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Christina Stewart - Bairns Kist

Birnam CD FB003

'Bairn’s Kist is a collection of twenty five traditional Scottish and Gaelic lullabies, dandling songs, singing games and playground songs – aimed at young children and their parents, teachers, nursery workers and carers.  Anyone, in fact, who wishes to pass on the song tradition to young children.   Christina Stewart is a well respected Highlands-based singer and educator who travels widely to teach, and whose students speak of her in high regard.  The album is supported by the Care and Learning Alliance, the Scottish Arts Council and the Highland Council.

The songs are presented in a direct, engaging and unfussy manner.  Christina sings in both Scots and Gaelic in her lovely voice, attracting the listener immediately.  Her simple style of presentation encourages both children and adults alike to interact with each other through songs, games and rhymes.  Each song is accompanied by full lyrics and suggestions as to how they should be shared – for example, by using lots of eye contact, by teaching children to take turns to sing, illustrating the difference between quiet and loud (a crucial lesson for children, that one!), the value of role play, and the simple joy of word games.  There are even helpful notes giving advice about how to plan your singing sessions (best time of day, most suitable songs to choose, how to add variety) and ‘warm up’ notes are also offered.

Christina is joined by Bill Taylor on clarsach, Olivia Ross on fiddle & viola, and Bob Pegg who plays a multitude of instruments, including penny whistle, mouth organ, concertina and jew’s harp.  The songs are lovely, some well known, some less so – I enjoyed Ali Bally Bee and its lyric about the mysterious Coultart’s candy; there are many great tunes here that children will really enjoy, including A Sailor Went To Sea, Aiken Drum, The Herrin’s Heids, and Shetland cradle song Minnie o Shirva.  I particularly love Christina’s quiet, understated but direct presentation of the Gaelic songs – she conveys the musicality of the Gaelic language beautifully.

Her approach to sharing her love for these songs is absolutely spot on – her positive and proactive attitude, coupled with the care she invests in them, encourages a real love of language, melody, rhythm and rhyme, and she makes music that’s lively and fun.  Bairn’s Kist is a lovely follow-up to Kist O’ Dreams.  I like this album very much indeed, and it’s exactly the sort of gift I would choose for anyone with young children who wants to share a love of traditional music with them.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 74 of The Living Tradition magazine.