Tag Archives: song

Harlaw: 1st session

Yesterday was the first in my series of Saturday afternoon workshops on the music associated with the Battle of Harlaw. In the pleasant and airy surroundings of the Wighton Centre in Dundee, a mixed group of singers and instrumentalists came together to explore the traditions. In this first session, we started with an overview of the battle, looking at a map of the area north-east of Aberdeen, and discussing 15th century Scottish politics.

Then, using the tombstone of Gilbert de Greenlaw as an example, we discussed the military technology of the time, and the nature of the fighting and preparations. Everyone was interested to handle the replica 15th century arms and armour!

Finally, we studied the Scots ballad. Working from Child’s version, and listening to Jeannie Robertson, we discussed the tune, as well as the subtext behind the story, and sung and played through the entire ballad.

Next week, we will be considering the story from the other side, looking at the Gaelic incitement to battle, or brosnachadh. Saturday 9th July, 2pm, Wighton Centre, Dundee. See you there!

Rory Dall Morison

I have long been interested in the music of Rory Dall O’Kane, the early 17th century harper-composer from Norther Ireland who lived and worked in Scotland, composing tunes for the Perthshire and Central Scottish gentry and nobility in the 1620s and 1630s. I included a number of his tunes on my CD including Port Atholl, Port Gordon, Da Mihi Manum and Lude’s Supper.

However I have long felt that I should also be interested in the music of Rory Dall Morison, the late 17th century harper and poet to Iain Breac MacLeod at Dunvegan Castle on Skye in the 1680s. Unfortunately, the harp tunes often ascribed to him (such as Rory Dall’s Sister’s Lament, or the Fiddler’s Contempt) appear in manuscripts written before his birth (in 1656), and so it seems that the ‘Rory Dall’ tunes all belong to O’Kane.

What Morison did do without a doubt was compose songs, and perform them with harp accompaniment. William Matheson’s book The Blind Harper is a great edition and translation of these songs.

I have just found on Tobar an Dualchais, a lovely field recording from 1953, of Calum Johnston singing Rory Dall Morison’s song to Iain Breac. Rory Dall laments that Iain is away down South, and that he misses him greatly – it has almost romantic overtones, with Rory pining for Iain like a lover. You can listen to this performance here: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/fullrecord/7364/1

I’m hoping to work up a version of this. Maybe down the line I will post a Youtube of it…

Video demonstrations of Indian Classical music

http://itunes.open.ac.uk/r/nu8D5

The music of North India is mesmerising, and shrouded in tradition and culture. There, raga is the art of life – it is the music of the mind. The tracks in this album focus on three instruments – the tabla, the alap and the voice – all central to the existence of Raga. Each instrument is broken down into the individual sounds that make up the intricate compositions. Performances on all three complete this introduction to the fascinating sound of Raga. This material is drawn from the Open University course AA317, Words and music.

Thanks to Stuart at footstompin for this link. If you really want to know what alap means, try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alap – needless to say it is not an instrument, despite the confusion of the OU caption writer.

I was most fascinated by the vocables used to describe the different tabla gestures, and also the connection explained by the player of the guitar-shaped instrument between string music and vocal music.

The Battle of Strathcarron, AD642

This stanza is preserved in the Book of Aneirin, as part of The Gododdin, a cycle of early medieval poetry from Edinburgh and the South of Scotland. This stanza is actually quite seperate from the rest of the poem, and is about a battle that was fought near Glasgow in the year 642. The poem is in the Old Welsh language of the Strathclyde Britons, who were the victors. Domnall Brecc was leader of the South Argyll Gaels, and he was killed by Eugein, grandson of Neithon, king of Strathclyde. This is a highly experimental performance and I apologise for my poor pronunciation and erratic lyre playing.

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.

Do things to this ABC notation using the Convert-O-Matic

The Fife Traditional Singing Weekend

On Sunday I was at the Fife Traditional Singing Weekend, in a fine, airy windowed building in the Fife countryside by Collessie. It was very interesting to see and hear so many different traditional singers, many from the East of Scotland but a number from further afield. So many different styles of vocal delivery, and types of song.

There was little really ancient, to connect with my work here (in a direct form anyway), but I have a lot to think about and it was great to see people like Sheila Stewart there.

My favourite moment was an anecdote from Phyllis Martin, of visiting an old lady in Galloway to collect songs. The lady said “I’ll get some tea”, and came back with a tray with 2 cups of tea and a large sponge cake, cut neatly in 2 down the middle. Phyllis said, she asked if they should have a knife. The lady replied, no, this half is for you, and this half is for me.

It was also a lovely day, sunny and quite warm.