Alison McMorland

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An active and innovative figure in British folk music since the late 1960s.
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b. 12 November 1940, Clarkston, Renfrewshire, Scotland. When McMorland was aged four, her family moved to Strathaven, where she spent most of her school days. Later, when living in Helston, Cornwall, during the 60s, she became involved in the folk revival. In 1967, McMorland produced a teaching manual for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, USA, to accompany a video made a year earlier, British Traditional Singing Games. It was not until 1970, however, that she first performed at a Scottish festival in Irvine. The following year, she won the women’s traditional singing trophy at the Kinross folk festival. During the early 70s, McMorland worked on a project for the York Museum, producing a sound tape of songs and memories of old York called These Times Be Good Times. She also spent a great deal of time researching Scottish folk song tradition, as well as collecting songs on children’s games and stories. In 1974, McMorland made a film on this particular subject, Pass It On, and was later invited by the Smithsonian Institute to appear in the Festival of American Folk Life. She also initiated workshops for children at festivals, specializing in songs and games. With fellow folk singer Frankie Armstrong, she ran voice workshops, very innovative in the 70s, but now regarded as normal. For seven years, until the series ended in 1982, she also co-presented Listen With Mother for BBC radio. For the series, she chose all the music, and always made a point of including folk material in the programme.

Of the several albums McMorland recorded in the late 70s and early 80s, Belt Wi’ Colours Three (1977) is an album of Scottish traditional songs featuring Aly Bain on fiddle and Rab Wallace on pipes. The 1980 collaboration with Armstrong, Sandra Kerr and Kathy Henderson, My Song Is My Own, meanwhile, features songs written from a woman’s perspective, ranging from the traditional ‘John Anderson, My Jo’ to the modern composition ‘Lady Bus Driver’. Both McMorland and Peta Webb, with whom she recorded a superb duo album for Topic Records, were the subject of one of a series of a films, made in 1980, by Phillip Donnelly, called Pioneers Of The Folk Revival. During this period, McMorland sang with the Albion Band at the National Theatre debut of Lark Rise To Candleford, and later went on a European tour with The Passion/Creation, produced by Bill Bryden. She also contributed to 1985’s That’d Be Telling - Tales Of Britain, a multi-cultural collection compiled by Mike Rosen and John Griffiths for the Cambridge University Press. Another project resulted in the bookMemories, which compiled old people’s musical memories of Humberside. In 1986, she headed another project called Threads, featuring Grand Union, a group of exiled musicians from different ethnic communities, who fused Scottish and Asian musical styles. The project told the story of the cotton trade and slavery in music.

In 1989, McMorland returned to Scotland to live in Glasgow. The following year she took up the post of Traditional Folk Arts Lecturer for the Strathclyde Region, and has remained deeply involved in the creation of community arts projects. She resumed an active recording career in the new millennium, completing several accomplished albums with her husband, fellow Scottish singer Geordie McIntyre.