The Sun in the Cathedral

Rivers of running gold. The sun! The sun!

That line from the Orkney poet Edwin Muir formed the title of a concert of music in St Magnus Cathedral with the Sun installation as background. We saw the blazing light and churning fire of the Sun’s surface and heard music for the cosmos from two composers whose works blend electronic sounds with instruments and voices to create work of elemental power and ethereal beauty.

The music was Stuart MacRae’s Magnus, Noble Martyr and his Incarnadine, along with Michael Oliva’s Threnody and his Music of the Spheres (for which Graham Hourie, helped by Cathleen Hourie, played the Cathedral bell).

The programme featured the Mayfield Singers, Ewan Robertson (alto and bass flute), Valerie Webster and Hannah Marshall (cellos), and Paisley Abbey organist George McPhee, with narration by the Sun’s co-creator, solar physicist Prof. Robert Walsh of the University of Central Lancashire.

The Sun in the Cathedral

film by Colin Keldie

Concert: Sundown

The Sun looked so much at home in the setting of St Magnus Cathedral that it needed an affectionate farewell at the end of its stay, and this was provided in a closing concert brought together by Cathedral custodian and Orkney storyteller Fran Flett Hollinrake. Among those taking part were the Archipelago String Quartet, poets Alison Miller and Yvonne Gray, storyteller Tom Muir and St Magnus Cathedral Choir. They came together to say goodbye to the Sun, after seven days in which over 14,000 people had come to see it.

Schools come to see the Sun

They came to see it from across Orkney, from the North Isles and the South Isles, from the East Mainland and the West Mainland, from across Scotland and the UK and overseas, from schools and from cruise liners. The 6-metre-diameter sphere glowed there in the Cathedral crossing, with the slow swirling solar storms moving across its surface and its light adding to the colour of the warm red sandstone.

The imagery comes from NASA spacecraft, with two week’s film speeded up into a 12-minute sequence to bring light and movement together. The Sun itself was created through the combined efforts of artist Alex Rinsler and solar physicist Professor Robert Walsh. The visit was made possible by immense support from many people and organisations and funders, and close collaboration between the Cathedral staff and the Sun team. The Sun fitted so wonderfully into the building that has often been called ‘The Light in the North’.

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