Scots in the Sub-Arctic: Musical Exchanges with James Bay Cree, Canada

Film showing of 'The Cree Fiddlers of James Bay' after Dr Frances Wilkins' lecture accompanying her photographic exhibition. Displayed in the MacRobert Building of Aberdeen University.

All Welcome to a Public Lecture by Dr Frances Wilkins from the Elphinstone Institute

Tuesday 24 April 2012 7.30-9.00pm

James Bay, to the south of Hudson Bay in sub-Arctic Canada, retains a strong historical association with Scotland spanning nearly three hundred years. As a result of the fur trading which took place through the Hudson's Bay Company from the late 1600s until the twentieth century.

From the early days of the fur trade the fiddle was being played across Canada by Scottish traders for entertainment and to accompany social dancing, and the Cree population in James Bay embraced the instrument and its associated repertoire. Purchasing instruments from the Hudson's Bay Company stores they learned and re-shaped the music and dances over time to produce a distinct performance tradition which is still celebrated today.

The transatlantic musical exchange between Scotland and James Bay is a piece of Scottish history which has received little attention in the past, and this lecture aims to give an introduction to these musical connections in terms of history, repertoire, performance, and function, and will be illustrated by photographs, videography, and musical examples collected during fieldwork in the James Bay region in late 2011.

Frances Wilkins is an ethnomusicologist and researcher in Scottish and North American musical traditions including fiddle music, sacred singing, Gaelic music, English concertina, and Soundscapes studies. She is a visiting lecturer at Aberdeen University in Ethnomusicology and Scottish music, and recently completed two months' fieldwork in the James Bay region of Ontario and Quebec where she was researching the James Bay fiddle tradition and its historical connections to Scotland.

Free entry into 'The Cree Fiddlers of James Bay' film (28-minutes long) accompanying the  photographic exhibtion currently on display in the MacRobert Building café area.