Current Projects

Current Projects

Spiritual Singing in the West Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland

Dr Frances Wilkins

Funded by: Research Incentive Grant from the Carnegie Trust and Research Fellowship from the British Academy.

Scotland is home to an incredible wealth and variety of sacred and spiritual song traditions with unique and multi-dimensional histories. The aim of this project is to explore the role of singing in worship today, and in the past, within the faith communities and among individual singers, and in their social, linguistic, cultural and occupational contexts. Dr Wilkins is particularly interested in the meaning of the music to participants, and the ways in which it reflects and reinforces cultural and occupational heritage and contributes to the 'soundscape' of everyday life.

The Carnegie Trust and British Academy funding has given Dr Wilkins the opportunity to visit communities and document the singing traditions, primarily through field recordings and interviews, making audio and video recordings, photographing events, and creating an online archive that will catalogue and preserve these recordings, making them accessible to the local communities and researchers alike.

Carpenter Folk Online

Project Team: Julia Bishop, Thomas McKean, Elaine Bradtke, Richard Butterworth, Steve Roud, and Bob Walser, in partnership with Laura Smyth, Rachel Elliott, Cassie Tait, and Carla Willis-Brown at the English Folk Song and Dance Society

Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): 'Integrating and Engaging with the James Madison Carpenter Collection as Part of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Digital Archive' (grant no. AH/P01352X/1)

The James Madison Carpenter Collection contains over 3000 British and American traditional songs and 250 folk (mummers') plays. Most were gathered in Scotland and England in 1928–35. Now, in an exciting new project, Carpenter Folk Online, the collection’s wealth of folk arts items, including many early sound recordings, will be made available online for the first time, making them freely available to all.

The collection will be presented as part of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library's Digital Archive. This ever-expanding 'super-archive' is the world's largest freely available digital folk arts archive. Users will be able to search both the Carpenter collection and across thousands of other traditional songs and folk plays collected in Britain and America, finding new materials for performance and study, and information about singers and local and regional history.

As part of Carpenter Folk Online, the Carpenter Collection Project Team at the Elphinstone Institute is working with the English Folk Dance and Song Society to organise a series of creative and engaging events relating to the new resource. These include talks, workshops, concerts, school projects and a coach trip (the ‘Carpenter Coach’).  Details will be added as they become available on the Elphinstone Institute's News and Events and at EFDSS News.

Visit our project page Carpenter Folk Online for more details.






A Critical Edition of the James Madison Carpenter Collection

Editorial Team: Dr Julia Bishop; Dr Thomas A. McKean; Dr Elaine Bradtke; Dr Robert Walser; Dr David Atkinson; the late Dr Eddie Cass
Funding: British Academy, Marc Fitch Fund, Royal Society of Edinburgh, National Endowment for the Humanities (under the auspices of the American Folklore Society).

The aim of the project is to publish the J. M. Carpenter collection materials in a critical edition, for an audience of researchers, performers, and general readers. The volumes will cover traditional ballads, maritime songs, other folk songs, mummers’ plays, dance tunes and customs. There will also be performer biographies and a critical evaluation of Carpenter’s work and its impact.

The first volumes are nearing completion and are due to be published by the University Press of Mississippi.

The edition will be complemented by the online presentation of the collection materials (see above).

Funeralscapes - Re-Experiencing Sound and Rites in a Viking and Early Christian Landscape

Researchers: Dr Frances Wilkins; Dr Carlos Galan-Diaz; Dr Shane McLeod
Funding: PERU, The North, H2CV, University of Aberdeen.

This is a research and re-enactment project on the Island of Eigg exploring the use of sound and landscape in burial traditions at Kildonan. The project has already resulted in several public lectures and exhibits. (Started 2014)

The Burning of the Clavie

Principal Investigator: Dr Thomas A. McKean

Within the context of community, place, practice, and custom, this project studies the Burning of the Clavie fire festival in the Moray-coast village of Burghead.

The Flute Band Walks of the 'Knuckle'

Principal Inverstigator: Professor Ian Russell

This is a study of the music and traditions of the annual walks in North-East Scottish fishing villages. Annual fieldwork tracks and considers the changes and continuities in the tradition and the communities.

The Cree Fiddlers of James Bay

Principal Investigator: Dr Frances Wilkins
Funding: Royal Society of Edinburgh, Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UKCarnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

The project is an ethnographic study of the indigenisation and re-interpretation of Scottish fiddle music and associated dances among the James Bay Cree in Northern Ontario and Quebec. (Started 2011)

Visit the Cree Fiddlers of James Bay website

Lewis Melodeon Practice and Performance

Principal Investigator: Dr Frances Wilkins

This is an ethnographic study into the role, performance style, repertoire, and function of button boxes in the Island of Lewis. (Started 2014)

The Boaties Craft Residencies

Principal Investigator: Professor Ian Russell
Funding: Aberdeenshire Council, Banff and Buchan Arts Forum, Banff and Buchan College, Peterhead Common Good Fund, Peterhead Port Authority, Shell Exploration and Production, the Friends of the Elphinstone Institute, private funding.

The project brings together highly-skilled craft workers with apprentices in the building of traditional 'boaties'. This model-making tradition dates back at least 150 years in North-East Scotland. (Started 2004)