The Gibson Collection: Burns’ The Scots Musical Museum by Iona Fyfe

I’m Iona, a Scots Sangster fae Huntly in Aiberdeenshire. I muived tae Glesca in 2015 an stairted studying Scots Sang unner the tutorship o Rod Paterson, ane o Scotland’s maist celebrated sangsters an exponents o Burns sangs. Ane o the first collections thit Rod telt me tae gang an luik intae wis The Scots Musical Museum.

The Scots Musical Museum wis a collaborative wark atween publisher James Johnson and Robert Burns and is arguably ane o the maist significant sang collections thit ony folksinger cuid hae access tae and comprises pairt o Andrew Gibson’s collection at Linen Hall Library. Burns wis enlisted as contributor an editor o the collection.

Aberdeenshire folk singer, Iona Fyfe, has become one of Scotland’s finest young ballad singers, rooted deeply in the singing traditions of the North East of Scotland. Winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018, Iona has been described as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.”

Warkin wi Burns sang is a muckle pairt o my wark as a sangster, nae jist in Januar, bit the hale twalmont roon. Thon ablity o Burns tae speak tae aabdy is aye there; whether I’m performin the sangs in concert halls an airt centres aroon the warld, or performin them in a community settin in care homes in Glesca – Burns sang resonates wi fowk.

I’ve picked oot three o my favourite sangs fae The Scots Musical Museum, tae gie yous an idea o whits in there. This is just a toaty wee taste: I’d encourage ye tae discover it mair.

Now Westlin Winds

Now Westlin Winds, also kent as “Song Composed in August” features in Volume 4 o the Scots Musical Museum. The wirds were scrieved by Burns in 1995 fan he wis jist 17 year aul. It’s thocht thit he scrieved it in dedication tae a quine fae Kirkoswald cried Peggy Thomson.

Rod taught me twa melodies tae this sang an I picked the ane thit suited my vyce. Neither melodies I lairnt wis whit wis exactly printed in the collection, bit this is inidciate o the “carrying stream” – the idea that Traditional music and repertoire is iver evolving, chynging an bein innovated upon. My favourite interpretation o this sang is fae Dick Gaughan, fa recordit it on his seminal 1981 album Handful of Earth. Northern Irish singer, Len Graham recorded it on his 1977 album Wind and Water. It’s clear thit sangsters fae baith areas continue tae appreciate an enjoy the Scots Musical Museum.

Of A The Airts

Sangsters hae yaised the title “Of A’ The Airts”, bit the title o this sang in the SMM is “I Love my Jean”. Nae doot Burns scrieved this fur Jean Armour, fa wis the focus o at least 14 o Burns’ poems. The sang, fae volume three, has the maist bonnie melody, composed by fiddler William Marshall, fa wis born in Fochabers an wis o service tae the Duke of Gordon. The melody is titled Miss Admiral Gordon’s Strathspey.

Silver Tassie

Titled “My bony Mary”, this sang wis first published in Volume 3 o the Scots Musical Museum. Mony sangsters cry it “Silver Tassie” aifter it’s first line. Although Burns scrieved this sang in English, sangsters hae owerset it intae Scots. The melody wis composed by James Oswald. Burns admitted that the first hauf o the first stanza wis aul, the rest wis scrieved by him – this reinforces the idea of Scots poetry an sang bein pairt o a living tradition – the cairrying stream thit ebbs and flows an develops ower time. The melody o the piece also gings by the name “The Silver Tassie”.

These braw sangs are jist three o hunners thit feature in the Scots Musical Museum. It shairly ane o the treasures o the Gibson Collection; tae be able tae haud, lairn fae an study an early edition wad be a pooerfu moment fir ony Scots sangster.