College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Degree puts cultural performance centre stage

Music, dance and storytelling are key elements in the first formal performance programme to be offered by the University’s School of Scottish Studies.

The MSc programme in Traditional Arts Performance, which launches in September, is the first at Edinburgh to combine these three vital strands of Scottish culture in the one course.

Its launch comes at a key time for the School. In 2019, the centenary of one of its most influential staff members, Hamish Henderson, was widely celebrated and, in 2021, the School will mark its 70th anniversary.

The School has richly informed people’s understanding of Scottish traditional culture and the legacy of its fieldworkers, researchers, archivists and performers continues to have a profound impact.

Gary WestChair in Scottish Ethnology

International outlook

The MSc is international in its outreach, with applications already arriving from the US and China.

It will enable traditional musicians, dancers, storytellers and facilitators of traditional arts to develop their creative, performance and professional skills at postgraduate level.

The degree’s focus enables staff members who are expert performers of music, dance and story to share their experience with students. They will be joined by an array of traditional artists and industry specialists through one-to-one lessons and masterclasses.

Acclaimed musicians

Among those teaching the courses are Professor Gary West, Chair in Scottish Ethnology, an acclaimed piper and broadcaster. Also involved is Dr Will Lamb, Senior Lecturer in Scottish Ethnology, a Gaelic singer, bouzouki player and former lecturer in traditional music at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

A driving force behind creative and performance development is Scottish Ethnology lecturer Dr Lori Watson. A singer, fiddler and composer, Dr Watson joins the school with more than ten years of experience in curriculum design, performance assessment and artistic research at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Performance and participation, singing and playing, have long been part of the School of Scottish Studies’ vision – Hamish Henderson included participatory performance in classes from the 1950s.

Public eye

The School of Scottish Studies says it is a good time for the new course as Scottish traditional arts are in the public eye as never before.

The degree will enable students to gain hands-on experience by creating and sharing their work in the cultural heart and capital of Scotland – a festival city with a lively traditional arts scene.

The School also supports performance teaching with its traditional artist in residence post, which is held by multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Mike Vass for the next three years.

Students can explore tradition in detail, looking at the School’s historical and archive sources and collaborating across the art forms – and with our partner organisations – to create new work.

Lori WatsonLecturer in Scottish Ethnology

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