It’s always nice to put faces to names, and know the people behind a project, so here’s a wee intro to the team behind Language in Lyrics:
Dr. Heather Sparling: project director
Heather is the Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions and an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Cape Breton University, where she teaches a range of music and culture courses. She has expertise in Cape Breton Gaelic song and is the author of Reeling Roosters and Dancing Ducks: Celtic Mouth Music (CBU Press, 2014). She is the editor of MUSICultures, the premier Canadian ethnomusicology and popular music journal. Her research interests include the role of music in language and cultural revitalization; exhibiting music; memory and forgetting; disaster songs of Atlantic Canada; and Cape Breton vernacular dance.
Heather is a Gaelic speaker and is actively involved with both local and international Gaelic organizations. She first discovered Gaelic when she lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she subsequently studied the language in Toronto, Cape Breton, and at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. She has taught Gaelic in both Toronto and Sydney. She is a passionate advocate for Gaelic linguistic and cultural development and is excited about the role the Language in Lyrics project will play in contributing to Gaelic language growth and recognition within Canada.
Màiri Britton: project manager
Màiri is a Gaelic-speaker, teacher and musician based in Antigonish. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, she moved to Nova Scotia in 2016 to take up the post of Gaelic language instructor at St. Francis Xavier University. She currently teaches at St. FX as well as running a number of local community classes and workshop programmes in the province.
Màiri’s interest in the Gaelic language was sparked at the age of five through the Fèis movement, and it was her love of Gaelic songs and singing which inspired her to learn the language to fluency as a teenager. She went on to gain a First Class undergraduate MA (Honours) and a postgraduate MSc, both in Celtic Studies, from the University of Edinburgh.
A talented singer, step dancer and harpist, Màiri performs regularly as a solo artist and with the four-piece Gaelic trad group Fàrsan. She loves getting together with others to learn, share and sing songs, and she is delighted to be involved in facilitating greater access to Gaelic songs and singing through the Language in Lyrics Project.
Mary Jane Lamond: Nova Scotia corpus assistant
Mary Jane is an internationally-renowned Gaelic singer with an extensive knowledge of the Nova Scotia Gaelic song repertoire. She has recorded six albums and worked in a number of different roles and projects focused on promoting and sharing the Gaelic language and culture of Nova Scotia.
It was through visiting her grandparents in Nova Scotia that Mary Jane fell in love with Gaelic tradition and song. While enrolled in St. Francis Xavier University’s Celtic Studies programme, she released her first album, and its reception launched a career of international touring and award-winning further recordings. Alongside numerous Juno awards and ECMA nominations, Mary Jane received the prestigious Portia White Prize in 2010 in recognition of her efforts to preserve Gaelic culture through song.
Having worked on cataloguing the Cape Breton Gaelic Folklore Collection while a student at St Francis Xavier University, and on the song content for the website An Drochaid Eadarainn, Mary Jane is in the perfect position to facilitate the cataloguing aims of the Language in Lyrics project. She brings invaluable knowledge of the Nova Scotia Gaelic community and its song corpus and looks forward to promoting further community involvement and enjoyment in Gaelic songs through this unique project.