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by Mike Wilson
Christina Stewart
Giving it Back to the Children
orn and bred in Inverness,
Christina Stewart shows
her commitment to the
oral traditions of Scotland
in a particularly unique way,
by bringing her knowledge
and passion for traditional
Scottish and Gaelic song to
the youngest members of
Scotland’s populace. Inspired
by motherhood to her own
two children, and identifying
her own lack of knowledge of
traditional Scottish lullabies
and children’s songs, Christina
set about on an ambitious
project that was to culminate in
the release of two albums and
would find her travelling the
length and breadth of Scotland,
delivering workshops at
toddler’s groups.
Photographs by Lieve Boussauw
I asked Christina about her
initial motivation to launch these
projects. ‘My reason for getting
involved in the first place, really
wasn’t so much that (childhood
development), as the cultural
aspect. When I had children
myself, I wanted to sing to them
and I realised that I didn’t know as
many lullabies as I thought I did.
sung it last. I did start off with weren’t familiar with them at all So her three-year-old daughter
So I started looking at how to find
some I knew myself. Before I did -- they wanted to sing Humpty went home and taught them to
some more and I found it wasn’t
the toddler group workshops, I’d Dumpty. I was just saying: “well, her big sister and she and her big
that easy, so I thought there’s
been doing quite a lot of children’s I’m giving you some new songs sister would sit and sing them at
obviously a need there, that’s not
workshops and I was finding to broaden your repertoire, you home.’
being met -- from my point of view,
certain things that worked and already know Humpty Dumpty,
I need songs and I can’t find them.
certain things that didn’t work in so what’s the point in me singing The project prompted a
It was quite easy to get tapes with
that kind of group setting. Then I that to you.”’ By and large though, recognition amongst some
only English accents on them,
asked people: “I want to do this it appears that Christina was parents that the practice of singing
and that didn’t really resonate
kind of activity with a child, do welcomed by many parents, and the passing on of children’s
for my children’. Christina herself
you know any songs, or what did and the fears that some parents songs may be something that
didn’t have a treasure trove
people used to sing to you?” needed to overcome were less had skipped a generation. Many
of children’s songs to fill her to do with any prejudices they
parents recalled being sung to as
repertoire and relied on not just
I asked Christina what sort of may have about traditional song, a child by their own parents, but
her own childhood memories, but
response she got from parents and more to do with a reluctance weren’t necessarily continuing
those of family and friends. ‘I had
who may not be familiar with to sing in front of a group, or for this as they became parents
to do a project when my eldest
traditional song or the Gaelic some to even sing in front of their themselves. ‘What I did find
daughter was a couple of months
language. How did they react children. ‘Some parents that I’ve was that actually where you had
old, Stimulating Creativity in the
to being encouraged to join in met, and talked with and worked grannies bringing the children to
Childcare Sector, and I was asked
and absorb some of the tradition with... it’s taken a while to build the toddler group, they were the
to come in as a traditional singer,
themselves? ‘In one group they their confidence up enough to be ones who already knew the songs
and I had no idea what to sing
didn’t like that at all, but when able to sing to their own children, and were singing the songs,
with children, and it didn’t actually
we sold it to them on the basis which sounds weird if you’re in whereas the parents would say
occur to me to sing children’s
of child development, they were the habit of doing it, but to some “my mum used to sing that and I
songs with children. I started
perfectly happy. Basically I was parents that was a big deal just never thought of singing it to my
out thinking “what did we sing
saying to them: “In many ways to do that. If you’re from a small children.” This is one of the things
in the playground?”, “what did
it actually doesn’t matter from a community and you know these about taking these traditional
my mother sing to me?”; starting
child development point of view people, it’s quite hard for them songs into toddler groups,
from my own experience, trying
what songs you sing, we happen to participate in something like because maybe there’s been a
to dredge up things and you’d
to be choosing these songs singing. If a parent didn’t want gap from granny to grandchild
remember half of something and
because that’s what I do, because to sing, that’s absolutely OK, -- it’s kind of skipped a generation.
it would take ages asking round
I’m a traditional singer and these because that’s what I was there If there’s no link there, then it’s
your friends to see if they knew
are the songs I know.” Part of the to do. We did have one lady, she going to be lost, so you want to
the rest of this song, because it’s
reason they weren’t comfortable didn’t want to sing at home either, feed that back in, trigger it off
been twenty years since you’d
with them was because they but she didn’t object to the songs. and maybe make that link again.
The Living Tradition - Page 0
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