Professor honoured for keeping carol traditions alive

Professor honoured for keeping carol traditions alive

A University of Aberdeen Professor has been honoured by Prime Minister Theresa May for his work in preserving and rekindling local carols and songs from across the UK.

Professor Ian Russell, who was Director of the University’s Elphinstone Institute from 1999 to 2014, has received a Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

The award was given in recognition of his work with Village Carols, a unique organisation that he founded in 1980 which records and promotes local carol singing traditions, researching their origins and reintroducing lost music. His research into local carolling traditions began in 1969.

In the course of his volunteer work, Ian has raised over £10,000 for charity and amassed thousands of recordings, manuscripts and newspaper articles on carols.  He has worked with the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the British Library, supplying them with hundreds of recordings for the National Sound Archives.

Commenting on his award, he said: “It was quite a surprise to receive this award from the Prime Minister, but a very pleasant one. 

“Over the past 47 years and throughout my time with the University of Aberdeen I have researched local village carolling in communities across the UK, and it has been a privilege to support those who uphold these traditions.

“Not only are they remarkable people but the carols they sing are very special. Over the years I’ve worked hard to document and gain recognition for this vital cultural heritage and hope to continue this work in the future.”

Ian said that while there is no long-standing tradition of carol singing in Scotland, local interest in carolling is growing and he recently held a carolling workshop that was hosted by the Inverurie Choral Society.

He added that this Christmas he has compiled a double CD album of 42 village carols, entitled ‘The Theme, the Song, the Joy’, featuring recordings of sixteen village groups that he has selected from the Festival of Village Carols held biennially in Sheffield, of which he is the Director.

In a personal letter to Ian, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your passion for carols and traditional music is preserving and rekindling rich local traditions as well as raising money for charity.”