Meet our Traditional Artist in Residence
We chat to Mike Vass about coming of age in Edinburgh’s traditional music session scene and his current role searching for treasures in the School of Scottish Studies Archives.
The Traditional Artist in Residence scheme brings performers into the University of Edinburgh for a period of three years to work with staff and students on a range of activities.
The role is based in Celtic and Scottish Studies in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).
From 2022 to 2025, the Artist is Scottish multi-instrumentalist and composer, Fraser Fifield.
In this short video filmed in Sandy Bell's (one of Edinburgh's best known pubs for folk music sessions), Fraser tells us about his plans to make and present new music inspired by the School of Scottish Studies Archives, and what the role and the city of Edinburgh mean to him.
- Video: Meet our Traditional Artist in Residence: Fraser Fifield
- Interview with Fraser Fifield, Traditional Artist in Residence at the University of Edinburgh from 2022 to 2025.
A fantastic resource of international significance
“Edinburgh’s been a thriving scene for traditional arts for decades” says Fraser, who has been based in his "adopted home" for over twenty years.
“There are many fine musicians scattered in and around the city. You can find live music on most nights of the week.”
“It's also home, of course, to the School of Scottish Studies, a fantastic resource of international significance. The library resources are... great for stimulating all sorts of musical ideas.”
“I was always aware of [the Archive’s] existence, informing a variety of music that I'm familiar with, but only really since starting this role have I began to see the scope that it offers.”
Fraser's current album “Piobaireachd / Pipe Music”, his eighth solo release, boldly reimagines an ancient Scottish piping style, juxtaposing classic pieces with innovative new compositions.
In the three years he is in post at the University of Edinburgh, he is hoping to create a substantial body of similarly innovative new work, inspired by the School of Scottish Studies Archives.
His first presentation is a contemporary reimagining of the Elizabeth Ross Manuscript performed live in the Reid Concert Hall in February 2023. Compiled on the Isle of Rassay in 1812, and secured by the School of Scottish Studies in 1954, the Elizabeth Ross collection is the earliest known manuscript of Highland music.
Following that, Fraser says, “I've got ideas to work on a supernatural theme, which crops up a lot on recordings I've found on the website Tobar an Dualchais.”
Asked what attracted him to the Traditional Artist in Residence role, Fraser remarks on “a rare chance to carry on working in the areas that I'm interested in and already established in, with access to a lot of resources I wouldn't otherwise have access to.”
Reflecting on the “wide ranging” department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, he adds “it's a chance to meet a lot of interesting people from a variety of backgrounds, who are inspiring with their breadth of knowledge and influences.”
Since joining the University in 2022, as well as making and presenting new music, Fraser has contributed to departmental research and teaching seminars, taken part in the annual St Andrew’s Day concert, and is planning a series of workshops.
I would encourage all musicians and people of an artistic pursuit to delve in and check it out. It’s wonderful.