Friday, March 28, 2014

Scotland's Music: A Tapestry of Scotland's Music Abroad

Weaving a tapestry, piecing a quilt, finding threads that pull through and ties that bind: these ideas turn up as often in descriptions of music as they do in speaking of textiles. In the project Scottish Diaspora: Music & The Song the two arts have come to together.

Across the centuries and across the years, across continents and miles people from Scotland have settled, bringing with them the love of their native land and making Burns night suppers in India. Highland games in Australia, and Gaelic speaking towns in Atlantic Canada. These folk also brought their music with them, handed it on, and used it to tell stories of the lives they made in new places.

The arts community of Prestonpans in Scotland decided to ask people from these far flung Scottish heritage communities to tell their stories through cloth and thread, embroidering them into blocks which will form a large and ever growing tapestry. The folk at Greentrax Recordings began gathering music that shared the ideas of finding life in new lands while leaving and still loving Scotland. The result is a two disc recording that spans, poetically enough, opening with the song Scots Abroad, sung by The McCalmans, and drawing the music to a close with Brian McNeill’s take in The Rovin’ Dies Hard.

As the music winds between these two songs, you will find songs of yearning, songs of leaving, the occasional song of return, songs of new lives in Canada, in Australia, in England, the flavors of Scottish music mixed with aboriginal stories, Spanish rhythms, beats from India, and thoughts on the working life in England. There are farewell songs in English and in Gaelic, and songs of exploration and remembering in both languages as well. Among the voices telling these stories are Jean Redpath, Dick Gaughan, Donnie Munro, Margaret Stewart, The Cast, Rua, Salsa Celtica, Ali Mills, Fiona J. Mackenzie, and Stan Rogers. Standout tracks include Munro’s Strangers to the Pine, Mairi MacInnes on Carry Me Across the Ocean, Siobhan Miller with River of Steel, and Natalie Mac Master’s Glencoe Dance Set. All the songs and tunes are well worth your time to listen, though. Taken together, they make an engaging tapestry all their own.

In the liner notes you may learn a bit about each song, and see photographs of some of the completed tapestry blocks. You may see images of several more parts of the tapestry by following this link.

Photograph is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.

You may also wish to see
The Scottish Book Trust’s Project Stories of Home
Julie Fowlis: Every Story
Scotland's music: Capercaillie: At the Heart of It All

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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