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Christina Stewart


There are particular people and particular moments which are landmarks in my love of singing.

My mother sang a lot around the house, mainly Scottish songs, with a good number of hymns and psalms thrown in to keep you on your toes.

As a child, my parents never pushed me to sing (though there was always an expectation that we children would perform at family gatherings!), but they did arrange for tutors to go over my competition pieces with me, in particular Annie Nicolson and Kenny Cameron, sadly neither of them is with us any more.

My primary 1 teacher, Miss Nisbet, had me singing in the classroom one day, aged 5, and commented that I was good at singing and should carry on.  That certainly stuck with me - and makes me very aware of any comment I might make to child.

We were fortunate, at Crown Primary in Inverness, to have a teacher keen enough to lead the Gaelic choir.  She was Mrs Kennedy, not one of my class teachers, but prepared to help me with solo competitions as well as taking the choir.  I can't remember whether we ever won anything, but I do remember a lot of the songs.

At Millburn Academy our Gaelic teachers Hugh Dan MacLennan and Janet MacGregor were very encouraging, getting the class involved in competing with songs, poetry, readings and drama and I continued to be asked to perform at ceilidhs in and around Inverness and school events.

I was tickled in August 2009, when a friend who is a teacher called me up to the performance area of the new Millburn Academy main hall to sing with the assembled performers at a Burns award ceremony, after having sung so often in the old academy hall.

At university I had the good fortune to study at the School of Scottish Studies with tutors of great standing - Margaret Bennet, Morag MacLeod, Alan Bruford, to name but three, and even had seminars (as well as a dram or two at Sandy Bell's and the Royal Oak) with Hamish Henderson.

The West End Hotel was the place to be, very often, and certainly after Lothian Gaelic Choir practices.  The choir was formed mainly as an excuse for socialising  and we worked hard at it!  (though I gather the members take it all a bit more seriously now...)

With various succesive committee posts on the Highland Society came the chance to set up all sorts of outings, classes and events, not least the Highland Annual, and still more excuses for socialising with singing very much a feature.

After graduating, I moved north again and got involved with the Highland Traditional Music Festival and the Skye Folk Festival on a voluntary basis and spent a year as a trainee in the arts section of Ross and Cromarty District Council. 

Here I wangled my way into every kind of arts activity I could and became friends with Rita Hunter who became the manager of Feis Rois.  I learned a lot from Rita's dedication and attention to detail and was inspired by her tireless endeavours to create a fruitful environment for youngsters interested in traditional music and song.

I landed the post of assistant Arts Officer at Highland Council after this and continued to work with Feis Rois, HTMF and the Skye Folk Festival in my spare time, while advising voluntary committees on funding and facilitating Highland touring among other things for the Council.

More recently, I have been lucky enough to have worked with the prodigious musical talent of Bob Pegg.  He has been a generous advisor and a very practical help, recording and producing both the kist o dreams and the Bairn's Kist albums and also playing on Bairn's Kist, inviting me to perform at several festivals and on tour with him with the Come Listen to the Crofters show and collaborating on Tales and Music from Highland Perthshire.

I now work freelance and can concentrate more on my special passion - traditional song.  I still can't resist the setting up of occasional voluntary projects, though.