What I've Been Doing
I really do feel that traditional song should, whenever possible, be presented in some way that reflects the overall traditions of which it forms part.
By that, I mean there's a lot more to these songs than just the melody, lyrics and style. Songs, stories, dances, etc all go hand in hand. It's a shame to dislocate them.
In practice, this means that when I teach waulking songs, I get out the tweed and teach some waulking basics; when I introduce puirt to children, I start with the rhythms and work up, finally getting them to dance while singing; when I'm teaching playground games, I like to get the participants out into the playground; when I introduce a song, I like the audience to know what the story that goes with it is.
Adults in my classes will often be offered different versions of one song and asked to look at why the differences are there.
If you look at some of the projects I've been busy with, you'll notice this theme running through them - providing a resource of lullabies to parents of newborns in kist o dreams, bringing dandling songs into parent and toddler groups in Learning with Lullabies, and the way I teach in schools and groups.
Daunder through Thistles - Turas tro Cluarain
Described in The Scotsman as a "brisk and deeply moving ... musical drama ... a beautiful tapestry of elegant tales that shall be remembered and treasured for as long as we believe in fairies, romance and our mysterious journey through life itself."
Just as the hearth-side cèilidh was home to the varied strands of oral tradition, A Daunder through Thistles - Turas tro na Cluarain encompasses traditional tales, ancient and not-so-ancient songs, contemporary poetry and original music. The result is an evocative, colourful and joyous examination of how we as Scots connect to and respond to our homeland.
Left to right: Grace Stewart-Skinner, Susi Briggs, Christina Stewart, Alpin Stewart
The intergenerational ensemble comprises four artists performing in Gaelic, Scots and English languages and integrating sensitive translations in a fully inclusive way.