Dr Frances Wilkins
PhD, University of Aberdeen (2009); BA, SOAS, University of London (2004)
Frances Wilkins is Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. She is also a professional musician, performing Scottish traditional music on English concertina. As a researcher, she specialises in Scottish and Northern Canadian singing and instrumental traditions and has worked on research projects in Scotland, Canada and Germany. She teaches on the MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore and supervises PhD students in Ethnomusicology and Folklore. She has presented papers at numerous academic conferences, including of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, and the International Council for Traditional Music. She has written articles for journals including Musiké, MUSICultures, Folk Music Journal, and Northern Scotland and her first monograph, Singing the Gospel along Scotland's North-East Coast, 1859-2009 was published by Routledge as part of the SOAS musicology series. She has been invited to give lectures on her research in Scotland and internationally for the St Andrews Society of Toronto, Waskaganish 350 Year Anniversary Festival (Quebec), Banff Preservation and Heritage Society Annual Founders Lecture, Mayfest, The Universities of Durham, Sheffield and Newcastle, Orkney Folk Festival, North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, Scottish Fisheries Museum and at Aberdeen Saltire Society.
Wilkins studied Ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies from 2001-2004. She graduated with a First Class honours degree in music, and moved to Aberdeen in 2005 to work towards a PhD in Ethnomusicology under the supervision of Professor Ian Russell. She completed her PhD in 2009 and from 2010-2013 she developed and taught undergraduate modules in ethnomusicology and world music for the Department of Music at the University of Aberdeen. She spent two semesters in 2010-11 working as a Eurolecturer in Ethnomusicology with Dr Barbara Alge at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Rostock. In 2011 she began conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the James Bay region of Northern Canada. This was initially funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK, and she received subsequent funding for fieldwork travel from Wemindji Cultural Department, The Carnegie Trust, the Waskaganish 350 year anniversary festival, and the St Andrews Society of Toronto.
Wilkins has worked as a guest editor for Musiké and MUSICultures academic journals and website reviews editor for The World of Music (new series). She is currently on the editorial board for Folk Music Journal and was a British Forum for Ethnomusicology committee member fom 2018-19 as convener for the BFE annual conference, held in Aberdeen in April 2019. She has convened conferences for the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (2009 one-day conference and 2019 annual conference) and the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (2018). She organised Button Boxes & Moothies: A Free Reed Convention in 2015. In 2018 she was invited to be on the judging panel for the British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize.
Frances Wilkins took up the position of Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the Elphinstone Institute in 2013.
Invited Peer reviewer for articles for the following journals, publishers and organisations: Ethnomusicology, The International Journal of Traditional Arts, MUSICultures, Routledge, State Education Development Agency, Riga, Latvia.
Invited guest editor for the following journals: MUSICultures and Musiké
Website Reviews editor, world of music (new series)
External examiner for the University of Cork (MMus in Ethnomusicology) and University of South African (2020)
Member of Folk Music Journal editorial board, committee member of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (2018-19)
- Scottish instrumental and vocal music traditions
- James Bay fiddle music
- Sacred singing traditions of coastal communities of Northern Scotland and the Northern Isles
- Musical traditions of the Scottish diaspora
- Scottish musical traditions in Canada
- Field videography and annotation
- Traditional music education and performance in the UK
- English concertina history and performance
- Soundscape studies
Ethnology, Folklore, and Ethnomusicology
Sacred Singing Traditions of Scotland's Coastal Regions
Frances Wilkins has been researching sacred singing in context in Scotland since 2005. From 2005-2008 she conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the coastal communities of North-East Scotland, and her subsequent book, Singing the Gospel Along Scotland's North-East Coast, 1859-2009 (London: Routledge, 208) was published as part of the SOAS Musicology Series. In 2019 Wilkins received a Research Incentive Grant from the Carnegie Trust for continuation of her research in Scotland, titled Seinn Coisrigte anns a' Ghaidhealtachd an Iar agus 'sna h-Eileanan Siar / Sacred Singing of the West Highlands and Western Isles. This is a research and documentation project with the aim of recording and analysing current sacred singing practices in the region, and the role of singing in worship within the faith communities and in the social, linguistic, cultural and occupational contexts. It will involve extensive field research in teh region in 2019 and 2020.
Fiddle and Dance Traditions in James Bay, Northern Ontario and Quebec
Since 2011, Frances Wilkins has been conducting research into the Cree fiddle tradition of James Bay, Northern Canada, and its links to Scottish traditional music. This has involved six fieldwork visits to the region where she has conducted research in Moose Factory, Wemindji, Waskaganish, Chisasibi, Mistissini, and Oujé Bougoumou. Fieldwork has been funded by research grants from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Carnegie Trust, the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK, and Wemindji Cultural Department.
Her initial interest in fiddle music of the James Bay region of Quebec (Eeyou Istchee) and Ontario, Canada, came from research into the fiddle 'at sea' amongst seafarers from the Northern Isles of Scotland. This spared her interest in fiddle tunes and dances that had crossed the Atlantic with fur traders and been adopted into the musical worlds of indigenous peoples, possibly lost altogether in Scotland but staying alive within other performance contexts. In 2011 she had the opportunity to travel for the first time to James Bay with funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK. She made connections in Wemindji and Moose Factory and travelled to the communities to conduct ethnographic fieldwork. This became the beginning of a long-term relationship with many families in the region and she continues to keep regular contact with people across the region. Highlights of this were a photographic exhibition in 2012 in Aberdeen and Wemindji, and bringing two of the region's most celebrated musicians, fiddler and pecussionist James and Daisy Cheechoo, from Moose Factory to Scotland in 2013, with funding from Aberdeen City Council's 'Vibrant Aberdeen' scheme.
In 2018 Frances Wilkins worked in partnership with the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou, Eeyou Istchee, Quebec, and the Special Collection centre at the University of Aberdeen to curate the exhibition, Nimitaau / Let's Dance. With the expertise of academics and curators from both Scotland and Eeyou Istchee, they were for the first time able to create an account (in Cree, English and Gaelic) of the tradition from both an Eeyou and Scottish perspective, showing how increasingly important self-representation is when curating exhibitions such as this.
Follow the research blog here
Wilkins was Early Career Researcher on the AHRC-funded 'Sharing All Our Stories' project in 2011, led by Dr Elizabeth Curtis. she has worked on collaborative research projects including Funeralscapes and Soundscapes Rostock.
Selected Recent Conference Papers and Public Lectures
2020 16-19 April, ‘Propriety and Adaptation in Contemporary Performances of Scottish Gaelic Psalmody’, British Forum of Ethnomusicology Annual Conference, Bath Spa University.
2019 10 October, 'Musical Reflections of Community and Landscape in Banffshire and the North-East', Banff Heritage and Preservation Society Annual Founders Lecture.
2019 23-27 September, ‘Intransigence and Adaptation in Contemporary Performances of Scottish Gaelic Psalmody’, 6th Symposium of the ICTM Study Group for Multipart Music, Academy of Music, University of Sarajevo.
2015 13-17 October, ‘The Cree Fiddlers of James Bay: A Case for the Non-Safeguarded Scottish-Derived Fiddle Performance Tradition?’, North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Canada.
2015 2-5 July, ‘Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Musical Reflections of Shetland’s Maritime Culture’, BFE an SFE joint conference, MuseÌe de Quai Branly, Paris, France.
- 2014 11-12 July, ‘Transatlantic Sounds: Recording the Cree Fiddlers of James Bay’, On Collecting: Music, Materiality and Ownership, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
- 2014 16-18 October, 'Southern Gospel in North-East Scotland: The Necessity for Change and the Lasting Impact of Moody and Sankey', at the Transnationalisation of Religion Through Music International Conference, University of Montreal.
- 2014 14-15 March, 'Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Musical Reflections of Shetland's Maritime Culture', at Atlantic Sounds International Conference, University of Liverpool
- 2013 5 September, 'The Fiddle at Sea: Exploring the Musical Traditions of Northern Sailors', at the Nairn Book and Arts Festival, Nairn, Morayshire.
- 2013 25 May, 'Orcadians in the Sub-Arctic: Musical Exchanges with the James Bay Cree' with James, Daisy, and Treena Cheechoo at Stromness Academy, Orkney as part of the Orkney Folk Festival.
- 2012 13 July, 'The Fiddle at Sea: Exploring the Musical Traditions of Northern Sailors', at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, Fife.
- 2012 24 April 'Scots in the Arctic: Musical Exchanges with the James Bay Cree in Canada', The Elphinstone Institute Public Lecture, MacRobert Building, University of Aberdeen.
- 2012 24-26 February, 'Scots of the Sub-Arctic: Musical Migration from Orkney to James Bay' at ICTM Ireland Annual Conference, Trinity College, Dublin.
- 2011 1-3 September, 'Strengthening Identity through Community Singing: Praise Nights in North-East Scotland's Deep Sea Missions' at Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom.
- 2011 15-19 September, 'Retaining Principles or Ensuring Survival? Issues of Intransigence within North-East Scottish Gospel Male Voice Choirs' at the European Seminar of Ethnomusicology, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
- 2010 1-3 June, 'Gifts from the Holy Spirit. Contemporary song composition in North-East Scottish Evangelicalism' at the SIEF Working Group on Ethnology of Religion Conference, 'Experiencing Religion: New Approaches Towards Personal Religiosity, State Ethnographic Museum, Warsaw, Poland.
- 2008 17-20 September, 'Precenting Christian Praise: A Comparative Approach to Unaccompanied Congregational Hymnody and Psalmody on the East and West Coast of Scotland' at the European Seminars in Ethnomusicology annual conference, Institute of Musicology, University of Warsaw, Poland.
- 2008 3-8 August, 'The Fiddle at Sea: Tradition and Innovation in the Cultural Milieu of Fishing and Exploratory Vessels from Scotland's Northern Isles during the Last Two Centuries' at the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, Memorial University, St. Johns, Newfoundland.
- 2008 31 July - 3 August, 'Precentors and Pitch Pipes: Encounters with Melodic Praise among the Brethren of North-East Scotland' at The Third Biennial Conference of the North American British Music Studies Association, York University, Toronto, Canada.
- 2008 16-20 June, 'Sacred song at work: Gospel songs and psalmody in the workplace along Scotland's North-East coast' at the 9th SIEF (International Society for Folklore and Ethnology) Congress, University of Ulster, City of Derry, Northern Ireland.
- 2007 17-21 October, 'Technological Advancement in the Fishing Industry and the Use of the Trawler Radio Band to Transmit Gospel Singing among North-East Scottish Fishermen' at the American Folklore Society Annual General Meeting, Hilton Quebec, Quebec City, Canada.
- 2007 5-8 July, 'Technological Advancement in the Fishing Industry and the Use of the Trawler Radio Band to Transmit Gospel Singing among North-East Scottish Fishermen.' At the Fifth Biennial International Conference on Music since 1900, University of York.
- 2007 18-21 April, 'Let the Lower Lights be Burning: The Development of Gospel Singing in the Fishing Communities of North-East Scotland' presented at the British Forum of Ethnomusicology Annual Conference, ICMuS, University of Newcastle.
Sound/Video Archive Work
- 2012 Archivist, The James Bay Fiddle Archive, Wemindji, Quebec.
- 2009-2010 Archives Assistant, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen.
- 2009 Participant on the Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive Summer Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington. Training in annotating field video recordings.
- 2002 – 2004 Cecil Sharp House Sound Archives. Digitiser for BBC collection of Scottish field recordings and Hugh Tracey African collection
- 2019 Nimitaau / Let's Dance: Fiddle-Dancing through Scots and Eeyou Cultures. Public exhibition curated in collaboration with the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou, Eeyou Istchee, Quebec, and the Special Collection centre at the University of Aberdeen.
- 2014 Funeralscapes: Re-Experiencing Sound and Rites in a Viking, Early Christian, and Pre-Christian Landscape with Dr Shane McLeod (University of Stirling) and Dr Carlos Galan-Diaz (University of Aberdeen)
- 2012 Cree Nation of Wemindji Cultural Department. Working in collaboration with anthropologist Katherine Scott to develop the James Bay Fiddle sound library and photographic exhibition in the community.
- 2010-2011 Eurolecturer position at Rostock University of Music and Theatre October 2010-February 2011. Working in collaboration with the ethnomusicologist Dr Barbara Alge to develop teaching in ethnomusicology fieldwork techniques and 'soundscapes' documentation at Rostock University of Music and Theatre. Curation of the ‘Soundscapes Rostock’ photography, text, and audio installation, Haus Böll, Rostock, with Dr Barbara Alge, in association with the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock. Development of Soundscapes Rostock website.
Funding and Grants
- 2022-22 The British Academy, Mid-Career Fellowship. Seinn Coisrigte anns a'Ghaidhealtachd an Iar agus anns na h-Eileanan Siar / Sacred Singing of the West Highlands and Western Isles.
- 2019 The Carnegie Trust, Research Incentive Grant (£9,982.70). Seinn Coisrigte anns a' Ghaidhealtachd an Iar agus anns na h-Eileanan Siar / Sacred Singing of the West Highlands and Western Isles.
- 2014 Enterprise Music Scotland, Traditional Arts Small Grant Fund (£2,000). Aberden Button Boxes and Moothies Festival 2015 (with Prof. Ian Russell).
- 2014 'The North' Public Engagement fund (£1,200). uneralscapes', with Dr Shane McLeod (University of Stirling) and Dr Carlos Galán Díaz (University of Aberdeen).
- 2014 'How to Collaborate Virtually' funding competition award, Centre for Academic Developoment, University of Aberdeen (£1,000). 'Funeralscapes', with Dr Shane McLeod (University of Stirling) and Dr Carlos Galán Díaz (University of Aberdeen).
- 2014 The Carnegie Trust, Small Research Grant (£2,500) 'Scots in the Sub-Arctic: Music and Dance Migration from Orkney to James Bay'.
- 2013-14 'Sharing All Our Stories'. Early Career researcher on the AHRC-funded project, led by Dr Elizabeth Curtis in the School of Education, University of Aberdeen.
- 2013 ‘Vibrant Aberdeen’ cultural grant, Aberdeen City Council (£2865). ‘Bringing the Music Home: James Bay Fiddling in Aberdeen’.
- 2013 ‘The North’ Research Theme grant, University of Aberdeen (£1250).
- 2012 Wemindji Protected Area Project, Wemindji, Quebec. Installation of Archive and Photography exhibition in Wemindji ($5,000)
- 2011-2012 Royal Society of Edinburgh, Small Research Grant in the Arts and Humanities (£6,500), 'Scots in the Sub-Arctic: Musical Fingerprints among the Cree Fiddlers of James Bay'.
- 2011-2012 Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK, Independent Scholar's Award, 'Scots in the Sub-Arctic: Musical Fingerprints among the Cree Fiddlers of James Bay'.
- 2010-11 Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg, Germany, Eurolecturer position, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock, Germany.
EF5003 (MLitt) - History, Core Genres, and Methodologies of Ethnology and Folklore
EF5004 (MLitt) - Perspectives on Tradition, Identity, and Fieldwork
EF5503 (MLitt) - Oral Traditions
EF5504 (MLitt) - Intellectual and Practical Approaches to Scottish Contexts
EF5505 (MLitt) - Dissertation Supervision
EF2501 (Undergraduate) - Scottish Folklore and Oral Traditions
EF3501 (Undergraduate) - Scottish Folklore and Oral Traditions
EF4501 (Undergraduate) - Scottish Folklore and Oral Traditions
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Gaelic psalm singing: why the ancient tradition is in danger of disappearingThe ConversationContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
Music and Society in Cork, 1700-1900Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, vol. 76, no. 3, pp. 443-446Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition and PolicyFolk Music Journal, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 118-120Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
Sound, Movement, and Emotion: An Historically-Informed Performance at a Viking Burial SiteNorthern Scotland, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 121-131Contributions to Journals: Articles
Nimitaau: Let's Dance: Fiddle-Dancing through Scots and Eeyou CultureNon-textual Forms: Exhibitions
Singing the Gospel along Scotland’s North-East Coast, 1859–2009Routledge, London. 300 pagesBooks and Reports: Books
John and Alan LomaxChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Lead BellyChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Explorations into the Musical Dialogue of Shetland’s Nautical PastFolk Music Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 17-37Contributions to Journals: Articles
Gifts from the Holy Spirit: Contemporary Song Composition and Performance in North-East Scottish EvangelicalismChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Conference Proceedings