Category Archives: Events

Annual Review, 2019

In some ways, it has been a strange year.  The AHRC funding for the ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall’ came to an end in 1818, but accounting for myself and uploading outputs to ResearchFish still continued.  Brio 56 no 2Moreover, I was guest co-editor of the forthcoming issue of IAML(UK and Ireland)’s journal, Brio, which entailed encouraging, cajoling and collaborating with article authors. not to mention authoring three book reviews myself.  It will appear very, very soon, showcasing not only Georgian music in legal deposit libraries from Aberdeen to Oxbridge, and Dublin to London,  but also some very modern developments in music copyright, too.

One big excitement for me was an invitation to be a guest speaker at a seminar at the Sorbonne in Paris – speaking about someone who had really only had a bit part in my doctoral research.  More research was plainly needed, but it paid off handsomely – and having given my scholarly paper, I was subsequently invited to speak about Sir John MacGregor Murray at the Clan MacGregor Annual Dinner in Killin.  It was thoroughly rewarding to learn so much more about an individual whom I had recognised as an important figure in terms of national song, but without realising quite how important he actually was on the wider stage – both in the East India Company and as a clan chieftain at home.

Speaking on a panel about paratext at ISECS in Edinburgh was also an exciting event, and introduced me to people whom I’m sure I’ll continue to collaborate with in future.

Autumn, however, was a different kettle of fish entirely.  My husband needed a hip replacement, and until we had the date for his surgery, I could accept no further engagements.  I find it profoundly distressing to back out of commitments, but it turned out to be a salutary lesson that the world does, indeed, keep turning even if engagements do have to be cancelled.  I hope that we’ll be able to reschedule one of them.

As though that wasn’t enough, I too needed surgery, not because I was ill (I wasn’t!), but it was recommended by my consultant to ensure I would not have problems in future.  My operation ended up two weeks before my husband’s.  Suddenly, there was the pressure of completing the work on Brio, and also submitting a grant application with literally hours to spare, before heading to hospital for my procedure.  I hadn’t been off work for as long as a month for more than 20 years, but my convalescence was somewhat impeded by the need to resume caring responsibilities simultaneously.  Anyway, fully recovered now, we look forward to a much healthier 2020!

I have plans to submit another grant application early in the new year, and then … well, let’s see what transpires!  My head may be full of fascinating historical and modern music copyright information, but my heart remains with national songs and paratext!

Notwithstanding my frustration that I continue only to be a researcher for 1.5 days a week (more would make me merrier!), I do try to remind myself that I’m not doing badly given the circumstances.  Someone who is a researcher 1.5 days and a librarian 3.5 days per week cannot expect to achieve as much as someone wholly occupied as a scholar.  I’ve done a fair bit of information skills teaching along the way, too.  Research skills and bibliographical training are particular strengths of mine.  But I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that I am heartily tired of cataloguing, after nearly 32 years in the same role.  I so urgently need fresh challenges!  I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to supervise an undergraduate research project this summer, and am looking forward to another such supervision in the new year.

Beyond 2019?

My aspirations are to do more research, more writing, more teaching.  To attract more grant-funding.  And, if only it could be possible, to increase my research activity as a percentage of my weekly work.  I’ve stayed in Glasgow all this time for very valid reasons, but the final outcome is that my curriculum vitae shows a vast increase in the scope of my expertise, but a totally flat line as regards career progression.  Ah well, still some years until retirement, so let’s see what I can achieve in them!

So, what do I have to show for 2019?

Blogpost: Romantic National Song Network: Scotland. Afton Water

Sage Encyclopedia of Music and Culture Sage Publications, 2019: ‘Borders’, print pp.382-384; ‘Librarianship’, print pp.1334-1336; ‘Wales: History, culture and geography of music’, print pp.2338-2341; and ‘Wales: modern and contemporary musical practice’, print pp.2342-2343.

May Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Centre d’études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du sud. Workshop: John Macgregor Murray (1745-1822): Persianate and Indic Cultures in British South Asia. Guest speaker, ‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray as a Mediator of Highland Culture’

June ICEPOPS (International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars, at University of Edinburgh): Pecha Kucha,  ‘Silence in the Library: from Copyright Collections to Cage’

July Athenaeum Award to attend and speak at the ISECS 15th International Congress on the Enlightenment

July After dinner speaker at Annual Clan MacGregor Weekend, Killin (‘Bagpipes, Ossian, Gaelic and Tartan: Sir John MacGregor Murray and Gaelic Culture’)

August  ‘National Airs in Georgian Libraries’, 104-114, in Old Songs, New Discoveries: Selected Papers from the 2018 Folk Song Conference, ed. Steve Roud & David Atkinson (Folk Song Papers, no.2), London: The Ballad Partners, 2019 ISBN 9781916142411

October Athenaeum Award – contribution to publication costs of Brio 56#2 (special issue dedicated to ‘Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network) – issue will be mailed to subscribers in January 2020.

December Scottish Music Review 5 (2019), 75-87, ‘Scottish Airs in London Dress: Vocal Airs and Dance Tunes in Two 18th Century London Collections’


‘Library support to students on blended-learning courses: some thoughts on best practice’ (SCONUL Focus, next issue )

Two further articles have been submitted but are still in the pipeline!

Beyond Academia

It took me a few months to get round to it, but I decided to celebrate my 61st year by learning a new instrument! I began by borrowing one from RCS, but this summer – as a 61st birthday present to myself – I bought a reconditioned Gaudini.  My debut was with a church carol-singing expedition last week.  It took me a week for my knees and ankles to recover!

I make occasional forays into composition in my spare time.  Having said this, I’m not a professional composer – and I’m surrounded by too many career composers to imagine that I’ve got anything very dramatic or genre-bending to say!  Nonetheless, when I look at my output just from 2019, I begin to see where the time went!  You’ll find quite a few of these pieces on Soundcloud, and some of the music is also on Sheet Music Plus – I’ve even sold some!

Compositions Performed or being Considered for Performance

  • Apart: a lament, for reeds quintet
  • Anthem: Bless this child today
  • Blueberry Enchantment: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton
  • Epiphany: a carol, to be performed at Killermont Parish Church Jan 12th 2020
  • Pan and Syrinx: flute solo, performed by Ashley Westmacott, London College of Music (Prequel Concert – Pan – Lunchtime flute music. Chamber Music Concert at University of West London, Weston Hall, St Mary’s Road, Ealing W5 5RF 1.10pm Weds 27th November)
  • The Spinners and the  Habetrot: song, recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton

Dance Tunes

The least said about these, the better. I wrote half a dozen tunes – they haven’t got much to recommend them!


  • Auld lang syne for cello quartet
  • East India Volunteers Country Dance
  • I’m glad I ever saw the day (choir)
  • Jock o’ Hazeldene (piano)
  • John MacGregor Murray and the East India Company
  • The Lass o’ Patie’s Mill (piano)
  • The lone wanderer (2018, but I think recorded by Ruth Carlyle and David Barton in 2019)
  • Native land adieu (piano)
  • O Come all ye Faithful: new descant (performed 22 Dec 2019)
  • Scots Wha Hae (cello quartet)

2019-11-26 16.08.05

Composition and arranging are great stress-busters for me.  But when I’m not at my computer, my other relaxation is sewing, whether by machine or by hand.  The above picture is my “cloth book for grown-ups”, which attempts to show graphically just how many legal deposit scores survive in the various Georgian legal deposit libraries.

Research also met needle and thead in various other guises!  Other sewing projects end up in my wardrobe or as gifts.  There really is a limit to how many fabric fantasias a normal house can hold!

Abstract for ISME Conference

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is hosting the ISME Conference this summer – ie, the International Society for Music Education.  I felt it would be fitting to give a paper, since I’m engaged in research and pedagogy as well as music librarianship.  I’m pleased to say that my abstract was accepted.

A Historic Approach to Studying Traditional Music: Valuing Older Collections

Theoretical/Pedagogical Background

This paper arises from my own approach to the historic Scottish song and fiddle collections that have been the focus of my doctoral and postdoctoral research; my concern that music performers should develop an understanding of the historical context in which repertoire originated; and my studies for a credit-bearing short course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, ‘The Teaching Artist’.

Aim/focus of work/research reported

I have had opportunities to teach undergraduates about early collections of Scottish traditional music, to increase their awareness of key resources and their place in the historical canon. Whilst today’s performers may do no more than plunder these collections for appealing tunes, or lyrics telling a poignant story, their history gives students deeper insight into what the material meant to earlier generations; and provides them with a source of interesting anecdotes for future use.

Students learn to search for library resources and to examine unfamiliar older material, whilst the treasured rare collections get increased exposure and appreciation.

Method/approach of the work

Taking a constructivist approach to teaching, and striving for experiential learning, I prefer to introduce one or two typical collections, and then to encourage students to interrogate these early sources by close examination of the music and its paratextual material, ie by studying the title page, dedication or contextual notes, and the form of musical presentation.  Students are tasked with presenting their findings to the rest of the class, highlighting interesting features.

Results and/or summary of main ideas

Students remark upon many features, depending on the collections they examined.  The presence and nature of accompaniment (or its absence); commentary in the preface about the method of compilation or approach to performance; attitudes to authenticity; notes relating to particular pieces; or even something as comparatively old-fashioned as sol-fa notation all prompt observations about the volumes’ compilation and intended audiences.  Researching the material and devising a presentation promotes deeper engagement with this historical material.

Conclusions and implications for music education

Taking a historical approach to traditional music counterbalances to students’ preparation for a career in the performing arts, by enriching their understanding of how the repertoire developed; learning how to research and interrogate the sources; and sharing their findings.

They also gain insight into the value of library collections that have been built up over the years, and a readiness to spend time with older resources that are a little harder to understand than today’s.

Three conferences in April … and networking

I’m surprised I’ve made it to the end of the month, really!  Earlier this month, I went to my professional association’s annual conference – the International Association of Music  Libraries (UK & Ireland) Annual Study Weekend.  I had the opportunity to speak at it, so quite a bit of my spare time in March went into making it good!  I spoke about my latest research project and how I hope to extend it more widely, if I can get grant funding.

That was a fairly last-minute opportunity, but not so last-minute as my session at the Academic Music Librarians’ Seminar which preceded the Conference.  I decided to raise the question of ‘Performing the Collections’ – getting the library readers to explore and interact with rarer items in our libraries, and I cited examples of glee-singing in Trinity Laban, the Library Choir at the University of St Andrews, and the Bodleian Library’s Resident Artist, Dr. Menaka PP Bora, who interprets Indian dance.

That session also saw talks by other librarians about how they engage students in user education sessions. The giant snakes and ladders board used at RNCM was the zaniest idea, but certainly seems to have caught on.  (Can I see myself adopting it?  I’m not sure I have the guts!)

The following Saturday saw me shoogling up to Kingussie in the Highlands to accompany a couple of Schubert’s Ossian Lieder, which used German translations of the historic James Macpherson’s so-called Ossian tales. I’m hoping to do a public engagement library seminar in Inverness with a lecturer from the University of the Highlands and Islands, later this year, so this was a great opportunity to meet her and start the conversation. (Networking, it’s all about networking!)

And then this last weekend, I delivered my Ghosts of Borrowers Past paper again at Musica Scotica, in Stirling.  This time, I was a co-organiser, but my main role was as communications and marketing officer – by the time I got there I was exhausted, as I’d been managing the two email accounts and social media postings leading up to the conference, answering queries about bookings and amenities and forwarding scheduling queries to mye co-organisers.  Nonetheless, all went well, as my Storify story reveals.

And now I have to put my teaching artist hat back on, to think again about the teaching sessions I gave before Christmas! – is it really that long ago?

As it happens, on a personal note, I’ve been working with our youngest son to help him organise his studies and exam revision, because his ASD poses problems that his older brothers just didn’t encounter.  I have considerable admiration for special needs teachers, considering how hard I can see things are for someone at the high-function end of the spectrum.  It makes me realise how much structure has to be in place before learning can happen – not to mention how hard it is to keep someone else’s attention from wandering!