Commissioning Fund – Mothersong – waking up lullabies in Scotland

Corrina Hewat and Karine Polwart

Ask any mother whether they sing their child to sleep, chances are they will tell you in an embarrassed way that they “just sing Hush Little Baby” or “something silly I make up on the spot…” But women have a habit of belittling what they do, and one of WiM’s awards goes to two women who recognise the importance of the lullaby.

Karine Polwart and Corrina Hewat are traditional musicians living and working in Scotland. They will be using their award to create MotherSong, an original work based on traditional Scottish lullabies.

“A lot of local lullabies are in danger of being lost,” says Karine. “In Scotland ballads have been prized above all else because lullabies don’t translate as a showpiece for performance.”

MotherSong will no doubt challenge this perception as it is created in collaboration with local women’s singing groups in seven different areas in Scotland. The two women will also run workshops with mother and toddler groups, to teach, exchange and create lullabies.

“We were absolutely flabbergasted when we won the award,” said Corrina. “Then when we told the Scottish Arts Council they said ‘Let’s help as well!’ and gave us a further £6,000!”

A big part of the expense will the costs of travelling to reach areas as far afield as The Borders, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Mull, and Skye. “Music groups in these areas operate quite separately,” says Corrina. “And we thought if we could try to tie all the groups together by sharing the work and the lullabies between them it would be really nice.”

Research into the history of lullabies will form an important part of the work. Consulting historians like Margaret Bennett of the School of Scottish Studies, as well as source singers such as Sheila Stewart on the East Cost, will expand their already considerable knowledge of the song form.

“The more we go into it, the more we realise that lullabies are actually really important,” says Corrina. “This is what children are growing up with. A lot of people don’t know anything about their history, but it is important to know about your history.”

Suzanne Chawner
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