Garefowl is a collective of musicians (Ewan Macdonald, Chris Jones, Jess Whelligan, Nathan Bontrager, Richard O’Flynn, and Stuart Graham) combining fiddle, viola, cello, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, vocals, and electronics. Garefowl is dedicated to music traditional to or inspired by the rich human and natural heritage of the archipelago of St Kilda, which lies in the Atlantic Ocean 50 miles west of the Outer Hebrides.
In 1840, Lachlan Mackinnon, a relative of Ewan, was one of a group of men who killed the last great auk (or “garefowl” as they were called in St Kilda) in the UK on the remote sea stack Stac an Armin, believing it to be a witch. Ewan Macdonald and his father Murdo conceived the project to reflect on and mark this family history and call attention to the danger that St Kilda’s birdlife faces today.
The uniquely St Kildan stories of the extinct great auk and the evacuated human population are also deeply relevant to our own uncertain age, and reflections on the fragility of nature and of human ways of life are woven into the fabric of the music.