If we researchers want to have impact, then we have to get out there and make it happen. Today, I played at a concert in Dundee City Library’s Steps Theatre. The Friends of Wighton, of which I’m honorary librarian, held an afternoon concert because it’s Voluntary Arts Week, and at the same time to commemorate Jimmy Shand, because we’ve now got some of his old music scores.
Several music tutors led spots for their classes – fiddles, whistles, singing, and a youth trad music group. And a couple more of us played solo. Most of us tried to use tunes out of Jimmy Shand’s collection as part or all of our contribution.
I wasn’t directly working with community groups like the music tutors, but as it happened, I chose to play early 19th century piano variations based on EXACTLY the tune that the fiddlers commenced the afternoon with! How’s that for serendipity? Their tutor had spotted Isaac Cooper’s tune, ‘Miss Forbes’s Farewell to Banff’, copied into one of the antiquarian music manuscripts that the Friends of Wighton recently bought at auction. Meanwhile, I had found Schetky’s piano rondo on the tune in a different book, also from the Jimmy Shand collection. Schetky was a German musician who moved to London and then Edinburgh. His piano rondo is really rather nice. We’ve got the only traceable copy in the world, apart from the copy that Schetky’s daughter took to the USA, which has ended up in a sizeable collection of her music now in the Library of Congress.
Even if I hadn’t been working with an amateur group, I did take the opportunity to talk just a little bit about the music I was playing, so it gave me the opportunity to expose the music to a different audience and to explain why I thought it was important.
I recently ordered a book for the library – Mark S. Reed’s, The Research Impact Handbook, because it’s plainly vital to ensure that research doesn’t get locked ‘in the ivory tower’, but shared more widely – particularly with something as suitable for sharing, as Scottish songs and dance music. Right now, it’s on my desk to read quickly before I release it onto the library shelves!