WORDS such as uplifting and celebration aren’t usually associated with bereavement but then Yvonne Lyon’s new project takes a rather unusual approach to the subject of grief.

The Greenock singer-songwriter launches this week her new album Held, a collaboration with 10 people who have all suffered the loss of a loved one. She admits though the night will be very emotional for many, it marks a wonderful way to remember.

The project was part of her Masters in songwriting at the University of the West of Scotland and originally inspired by the music played at the funeral of Caden Beggan, her friend Angela’s six-year-old son who died after contracting meningitis. Proceeds from the album will go to a fund set up in his name.

“Songs were very important in just carrying everyone through that day. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to work with Angela and have her take part,” says Lyon.

“Angela loves to sing and listen to music, it was important that the song we wrote together was something she could hear herself singing. I gave Angela the musical idea as a framework to express her feelings in lyrics. I then developed them further.

“The verses of Till We Meet Again rock back and forth as if on a sea of grief; sometimes lighter and more positive, sometimes darker and more complex in feeling and expression.”

The other collaborations include Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin, whose younger brother Malcom died in a motorbike accident in 1987; Thomas Waldron, a young man from Dundee whose best friend committed suicide; Alastair Cook, a Scottish film-maker mourning the loss of his godfather; and Fiona J Mackenzie, a Gaelic singer-songwriter who responds in both English and Gaelic to the death of her father.

“I purposefully worked with people I knew, more because of the sensitivity of the subject. It was a mixture of people who said they had no interest in music to people who do write songs for a living. There was a whole spectrum of people with their own relationships to music, also ages and stages of grief – people who had just experienced bereavement two months before I worked with them to Graeme Duffin, for example, who lost his brother 16 years ago,” she says.

“There’s nothing like throwing yourself into something deep and meaningful. One really important part of it all was having a conversation and people being able to tell their stories. It was a really important thing just to be able to get together and talk.

“From there it was like a musical workshop in which we talked about how those stories became lyrics and how they could then become a song. I worked with people over two or three sessions to write the song together. Depending on their own interests, they took more of a lead role in that or let me take what they had told me and go away and write it myself.”

The idea of how a song could be a container for people’s grief intrigued Lyon – and how the power of that song held so much meaning.

“It was a comforting experience. For some people it was really hard and they were very honest about that but said, ultimately it has brought comfort and helped them to pour some of what they were going through into this thing that is now living and created,” she adds.

“There is power in that, it’s not just an airy fairy thing, academically it has been proven, psychologically it has been proven – look at all the research just now with Alzheimer’s and music and memory; there is something very powerful in the way our brains connect with music.

“I suppose I was accessing that in the songwriting, I was trying to be more specific by making it about actually creating a song.”

The album has already received rave reviews from Grammy-nominated songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman, whose ballad Sand and Water was written following the death of her husband Ernest.

A fan of Chapman’s work for a long time, Lyon had the chance to work with the American in the UK and more recently in Nashville.

“She is one of my musical heroes. She was very interested in Held because a lot of her work looks at songwriting as a therapeutic tool, as a cathartic thing. Sand and Water was very influential to me,” says Lyon.

The project has also inspired a collection of artwork by artist Raine Clarke, which also features on the album cover.

“It’s another extension of making connections, reconnecting music and art. It’s about meaning – the whole idea is about meaning and reconstruction, that’s the theme of grief that has come through. You don’t go through different stages of grief, it’s more helpful to connect and reconnect with your grief throughout your whole life. It’s finding ways of being able to do that and poetry, music and art are forms we can hopefully use to help us at those times,” says Lyon.

Held launches at Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock on November 7.