IT IS in the nature of composing film soundtracks that while a simple phrase can take on a life of its own that outlasts, or at least rivals, the film itself, months of work can flash past and be forgotten immediately the film is over.

This was at the back of Donald Shaw’s mind when he decided to present the music he wrote for the BBC Network wildlife series Scotland’s Wild Heart in an audio-visual performance that is at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Fringe on Wednesday, August 22 and Thursday August 24.

The musician and composer who wears several creative hats – he is director of the mammoth Celtic Connections festival and runs and produces albums for his own label, Vertical Records, as well as guiding the long-running Gaelic folk-rock band Capercaillie – might be assumed to have too much going on in his professional life to worry about missed opportunities. Depending on which part of the programming cycle he’s in with Celtic Connections, just checking his emails can be time-consuming enough.

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Response from the TV people and general viewers alike and his own excitement derived from performing excerpts of the music in live orchestral versions, however, convinced Shaw to take the project off the back burner.

“In music, projects come and go and it’s very easy to think, yeah, I’ll get round to that one day as you move onto the next thing,” says Shaw. “But we did a five-minute version with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester as part of a night for Michael McGoldrick, who plays flute and pipes in the Scotland’s Wild Heart band, and then similar short performances with the RSNO and the BBC SSO, and each time it felt really good. Plus, the imagery onscreen is a good advert for Scotland, so I thought if I don’t do this now I might look back in ten years and wish I had, and here we are.”

Shaw is an experienced film composer, the BBC Alba drama Bannan and the Bafta winning children’s TV series Katie Morag being just two high profile vehicles for his work, and he is well used to, as he says, "putting the director’s ideas before his own".

“Directors often don’t know what they want but will have very firm ideas about what they don’t want and my favourite part of the process is often the initial discussion,” says Shaw, whose soundtrack to another BBC nature series, Hebrides – Islands on the Edge, was nominated for the coveted Jackson Hole award. “With dramas, the storyline will guide you and you know that you’re not there to come up with some avant garde idea that only you will like. Nature films are different in that there is a sense of drama but the stories are about how animals survive and in Scotland’s Wild Heart it’s about how they adapt through the changing seasons.”

The series’ imagery, with lots of sweeping aerial scenes, resonated with Shaw and he revelled in the process of devising traditional music-inspired themes and making them grander. Knowing through experience what will work in many situations and mindful that it’s easy to create the wrong atmosphere, he was able to produce ideas relatively quickly, although there were instances when he had to watch a scene numerous times before the required idea came to him.

Taking the music onto the stage is something that, as someone who has been playing in bands since his teens, Shaw finds exciting. As well as the aforementioned McGoldrick and Shaw himself on keyboards and accordion, the band he has assembled features fiddlers Patsy Reid and Aidan O’Rourke, harper Catriona MacKay, guitarist Sorren MacLean, percussionist James Mackintosh and a string section led by violinist Greg Lawson – all musicians with busy schedules.

“The real joy for me lies in working with these players,” says Shaw. “I’ve worked with them all often enough before to know that, although we won’t have a lot of time together beforehand and we’ll be working under the restraints imposed by the Fringe in terms of turnaround, they’ll produce a performance with momentum. The idea of having the images onscreen with us is that there’ll be visual as well as sonic elements, but the imagery isn’t there to dictate what the musicians do. I wouldn’t want the star of the show to be a squirrel or something, and I don’t think that’ll be the case.”

Shaw’s various roles all form part of a spread of work that, rather than having them competing for his time, helps him to focus on each strand.

“I wouldn’t want to get up every day and think, right, I’m going to compose such and such or book however many bands and have that as my sole job,” he says. “Going out as a touring musician lets me see what else is around, at first hand, for Celtic Connections, for example, and I actually find it helpful to take a break from one project while I take care of another one. It can help you come back refreshed and able to see things more clearly.”

Donald Shaw performs Scotland’s Wild Heart at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on Wednesday, August 22 and Thursday, August 23.