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Songwriters living near Loch Ness make it to finals of UK Songwriting Contest

By Val Sweeney

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Songwriter Christiane Morley.
Songwriter Christiane Morley.

Two songwriters both living near Loch Ness has made it to the finals of a prestigious contest.

German-born Christiane Morley penned a festive song, Bells, which she performs with other members of her female a cappella group, Monadhliath.

It has now been shortlisted in the Christmas Songs category of the UK Songwriting Contest which has attracted thousands of entries from around the world.

Retired headteacher Margaret Livingstone, of Drumnadrochit, has also been shortlisted as a finalist in the Folk section with her submission of Cotton Mill Workers' Jig.

Mrs Morley lives with husband Robin near Foyers, where she runs a small holiday company offering yoga, walking and singing holidays.

Bells, which is one of eight shortlisted songs in the Christmas song section, features singing group members Anna Lowe, Lesley Morrison and Julie Harvey who were recorded and filmed performing the song separately last month before being edited together.

The resultant video includes scenic snow-covered landscapes around Foyers.

It is the first time Mrs Morley has entered a songwriting competition and is delighted to have reached the finals. “In this time when there are so many terrible things, this is something positive,” she said.

“I am super happy it has reached the finals.”

She originally wrote Bells in 2019, after the inspiration came during a holiday abroad.

“I was in the Pyrenees walking and climbing with my husband and you could hear the sound of the bells worn by animals everywhere,” she said.

“That is how it started.”

It was performed at an annual Christmas concert in Foyers in 2019 although, due to the pandemic, the event could not take place this Christmas.

Mrs Morley has led choirs and singing groups for more than 30 years, first in Germany and then in Scotland after moving here in 2008.

She worked for the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, Visit Scotland and as an NHS social worker before she and her husband, a retired police officer, set up their small holiday company in 2015.

She has currently set herself a challenge to write a new song every month.

Mrs Livingstone, meanwhile, is also passionate about songwriting.

Cotton Mill Workers' Jig is part of a package of children’s songs and musical activities highlighting Scottish places of historic interest.

It was written as a dance activity depicting the life of the child workers in the New Lanark Mill in 1873.

The music was recorded in 2019 in her home studio, and features Feis Ros tutor Hugh Marwick on tin whistle, Maureen Turnbull, a member of Animato String Quartet, on violin, and Ian Livingstone, church organist and accompanist, on piano.

The UK Songwriting Contest was launched in London in 2002 in association with organisations such as the Brit Trust, the Brit Studio, the Brit School, Music Aid, the Guild Of International Songwriters and Composers, Roland UK and top British producers and industry professionals to discover and encourage new songwriting talent and promote the craft of songwriting.

Since its inception, more than 100,000 songs have been entered and over £1 million prize money awarded.

Complete beginners and experienced songwriters compete together on an equal basis and it is well-known in the music business as an important launching pad for new songwriting talent, and widely respected as one of the world’s best and most popular songwriting events.

This year there are 30 categories including pop, jazz, folk, rhythm and blues, indie and crisis songs. A panel of judges will decide the winners.

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