Inverness teacher travels to explore traditional music

Published: 7 Oct 2015

Inverness teacher travels to explore traditional music

Alison Mackenzie from Cradlehall, Inverness, was awarded a joint Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Finzi Trust to travel to Canada and study the importance of traditional music in two key areas: Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

Alison, a music teacher, has a life-long interest in traditional music. “I was influenced from an early age by my great uncle, a traditional fiddler. His passion was his music and he instilled in me a similar love for the music he played,” she says.

“Throughout my career I have tried to share the importance of traditional music with my students. Music plays an extremely important role in cultural identity and it is crucial that this is nurtured and passed on to each generation.”

Alison spent the first four weeks of her Fellowship in Cape Breton, retracing the footsteps of the earliest Scots settlers and visiting some of the primary venues and institutions which support a rich heritage of traditional music and musicians. During this time she met Paul Cranford, who has single-handedly transcribed and published several volumes of Cape Breton music, some of which forms an integral part of the Gaelic culture and identity. 

Visits to the Gaelic College, Celtic Interpretive Music Centre in Judique, the home of Buddy MacMaster - the master of Cape Breton fiddling - and the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University, all provided a valuable insight into the strong cultural links between Cape Breton and Scotland.

During a fortnight in Newfoundland, Alison met traditional musicians and experienced the Irish and French influences that underpin the social and economic life of the Canadian Province. 

Since returning home to the Highlands of Scotland, Alison is applying her Fellowship experience to nurture the continuance of traditional music through an active programme of one-to-one instrumental tuition, two traditional youth Ceilidh Bands, voluntary work in the local primary school and work with the local Feis movement.