Dr Frances Wilkins

Project Title: Sacred Singing of the West Highlands and Western Isles

By recording and analysing current sacred singing practices, our aim is to explore the role of singing in worship within the faith communities and in their social, linguistic, cultural and occupational contexts. The pivotal role of sacred music is being researched, along with the meaning of the music to participants, and its role in the formation of personal and group identity. Religious traditions and fishing and crofting heritage will be explored with particular reference to the construction of a distinctive ’soundscape’, and the musical expression of religious belief through both Gaelic and English language.

The research will primarily involve fieldwork in the region, in particular on the islands of Lewis, Harris, Skye, Raasay, North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra and in Lochalsh.

We will be presenting some of these findings at the British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference in April 2020 and at the SIEF Ritual Year conference in Riga in June 2020. I have been researching sacred singing traditions in Scotland since 2005, and recently published my first book, Singing in Evangelicalism in North-East Scottish Coastal Communities, 1859-2009 (Routledge: SOAS Musicology Series, 2018).

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Music, Drama & Performing Arts

University: University of Aberdeen

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