Tag Archives: Ossian

Heroic music at the Cathedral

On Tuesday is the last in my summer series of cathedral concerts for this year. I’ll be repeating a programme from last year, of music connected to the heroic legends of Britain and Ireland. The centrepiece of the concert will be a performance of one of the medieval Gaelic lays – the story of Caoilte and the giant with five heads, which I have learned from a 1965 field recording of Kate MacDonald. There are a large number of such recordings of these medieval heroic songs being performed, and I have catalogued a number of them on my website at www.earlygaelicharp.info/lay. As well as lays from the Fenian cycle, as this one is, there are also lays dealing with characters from the Ulster cycle, the Historical cycle, and also from the Arthurian cycle.

All of these lays that survived down to the mid 20th century (I believe only one, Am Bron Binn, is still current in living tradition) survive only as unaccompanied solo song. This is of course very valuable for the study of early Gaelic music because we get a medieval text, a reciting melody, and a performance style. But for a harp concert I wanted to find instrumental music on a similar theme, and not just play instrumental adaptions of the vocal reciting melodies.

So for Tuesday’s concert I cast my net as wide as I can to try and find an interesting selection of genuinely instrumental music which somehow connects to this heroic theme. Come along to the cathedral at 12.45 and see what you think!

September’s Cathedral recital

Tristan being sent into exile, from a medieval German woodcut

On Tuesday 7th September at 12.45pm, early harp specialist Simon Chadwick will be playing historical Scottish and Irish music in the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral.

Using his decorated replica of the medieval Scottish ‘Queen Mary’ harp with gold and silver wire strings, Simon will play a selection of music associated with ancient Scottish, Irish and British heroes.

Starting with a medieval composition said to have been performed before King Arthur and his Knights as they sat at the Round Table, the programme will look at the medieval Gaelic legends of Fionn and Oisean, before finishing with a heartbreaking lament for the forlorn Cornish lover, Tristan.

This event is the last in Simon’s summer series of medieval harp concerts in the cathedral. Performed in the Priors House, a medieval vaulted chamber set within the ruins of the Cathedral in St Andrews, this series brings to life different aspects of ancient and historical Scottish music, from the medieval church, to stirring battle marches, to weeping Gaelic laments.

The harp Simon uses is a unique replica of the clarsach of Mary Queen of Scots. The 500-year-old original is preserved in a glass case in the National Museum in Edinburgh, as featured on the BBC’s “Reporting Scotland” last month, with Simon providing musical accompaniment! Simon commissioned his replica from Irish harp maker Davy Patton in 2006-7. With its amazing soundbox carved out of a single huge willow log, and its intricate carved and painted decoration, the replica harp is a precious medieval art object that fits very well into the ancient ambience of the cathedral.

Admission is free. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling the Cathedral visitor centre on 01334 472563.

A preview of this event will be performed in the Wighton Centre, Dundee Central Library, Dundee, DD1 1DB, Wednesday 1st September, 1.15pm.

James Macpherson’s “Ossian” set to music

This is one of 9 extracts from James MacPherson’s romantic fantasy confection, set to music and published in the late 18th century in London by James Oswald. The texts are generally agreed to be completely new creations, loosely based on material taken from the old Gaelic Fenian lays. I was wondering if the tunes have any connection with the old lay tunes but I don’t think so. It is not yet clear to me where these tunes do come from though, and what their nearest musical comparisons are.


X:25

T:Number 1
N:The following Airs have been handed down since the Time of OSSIAN. The Musick taken from Mr. Mc.Pherson’s singing by Mr. Oswald.
Z:transcribed by Simon Chadwick from James Oswald, The Pocket Companion for the Guittar (Wighton 32001)
L:1/8
M:3/4
Q:220
K:C
c A|G2 z A c d|(d2e2) (ag)|e2 d c d e| g4 (c’b)|
w:It is Night, I am a-lo-ne fo-r-lorn on the hill of storms, – the
a4g2|e3d (cd)|e2a2zg|c’4b2|(ag) e2 (d>c)|
w:wind is heard in the – moun-tain, The Torr-ent shre-ks down – the
c4g2|(g2a2)b2|c’3b a g|(g2a2) g2|e2d2e2|
w:Rock, no Hut – re-cieves me from the rain, – for-lorn on the
{ga}b4 ag|g4 ga|_b4d’ c’|a4 c’/2a/2g|e4z2|
w:Hill of – Winds; rise – Moon, from be-hind thy – – clouds
d2c2d2|(e2c’a) (ge)|(e2d) c c d|({d}e2)z2g a|
w:stars of the Night – – ap- – pear – Lend me some light, to the
_b3 b a g|g2a2c’ a|c’a c’a (ge)|(e2d2)c2|
w:place where my love rests – from the toil – of – the – chace, – his
c4z2|d2c2(de)|({e}g4) ab|c’b c’b ag| e2 a2zg|
w:Bow near him un- – strung – his dogs – pan- – ting a-round him, but
g2g g a b|c’4a g|e2e d c e|d4c2|
w:here I must sit a-lone by the Rock of the mos-sy Stream, the
c2 c c (d>e)|g4 a2|(_b2a2)g>a|c’4 a>g|e3d (e/2d/2c)|[c4G4E4]:|
w:stream & the – wind roar nor can – I – hear – the Voice of – my – Love.

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