Songs from Medieval Aberdeen

Dr Claire Hawes has collaborated with musicians Davy Cattanach and Paddy Buchanan to explore how songwriters can use historical material in their work. As part of the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival the trio performed today a set of original songs composed in response to the contents of the Aberdeen council registers.

Songs2 crop

The performance included an introduction by Claire into the nature of the collaboration, its steps and dialogues, and the question of how historians can contribute to the creative process. Claire, Davy and Paddy set out to answer the question by writing songs based on Aberdeen’s medieval town records. The introduction explained how the group encountered some expected differences between historical research and song writing, but also found some similarities.

The Songs from Medieval Aberdeen experiment was a success – resulting in composition of four songs, entitled Balingar, Kervel, Candilmas Time, The Brokin Folkis, and The Fisher Folk of Futy. Each song tells its own story from the Aberdeen registers, and was performed on guitar and bodhran with vocals in Scots. Claire’s introduction examined how the lyrics were crafted neither in Middle Scots nor Modern Scots (nor Doric), but still drew from the language of the registers.

A full audience in the Linklater Rooms at King’s College was given a special treat to hear these songs performed as a set for the first time. The trio said they were keen to record the songs when time allows!

The project was made possible with a Creative Funding Award from Aberdeen City Council.

Paddy and Davy