Tag Archives: Scotland

Jean Redpath and Robert Burns

The young Scottish traditional singer Jean Redpath shared a New York apartment with Bob Dylan in the early 1960s; she went on to make more than 40 recordings, not least the astonishing project she embarked upon with the American composer Serge Hovey, to record all of the songs composed and collected by Robert Burns.

Hovey arranged 323 Burns songs for her, matching them to their original melodies, often with imaginative contemporary orchestral arrangements. Redpath recorded seven albums of these arrangements, which were critically acclaimed, and went on to make other Burns albums as well.

This according to “Jean Redpath, MBE” by Jim Gilchrist (The Scotsman, 23 August 2014).

Today would have been Redpath’s 80th birthday! Above, a portrait by Alexander Fraser commissioned by the Glenrothes Burns Club; below, Redpath’s recording of Burns’s Green grow the rashes.

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Ewan MacColl and the BBC

Ewan MacColl

Many aficionados of Scottish traditional music regard Ewan MacColl as one of the foremost singers of his generation; fewer know of his pioneering radio work.

The ballad of John Axon was recorded and broadcast by the BBC in 1958 as the first of a group of programs known collectively as  Radio Ballads. It tells the story of a railway accident in which the driver John Axon died heroically while attempting to avert disaster.

In the program, four actual ballads carry the narrative, supplemented by several self-contained songs that illustrate the story rather than tell it, sections of recitative that provide insight into the minds of Axton and his fellow railwaymen, and the recorded speech of Axon’s widow and workmates. Although MacColl and Charles Parker are often credited jointly with the authorship of the program, strong evidence suggests that MacColl wrote it in response to an idea suggested by Parker, who served as the producer.

This according to “John Axon: Ewan MacColl’s tragic hero?” by Mick Verrier (English dance and song LXI/3 [fall 1999] pp. 2–4).

MacColl would have been 100 today! Below, one of the songs from the show, with Peggy Seeger on the banjo.

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Scottish journal of performance

Scottish Journal of Performance

Founded in 2013, Scottish journal of performance is an open-access peer-reviewed journal that aims to promote and stimulate discussion, development, and dissemination of original research, focusing both on performance in Scotland (contemporary and historical) and on wider aspects of performance presented by scholars and reflective practitioners based at Scottish academic institutions. Published biannually and run by doctoral students, the journal welcomes submissions from both established and early career researchers.

All content is freely available without charge to users or institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

Performance in this context encompasses a wide range of arts and entertainment and takes as central themes dance, drama, film, music, and television. The journal takes as a key focus the creation and execution of performance in various contexts, encouraging the adoption of a wide range of research methods and approaches.

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A rediscovered Scottish folk manuscript

Renovations of Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2000 involved dismantling a “robust but not particularly beautiful cupboard” and storing its contents—mostly old sheet music—for later inspection.

Entirely by chance, the librarian and scholar Karen McAulay discovered therein three manuscript collections of traditional Scottish flute tunes notated by one James Simpson. Her subsequent research enabled her to establish some details of Simpson’s identity, including his residences, occupation, and birth and death dates (1806–73).

This according to McAulay’s “From Dalfield Walk, Dundee, to Renfrew Street, Glasgow: The James Simpson manuscripts” (Brio XL/1 [spring-summer 2003] pp. 27–37). Above, Simpson’s notation of the Strathspey Maggie Lauder with variations.

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Mr. Isaac and The Union

The 1707 Act of Union joined England and Scotland as a single entity. For the birthday of Queen Anne that year the choreographer Mr. Isaac created The Union, a couple dance that conveyed some of the tensions involved in forging a new national identity.

The doctrine of affections linked the genres of the dance’s loure and hornpipe sections with specific emotions. The loure was connected with pride, even arrogance, as well as a tinge of nostalgia; in this section of The Union, the two dancers pass and join with an air of circumspect ambivalence, expressing cultural rapprochement. Associated with Scotland, the hornpipe was linked with vigor and vitality, and the second section of The Union presents an idealized, anglicized vision of Scottishness.

This according to “Issues of nation in Isaac’s The Union” by Linda J. Tomko (Dance research XV/2 [winter 1997] pp. 99–125). Above, excerpts from John Weaver’s notation of the piece using the BeauchampFeuillet system.

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