These are the Hands

In These Are The Hands, celebrated writer Alexander McCall Smith has joined forces with Scottish composer James Ross, to write a song-cycle exploring Scotland’s relationship with the sea and the land.

The songs were performed as part of Made in Scotland as part of Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and received high praise by reviewers: 

Review from The Herald Scotland:

“Though steeped in Celtic tradition, elements of jazz, blues and classical music could also be found in Ross’s lyrical, sometimes wistful score, and the music as well as the words tell tales of Scotland’s history. The singers, Michelle Burke and Kathleen MacInnes are both gifted storytellers, who beautifully communicated the emotions and narrative of McCall Smith’s rich and expressive lyrics.”

The Happy Lands

The Happy Lands image

James composed the soundtrack for The Happy Lands. A feature film developed and created along with members of the mining communities of Fife, Scotland. The Happy Lands is a Theatre Workshop Scotland Production supported by Creative Scotland through The National Lottery, in association with BBC Scotland.

View trailer of the movie here:

Happy Lands Trailer from Our Land Productions on Vimeo.

The Boy and the Bunnet

The Boy and the Bunnet image

A musical adventure story with words by James Robertson and music by James Ross.

The ‘Boy and the Bunnet’ follows a young boy, Neil, who lives in rural Scotland with his Granny, and the adventures he has over the course of one day with a stag, a selkie, a craw and a cat. Neil follows the stag into a wood but becomes lost and is injured. The animals collaborate to alert Granny to the danger by sending Neil’s distinctive toorie bunnet on an elaborate journey home. The personality of each character and drama of the story are illustrated through the music and interspersed with live narration.

Animation by John McGeoch of Arts in Motion:

The Boy and the Bunnet from Big Sky on Vimeo.

The Johnston Suite

The Johnston Suite image

James was commissioned by Enterprise Music Scotland to create a suite of pieces inspired by the images from the Johnston Collection.  In 2014, James and Carol Ella (viola) premiered The Johnston Suite at Pulteneytown Parish Church, Wick.

Check out some of the stunning photographs from the Johnston Collection on my homepage.

Composer in residence

Galway Music Education Partnership appointed James Ross as composer in residence. The purpose of the residency was to stimulate the creativity of young musicians as they participated in and performed newly composed music. From September 2013 to April 2014, James worked with 170 young musicians and their directors.  These included four youth orchestras and traditional music groups. New works were composed alongside the young musicians and a collaborative piece to be performed by all the music groups.

A documentary of the residency was commissioned by Galway County Council. Watch the documentary here:


Making New Music from James Ross on Vimeo.

Michelle Burke - Step into my Parlour

Michelle Burke - Step into my Parlour image

This show is a collection of songs from the Irish tradition interspersed with stories, memories and tales in a quirky inviting parlour setting. Many of these tales based on newspaper clippings found in a scrapbook of Michelle's great granny. James regularly works as musical director on this show.

Check out Step into my Parlour - Album Promo: