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ELIZABETH STEWART  (COMPILED & EDITED BY ALISON MCMORLAND) - Up Yon Wide And Lonely Glen: Travellers' Songs, Stories And Tunes Of The Fetterangus Stewarts 

ELIZABETH STEWART (COMPILED & EDITED BY ALISON MCMORLAND) - Up Yon Wide And Lonely Glen: Travellers' Songs, Stories And Tunes Of The Fetterangus Stewarts 
University Press Of Mississippi - in association with the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. ISBN: 9781617033087

This is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the traditional music, song and lore of Scotland.  It is based on the personal reminiscences of Elizabeth Stewart of Fetterangus in Aberdeenshire and the narrative is just lovely.  It is in Scots, as it should be, holding no problems for an Englishwoman like myself and adding so much more to scholarship.  Its rhythms and cadences are very special and Alison has presented it without intrusion so we feel Elizabeth and her whole family are with us in the room.  You can hear her and her friends and family and smell the smells she describes, feel her pain and happiness and realise it as it is transmitted through the words and music. Elizabeth is a leading representative in her generation of the extended Stewart family of Travellers and the material in this book is remarkable for its humour, wisdom and passion.  

Peggy Seeger remarked so wisely on the Elphinstone Institute leaflet that accompanies this edition:

''This is a woman to woman book by Elizabeth Stewart, a remarkable Traveller singer and storyteller and her family's rich musical heritage, created in collaboration with the exceptional singer and folklorist Alison McMorland.  This proves to be the perfect combination.  It is a labour of love and friendship enriched and validated by their communal knowledge.''

I cannot say anything better than that, but it is also much more.  It is a work of great scholarship which takes beautiful music and song and keeps their simplicity and immediacy, making them accessible to a vast range of readers, from the academic scholar to the performer and to someone who is interested on so many levels.  It is a fine book in all senses.  It feels good to handle, has a quality of heft and an individual waxy texture to the cover, which is pleasantly inviting, with a photograph packed full of story and delicately tinted like a hand coloured print.  The paper is of good weight, the font clear and the endorsements are excellent, especially Tim Neat's.  The wealth of illustration and song and music is a delight and the song notes by Geordie McIntyre are a real boon.  To have such good musical notation and comments, referencing, and bibliography as well as web sites and discography is great.  To find a detailed index as well as appendices on top of all that is a bonus.  The work put in by everyone involved is leviathan and the team cannot be thanked enough.  It is a book that can be savoured and anticipated, hugged, kept by the bed and in a pile by the chair to be dipped into, referenced, consulted and plainly enjoyed. A particular treat is the three examples of The Cruel Mother from Lucy, Elizabeth and Alison, given so well by the music transcriber, Jo Miller in Appendix 11, but there is also appendix I in which Caroline Milligan describes the transcribing of the narrative so that we feel present at every stage of the telling.

It's a great achievement and ranks with Alison's other works as tribute to the tradition and its memory and carriers.  Alison stands firmly behind the work as a fine musician and singer stands behind the song and music.  It's the work that matters above all else.  She and Geordie have given us so much and are part of a throng of people around the world who for many years have remembered, notated, recorded, archived, researched, written, taught, produced, presented, filmed, performed, and have had love and passion for our traditions.  We have now been given the great gift of Elizabeth's stories and her family's music.  Without them we would have lost so much.  We would not even be ourselves.   

Jacquie Swift


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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.