- Trevor Morrison, Scottish Festival Orchestra , Sir James MacMillan
- 1,533 total number
- United Kingdom ()
The Lost Songs of St Kilda, recorded by care-home resident Trevor Morrison and the Scottish Festival Orchestra (conducted by Sir James MacMillan, all UK) and released by Decca Records, debuted at No.1 on the UK’s Official Classical Artist Albums Chart on 22 September 2016 after selling 1,533 first-week copies.
The album features the piano-playing of retired teacher Trevor Morrison, who lived in Edinburgh’s former Silverlea Care Home and “enchanted fellow residents with his strangely haunting music, played on a rickety piano”. Trevor (d. 1 December 2012) was taught the compositions as a boy by a piano teacher from St Kilda – an Outer Hebridean archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, off the north-west coast of Scotland.
Silverlea volunteer Stuart McKenzie helped Trevor, then aged 73, record the tracks. He said: “I went home, got my computer, downloaded a bit of software and went along to a local electrical store and paid £3 for a microphone we could put down the back of the piano for him. And away he went.” Decca Records A&R Manager Fiona Pope then made the album a reality by inviting renowned composers to reimagine the tracks and bring them to life in a recording studio in preparation for the CD’s release.
The album’s lead track, “Hirta”, complete with a string arrangement from Sir James MacMillan, is named after St Kilda’s largest island. Grammy/Ivor Novello winner Craig Armstrong, Rebecca Dale, Christopher Duncan (aka Mercury Music Prize-nominated musician C Duncan) and Francis Macdonald (drummer and backing vocalist for Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub) also contributed arrangements for the album.
The CD sleeve claims: “Recordings discovered in a Scottish care home, handed down through generations of St Kildans. Saved from the edge of extinction and now available for the first time for the world to hear.”
To celebrate the album’s release, MacMillan took an eight-hour boat journey to Hirta to perform a piano concert – the first time music had been heard on the islands since they were evacuated in 1930. The piano used by MacMillan arrived in sections and had to be reassembled once it had reached its destination – a rugged hillside overlooking the ocean.
The Lost Songs of St Kilda outsold albums by established artists such as André Rieu, Ludovico Einaudi, Aled Jones and Andrea Bocelli to enter the classical chart at No.1. On the all-genre Official Albums Chart, St Kilda debuted at No.60 on 22 September 2016 and climbed to its peak position of No.56 seven days later.
The album spent four weeks at No.1 on the classical chart, 17 non-consecutive weeks in the Top 10 and 44 consecutive weeks in the 50-position countdown before finally dropping off the chart on 27 July 2017. On 12 October 2017, St Kilda celebrated a full year (52 weeks) on the chart after securing a re-entry at No.25.
As of 1 April 2021, The Lost Songs of St Kilda had sold a total of 16,392 copies/downloads, according to data from the Official Charts Company.
Decca’s Fiona Pope said: “The Lost Songs of St Kilda, and the story of how Trevor Morrison came to learn and record these beautiful melodies, captured the hearts of the anyone who came to hear them. The response was truly incredible. The album continues to sell well, a testament to Trevor’s stunningly heartfelt interpretations of this very nearly lost music.”