17th October 2018
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CD of dialect songs for schools

By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS

A sing-along CD of Shetland dialect songs has been launched by songs­tress Maria Barclay Millar.

Maria, from Sandwick, has spent the last year and a half working as a singing instructor in three primary schools and felt that a resource was needed for her work.

Her new CD, Evergreen, some­thing fresh in the dialect-singing teaching world, features traditional and new songs and one for which Maria wrote the words. It has proved a great success with her pupils and will, she feels, enhance her teaching.

In her work at Cunningsburgh Primary, Sandwick Junior High and Nesting Primary, Maria sings, plays guitar and vamps on the piano. The new CD, which comes with a re­source pack of song lyrics, glossary sheets and worksheets, means that Shetland dialect singing will be accessible to all schools – and Maria hopes to travel to all Shetland’s primary schools in the future. The venture was funded by Scottish Arts Council’s Youth Music Initiative.

Maria gained her love of tradi­tional dialect singing from her father Eddie Barclay, who accompanies his daughter on the CD. She said: “It’s exciting to be involved in something I’m so passionate about. There are some fantastic songs out there.”

Her pupils love it too. “They have reacted very well,” she said. In addition to the mainstream class teaching she has formed choirs – joining is optional but there has been a “very high uptake”. And at Cun­nings­burgh, children even stay behind after school to take part in an after-school club she runs.

Having studied voice and musical theatre at Angus College, Maria knows the importance of perform­ance, and her choirs have taken part in the Folk Festival and Johnsmas Foy. She said it was great to see her pupils’ confidence grow.

Maria’s CD and resource pack, which aims to make learning fun, was launched on Friday in the boat hall of the new Shetland Museum and Archives. At the launch, executive director of education and social care Hazel Sutherland said: “It is so important that wir precious dialect is kept alive and I fully support this CD as an educational resource. Well done tae Maria for pittin tagidder such a super mix o’ sangs fur wir bairns, some humorous and some serious.

Head of schools Helen Budge said she hoped that all children will enjoy singing the songs. She said that Evergreen would complement the other Shetland dialect resources already in place, the Ditty Box and Gaer Box. Nesting head teacher Anne Peters said that dialect singing has been very popular and has added a shared understanding of dialect for everone – dialect speakers or not. For certain individuals it has meant a real boost to their self-esteem and confidence. All thanked Maria for her work in the project.

Guests were then treated to a dialect singing demonstration from various school choirs. Cunnings­burgh pupils sang Evergreen by Rhoda Bulter and The Slipwye at Sandsayre by the late Willie Barclay and Stella Sutherland; Nesting Pri­mary sang the Trowie Sang followed by The Rabbits Lullaby by Vagaland; and Sandwick Primary sang The Skerry Song by Harry Kay and Whit does Shetland mean tae me by Eddie Barclay. Maria said: “It is a real joy working in our schools. Feedback from pupils, teachers and parents has been so positive. My aim now is to visit all schools in Shetland with the CD and resource pack and deliver a supporting workshop on the principles of dialect singing.”

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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