"Picture, if you will, warm, sweet, organic honey drizzling slowly from a honey wand... Stewart's voice is the aural equivalent. "
Susan Hartman in Dirty Linen magazine,
reviewing Bairn's Kist.
Christina Stewart is a singer of great sensitivity who communicates the depth and beauty of Scotland's song traditions, whether in Scottish Gaelic, Scots dialect or English. Her evocative style is suffused with an authenticity which comes from her roots in Scotland.
She prefers to describe herself as 'belonging to' the Scottish Highlands. "It means so much more than just having been born and brought up there," she explains.
Christina graduated from the School of Scottish Studies and Edinburgh University with MA Honours in Scottish Ethnology and Scottish Historical Studies, incorporating traditional song in the broader context of Scottish history and culture.
Her childhood was spent in the Highland capital, Inverness, so grew up in an environment where the Gaelic and Scots traditions of Scotland meet and in a family in which Scotland's traditional culture was an intergral part.
It is no wonder then, that much of her work centres on traditional song in the context which gave rise to it, waulking songs sung while working tweed, playground songs in school playgrounds, lullabies in baby and toddler groups.
In the last 20 years, she has developed a reputation in her native country as not just a captivating singer and tutor, but an exponent of song within the wider oral and folk tradition of Scotland, with infectious enthusiasm, extensive knowledge and a commitment to appreciating songs within their cultural contexts, which she feels is vital to a robust, living tradition.
Current projects focus on the amalgamation of different areas of Scottish oral tradition and the passing on of tradition orally. "A Woman Walks into a Bar" teams Christina with Bob Pegg and Bill Taylor, weaving song, story, instrumental music and riddles together into a single narrative strand; "Echoes through Time" presents song and historical music together to celebrate the harp of the Pictish Nigg Stone; "A Daunder through Thistles/Turas tro Cluarain" is an ambitious new show combining story, poetry, song and music premiering at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in 2022 which is both intergenerational and across Scots and Gaelic culture to reflect on what it is to grow up in Scotland; Cionar is a new clarsach and voice venture with daughter Grace Stewart-Skinner performing songs and melodies mostly, but not exclusively, in Gaelic.
Her dedication to seeing Scotland's song traditions celebrated is evident in her leading two community singing groups in the Black Isle, Muir of Ord's Singing for Fun and Rosemarkie's Village Voices. She handed over the reins of these groups to Jessica Bates in 2017, when pressure of other work commitments made it impossible to continue.
Motherhood inspired Christina to begin a crusade for traditional lullabies resulting in the “kist o dreams” and “Learning with Lullabies” projects and two solo albums. She was able to expand the range of lullabies available in her online resource at www.kistodreams.org through a project funded by Tasgadh in 2017, building on her original work.
Christina was back in classrooms in 2016 and 2017, teaching Scotland's song traditions to primary school pupils in the Highlands as part of a series of classes provided by Fèis Rois and funded by the Youth Music Initiative.
Her album, “Haunting”, is a celebration of songs alongside the stories associated with them, all relating to the eerie otherworld of Celtic supernatural with Second Sight, glammer, selkies, fairies, ghosts and the Devil.
Recent years have seen Christina teaching Scotland's song traditions in the United States, on the faculty at the prestigeous Swannanoa summer school in North Carolina and Common Ground on the Hill in Maryland and in Spring 2014 and 2017, in Germany's Konstanz.
Christina joined with harpist Bill Taylor and storyteller and folklorist Bob Pegg to perform "Tales and Songs from Highland Perthshire". The show draws on the song and story collection and the extraordinary life of Lady Evelyn Stewart Murray, who was daughter of the Duke of Atholl.
Christina previously toured heritage centres and abandoned settlements with Bob Pegg, in "Come Listen to the Crofters", recreating a sense of the culture of the crofters who had once lived there before being ‘cleared’ to the New World.
Singing at ceilidhs, concerts and in competitions from an early age, Christina pursued her interest as a student in Edinburgh. Edinburgh's traditional music scene soon became part of her life and she formed Horo Gheallaidh with friends Gavin Marwick, Jenny Booth, Sandy Brechin, Ishbel MacTaggart, and her brother, Alpin Stewart, among others, to represent Scotland at the Quiema das Fetas festival in Portugal.
She recorded with Talitha MacKenzie on the groundbreaking first “Mouth Music” album before returning north and forming the Feisty Besoms singing group with friends and recording “Auld Flames”.
She has a long-standing involvement with the burgeoning fèis (traditional music tuition festival) movement in Scotland and currently teaches at festivals, for community projects, in schools and playgrounds.