Monday, April 16, 2012

From Scotland: The Boy and the Bunnet

Neil is a boy who lives with his grandmother and their grey cat in a house by the sea. Behind the house, they have a garden, and then past the garden there's a forest, and beyond the forest a mountain, or ben. Neil also wears a blue cap (that’s the bunnet part).

The boy, his bunnet, the cat, his gran, and all manner of animals which live in the sea, forest, garden, and mountain come to have an adventure --several actually -- quite a lively time of it with both laughter and danger, a cranky crow and a brave stag, a quiet selkie who lives in the sea, and a urisk. What exactly is a urisk? You’ll have to listen to the story to find out.

What does all this have to do with music?boy and bunnet scotland

Each of the characters in the story has the voice of an instrument, so the melodies of their intertwining stories intertwine with and enhance the words of the tale, and tell stories of their own.

The instruments are all those found in Scottish traditional music -- fiddle, harp, cello, pipes, and more. Do you remember how Peter and the Wolf introduced the instruments of a classical orchestra? James Robertson, who wrote the story, and James Ross, who wrote the music, had the idea of introducing the instruments of Scottish traditional music this way, too, and they took things a step further. The story is told in Scots, so it helps people, child or adult, learn or relearn that language. There is a version of the narrative in Scottish Gaelic, as well. If you do not know either language, take a listen to the Scots version (you'll find bits of it through the links below so you may try that out). I think you'll enjoy following along and figuring out the words that are unfamiliar.

Side note: if you've read or sung any Robert Burns, you may already have a bit of Scots.

So, it is a fine learning tool, indeed, an engaging story and music which will hold your interest as well. Story and music weave together to bring the characters and events to life. All the main sorts of tunes in Scottish traditional music are included -- reel, strathspey, jig, waltz -- and many of Scotland's top musicians lend their imagination to the voices of the instruments. There’s Patsy Reid on fiddle, Angus Lyon on accordion, Corrina Hewat on harp, and Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion, among others. For the Scots version, actress Gerda Stevenson gives a lively narrative with just the right balance of drama and humour, while the same task is done by Wilma Kennedy for the version in Scottish Gaelic.

The Boy and the Bunnet has been offered as a live production at the Blas festival in Inverness and at Celtic Connections in Glasgow. Robertson and Ross have scored and written it in such a way that it’d be possible for school groups across Scotland to put on the show themselves, too, and that’s one of the things they hope will happen as a result.

It makes fine listening on record, a story to which you’ll want to return time and again, and share with the children and adults in your life.

You may hear the Scots language tracks here
The Boy and the Bunnet

and find out here about the Scottish Gaelic version, as well as illustrated books which tell the story

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Celtic Connections 2012: the music begins
Music Road: from Scotland: Emily Smith: Traiveller's Joy

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Blogger Vera Marie said...

What a wonderful idea! I think Kids learn much faster and retain what they learn when there is music involved in the learning.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

I remember how I loved listening to Peter and the Wolf as a child. I was immediately captured by The Boy and the Bunnet ... and as you say, it is rather fun to try to fit the Scott's word with our English. Definitely has more charm.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous HeatherL said...

What a fun and exciting way to introduce kids to music. It might be good for me, too.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Jane Louise Boursaw said...

Used to love playing Peter and the Wolf back in high school orchestra. Also - this is a little more esoteric - a piece where the instruments sounded like whales, and there were actual recorded whales in the background. Wish I could remember who wrote it... some 20th century composer, for sure.

8:41 PM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

My youngest LOVES Peter and the Wolf. I've noticed in the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar there is a different music associated with each main character. In particular, when the Uncle is featured, there's always an oboe playing in the background.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous merr said...

Incredibly creative and in a way interactive - what a way to engage kids (and adults).

8:38 PM  

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