A project connecting seven countries, through orchestral performances, solo concerts, tree planting and a 2000 mile journey.
This will be one of the largest collaborations ever between musical and environmental institutions and partners. It will touch communities not solely in large urban conurbations but in smaller towns and rural districts too. It crosses national borders, will undoubtedly reach new audiences, raise the profile of new music and galvanise tree planting.
The journey starts in northern Sweden, passes through Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, France and will be completed in the UK. In 2021 composer Graham Fitkin will cycle the 2000 miles from Umeå in northern Sweden to London, UK. In some cities along the way orchestral performances of his work 'Birch' will take place, in smaller towns he will perform solo piano concerts and join local communities in tree planting. Musically this project celebrates the 150th birthday of a single specific birch tree from the forest of Umeå using data from its own growth. Environmentally, rather than simply raising awareness of the benefits of tree planting, this project does something positive and actually aims to plant 2000 trees on the journey.
Graham explains -
"In 2014 I was commissioned to write a new orchestral work to celebrate the European City of Culture, Umeå in Sweden. I wanted to base the music on something central to Umeå, its people and surroundings. Following site visits it was apparent to me that one simple thing was central to the history of the city, its people, its architecture and it's roots in Sami culture - the birch tree. With the help of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, we collected data from a single birch tree, from the forest at Umeå. We identified that this tree started life in 1871 and I incorporated data relating to is annual growth rates in to the fabric of my orchestral piece 'Birch 1871'. I am now composing a special updated piece based on the original Birch to celebrate its 150th anniversary. This tree has lived through two world wars, the inventions of penicillin, the microphone and the light bulb, the discovery of radioactivity, the births and deaths of Bartok, JFK and Einstein and is still going strong. At a time when 'longevity' is a concept we struggle to identify with, I think it pertinent to celebrate this humble tree and give it an interesting and important legacy.”