Hello! I’m Isla, a fiddle player and Manx Gaelic speaker from the Isle of Man. I moved to Scotland to study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland a few years ago and loved Glasgow so much I decided to stay after graduating last July. Although I now live in Scotland, the culture, language and music of the Isle of Man remains an intrinsic part of my identity as a musician. This is partly why, when ‘2nd lockdown’ hit and I was holed up in my Glasgow flat, I decided to start #ManxMondays; an online video series celebrating Manx music.
I think so many people felt the same as I did at the start of this year. Maybe some of us thought we’d be out of this nightmare come the start of 2021, and the winter seemed to make everything 10 times harder. I had no work on the horizon, apart from a few regular pupils, and everything just felt a bit bleak. I found it harder and harder to pick up my fiddle and play, so, in the hope of finding a sense of musical purpose again, I turned to the Manx tunes that I grew up playing.
Each week throughout February and again later in June, I arranged, recorded and edited a music video featuring Manx tunes and songs. I published them on my Facebook and Instagram pages, along with a blog featuring more about the tunes, and where they came from.
I found the process very difficult at the start. For me, music is all about connection; connecting with a tune, connecting with other people, an audience, your band members. It is about collaboration, sharing and having good fun. This is what gives me purpose as a musician. But with all that being unable to happen in the ‘normal’ way throughout the pandemic, I felt lost. I was scared to share anything online that was just me and my fiddle sat in my flat, and I became hypercritical to the point that I struggled to play.
However, in committing to this online series, I found myself gradually feeling more able to pick up my fiddle and play. #ManxMondays meant that I had a weekly, short-term goal and this definitely helped me feel more motivated. As the series went on, and I collaborated with other Manx musicians, I realised that, although it wasn’t in the same way as before, we were still able to share, to collaborate and to connect through music.
I think it’s important to say that having a purpose as a musician or finding a reason to play doesn’t have to be to ‘produce’ or ‘create’ something. This past year and a half has been incredibly challenging for everyone, and just being and living is enough. But for me, in creating this weekly goal, I was able to find my way back to doing what I love – playing music.
If you’d like to watch or read more about #ManxMondays, you can head over the my blog on my website, or check out my Facebook and Instagram pages.
Gura mie mooar eu/ thanks very much!
📷 Photo by Martin Venherm