig. It features Duncan Chisholm, one of the traditional Highland fiddle music leaders.

We are extremely happy through the financial support of National Lottery through Creative Scotland and the PRS Foundation that this recording has been able to happen to create this special album.


Album tracks

1Ballantyne (Movement 1 Stone)
2Ballantyne (Movement 2 The Edge of the Sea)
3Ballantyne (Movement 3 Ballantyne 1)
4Ballantyne (Movement 4 Ballantyne 2)
5Ballantyne (Movement 5 Your Shadow)
6Ballantyne (Movement 6 Ballantyne 3)
7Ballantyne (Movement 7 Grace Notes)
Ballantyne (Movement 8 Ballantyne 4)
9Ballantyne (Movement 9 Before Last)
10Ballantyne (Movement 10 Nightfall)
11Ballantyne (Movement 11 Tidal)
12Martyrdom (Movement 1)
13Martyrdom (Movement 2)
14Martyrdom (Movement 3)
15Martyrdom (Movement 4)
16Martyrdom (Movement 5)
17Martyrdom (Movement 6)
18Martyrdom (Movement 7)
19Martyrdom (Movement 8)

The film

Alongside the release of the album, Craig and Calum have shared a brand new film by Scottish artists Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion, ‘Your Shadow’, which features the piece Ballantyne Movement 5 from ‘The Edge of the Sea’.

The film features birds native to the Outer Hebrides, where Scottish Gaelic psalm singing is most prevalent, including: Crow, Gannet, Bonxie (Great Skua), Gannet (hovering).

Ballantyne – the concert

An Lanntair, Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, 27th August 2016.

Craig Armstrong’s interest in the Gaelic Psalm tradition led to the creation of a special piece of work celebrating the spiritual music of the Islands.  

Ballantyne is a collaboration with musician and composer Calum Martin, who has been involved in composing, recording, performing and teaching Gaelic music for more than 40 years. 

The evening featured members of the Scottish Ensemble, Lewis-based cellist (and former member of the Ensemble, Neil Johnstone), Highland fiddle player Duncan Chisholm and a host of psalm singers from throughout Lewis and Harris. 

“Having previously worked with Craig and The Scottish Ensemble on a commission for the Ryder Cup in 2014 called Martyrdom Variations, it is an honour and a pleasure to be working with him once again.  

I have always believed that the key to maintaining any music tradition is the inclusion of a mix of both young and old, and at a time when the established traditional churches are turning their back on this precious musical heritage, I am delighted sufficient people are still interested and willing to help in trying to keep our Gaelic spiritual music alive.

We acknowledge that this is firstly and fore mostly a spiritual vocal tradition, but it is also a unique Scottish art form, which deserves to be nurtured and preserved.

Calum Martin

This project was created as part of Bealach, An Lanntair’s Creative Places Award-winning project.