Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

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Some of you may recall my posting here before about my (casual) interest in St Kilda, the most remote once-inhabited archipelago of the British Isles. I possibly first came across it when I first discovered and went exploring on Google Maps (an interesting post to reread, as it reminds us what online maps were like in the days before Google Maps). My interest piqued, I went off and read about it on Wikipedia; and so was intrigued enough to watch (and buy) and review Michael Powell's fictionalised film about the evacuation of St Kilda, The Edge of the World (which, strangely enough, didn't involve vampires).

After all this, you will not be surprised to hear that when, last year, an album of music came out called The Lost Songs of St Kilda, I was intrigued, and asked [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m to get it for me for Chanukah. The story is that a decade ago, an old man, Trevor Morisson, was discovered playing this music on a piano in an old age home in Scotland. He'd been evacuated to the isle of Bute during the War, and had there been taught by one of the St Kildans who left during the islands' final evacuation in 1930 how to play the melodies sung by the islanders as they climbed the cliffs looking for birds' eggs.

No one else had recorded this music, no one had written it down; to my surprise it seems that none of the St Kildans (the last of whom died just last year) had even taught it to their children. (The fact the St Kildan church frowned upon music may have had something to do with this, at a guess.) If it were not for Trevor Morisson, this subculture would have died out completely (rather than just partially—Morisson only knew eight songs, and did not know the words to them).

Yet now, after eighty-six years, a young man's recordings of Morisson (made on a laptop with a £3 microphone) have been released to the world, and inspired others to compose around them, or be inspired by them.

I find the music to be moving, but even without that, the story a moving one too.

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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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