A new online exhibition marking 250 years since the birth of Walter Scott (1771-1832) will reveal the ways that this Scottish author best known for his historical novels, influenced and drew inspiration from musical traditions.

On August 13, the University of Aberdeen’s Museums and Special Collections will launch the exhibition, which will feature items from the university’s extensive Bernard C. Lloyd collection of Walter Scott material alongside musical recordings and adaptations of Scott’s works.

Curated by Professor Ali Lumsden, co-director of the University of Aberdeen’s Walter Scott Research Centre, alongside collections staff, the exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events running up until March 2022.

The first of these will be the exhibition’s launch event held online on the evening of August 17. All are welcome to join to learn about ‘Scott and Song’, enjoy performances of Scott-inspired songs, and to virtually delve into the University of Aberdeen’s Scott collections. This event will form part of the larger Scott 250 celebrations.

Facilitated by Abbotsford House, Walter Scott 250 is a partnership network of over fifty organisations across Scotland and beyond dedicated to showcasing new and exciting perspectives on Scott and his legacy in a range of mediums, from art installations, publications and events to exhibitions and community projects. More information about the other activities can be found on the Scott 250 website.

The University of Aberdeen’s ‘Walter Scott and Song’ exhibition will explore a range of the musical styles and traditions that Scott influenced both in his own time, and much later, including the ballads of the Scottish Borders, folk songs, Italian opera and musical theatre.

Although born in Edinburgh, Scott became fascinated with folklore and traditional ballads during time spent in the Scottish Borders as a child. This interest eventually led to his efforts to preserve the ballads he’d heard for future generations, collecting and publishing them in his book ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ in 1802. He gathered ballads not only from the Borders region, but also, as the exhibition will explore, from Aberdeenshire.

Scott’s musical influence did not end there. His own poetic works were set to music by numerous well-known composers, including Schubert. His 1819 novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, inspired Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor, and his novel Rob Roy has been adapted for musical theatre, including by the University of Aberdeen’s own former Rector, Eric Linklater, for the 1946 Aberdeen Student Show.

Scott also wrote his own poems to be set to music, such as the well-known Bonnie Dundee, written in honour of Jacobite hero John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee.

The exhibition will contain musical recordings of the songs Scott collected and wrote, and those his work inspired, for visitors to enjoy, including newly commissioned renditions of the popular ‘Bonnie Dundee’, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Jock o’ Hazeldean’.

Professor Ali Lumsden who is curating the event adds: “Walter Scott is famous today for his novels and for bringing Scotland’s history and landscape to worldwide audiences.

“This exhibition looks at a lesser-known aspect of his life’s work – his connection with song and musical traditions. The exhibition will be an opportunity for those who know a little about Scott to learn more about his ballad collecting and influence on opera and popular music. It will also offer those who aren’t familiar with Scott a way into his work, through the well-known songs he wrote and inspired.

“Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to listen and sing along to music. They will also gain insight into the University’s extensive and fascinating collection of Scott material and the ways in which it is being used to produce new editions of his work.”

Information about events associated with ‘Walter Scott and Song’ can currently be found on the Walter Scott Research Centre website. Visit the online exhibition from August 13 at www.abdn.ac.uk/walterscottandsong, sign up for the opening event on August 17 here. Or email uoacollections@abdn.ac.uk for more information.

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