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Musician and teacher Chrissie Stewart's Kist O Dreams lullaby project celebrates 20 years with Muir Of Ord events on October 1

By Liza Mulholland

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It often seems that the best projects, originating from a germ of an idea, grow many arms and legs and, before they know it, have achieved a long-lasting legacy – and Kist O Dreams is definitely one of those.

Founded by traditional singer, clàrsach player and teacher Chrissie Stewart as a Millennium project, this remarkable initiative is to celebrate its 20-year journey with a workshop and concert in Muir of Ord on October 1.

Chrissie Stewart and Bill Taylor.
Chrissie Stewart and Bill Taylor.

It all began when Chrissie was a new mum and searching for Scottish lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs to sing to her baby. Growing up in a family of singers and musicians, traditional culture within the home was second nature to her and she naturally wanted to nurture her own child in a similar way.

Having previously studied at the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh, she was equipped with wide knowledge and experience from her degree but felt that for folk culture to be a living tradition, as well as featuring on the concert stage, it must also retain its place in everyday life ‘in the home, at the hearthside and cradleside’.

Discovering there was little in the way of accessible resources for new parents, Chrissie’s first aim was to produce an album of lullabies. Such was its popularity, the CD went to several print runs, and she has delivered countless workshops all over the country, selling out at Celtic Connections every year, as well as presenting lullabies at educational conferences.

It’s now widely accepted that the first three years of a child’s life are the most important, during which singing with small children is known to enhance social skills, emotional well-being, language acquisition and much more.

Artyness columnist Liza Mulholland.
Artyness columnist Liza Mulholland.

With that in mind, this innovative musician next set up a website and Bairn’s Kist, making resources available for use by parents, carers, nursery teachers and anyone with an interest in traditional song and child development. The impact on many has been profound.

A family from the West Bank contacted Chrissie to say the Kist O Dreams CD helped their young daughter sleep through the noise of shelling and used it for comfort throughout her childhood and youth. Diverse practitioners have seen benefits with dementia patients and insomnia sufferers. Now that is far-reaching indeed.

I can vouch for its loveliness and richness, as my son was a baby when the album came out and we both loved it! A touching tie-up is that Chrissie’s daughter Grace, whose sleeping face featured on the album cover, is now an accomplished musician herself and will open the concert with a solo clàrsach set.

Local harpist Bill Taylor, who played on the original album, will also join Chrissie onstage for what promises to be a very special evening in the Muir Hub.

Those with pre-school children can book up for the Singing On Yer Mammy’s Knee morning session, which sounds like tremendous fun!

Concert and workshop tickets can be booked at Eventbrite.

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