August 30, 2021, is the 70-year anniversary of the 1951 Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh, the seminal event that heralded and generated the Scottish Folk Revival of the 1960s. Alan Lomax was on hand to record it in the Oddfellows Hall, and thus able to preserve a document of a legendary concert that alerted the astonished urban audience to the continuing vitality of Scotland’s rich heritage of traditional song. People in the rich folk culture of the Gaelic-speaking West, or speaking the Doric accent of the North East, still held and sang their vibrant old ballads and songs of work, but the Central Belt city folk thought the songs entombed in old books. Until the Ceilidh.
This podcast presents the (near) entirety* of Alan Lomax's recordings of the event. This audio is considerably inconsistent volume-wise, as quiet singers were typically received with thunderous applause (for which Lomax kept his finger on the fader of his recording machine). And it is presented here raw (unmastered), so headphone-users, be warned! The episode functions as an audio accompaniment to the Lomax Digital Archive's new exhibit, curated by folklorist Ewan McVicar, which annotates the Ceilidh program song-by-song, and pairs more recent interpretations of those songs by revival singers in Scotland and further afield. We're pleased to say that two new recordings have been provided exclusively for the exhibit, by the fine singers Christine Kidd and Alasdair Roberts (who is also a guitarist/composer extraordinaire).
*We omit the lengthy vote of thanks given in Gaelic by the Rev. Duncan. Also, note that some performances/commentaries were truncated by tape running out, and that Lomax missed recording the introductory piping by James Burgess.