Rachel Hair – “Back Home”.

Hey people! 🙂 

 

Today I want to share with you the opening track from Scottish harpist Rachel Hair’s album THe Lucky Smile. It is a traditional tune, but in Rachel’s arrangement and with the help of her accompanying musicians it has an interesting jazzy feel to it. She is accompanied by guitarist Paul Tracey, keyboardist Angus Lyons, bassist Andy Sharkey and drummer Scott MacKay. 

 

Sian – “A-nochd a’ Chiad Oidhche ‘n Fhoghair” (Tonight’s the First Night of Autumn).

For today, I’d like to share with you a song from a Scottish group that I discovered only last month and have been really enjoying their music since. They are an all-female band singing in Scottish Gaelic, whose goal is to popularise the work of female Gàidhlig bards and composers. Sian means “storm” or “the elements” in Scottish Gaelic, and the group consists of Eilidh Cormack, Ellen MacDonald and Ceitlin Lilidh Russell Smith. They are accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Innes White who has also collaborated with a lot of other Scottish folk musicians. All three women clearly care a lot about their native language, its music and its presence in the media. Eilidh hails from the Isle of Skye. She was Gaelic Singer of the year in 2018, has sung at Celtic Connections, and alongside many other Scottish musicians she contributed to the soundtrack to an Xbox game called The Bard’s Tale IV. Ellen, who is originally from Inverness, and besides Sian she also performs with another Scottish folk group – Dàimh. – She has also collaborated with Niteworks – a band which combines Scottish Gaelic lyrics and traditional instruments with more electronic vibes. – SHe has also voiced various characters in Gaelic cartoons, such as Alvin of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Ceitlin Lilidh has performed all over the world as an ambassador to Gaelic song, and has taken part in numerous festivals. 

 

This is the opening track from their self-titled album released in 2020. 

 

Rachel Hair & Ron Jappy – “Black Hair’d Lad / The Glenburnie Rant / Jamie Shearer’s”.

Hey guys! 🙂 

 

For today, I have for you a set of three Scottish tunes from harpist Rachel Hair’s and guitarist Ron Jappy’s collaborative album Sparks. All of these tunes are reels, and the first two are traditional, whereas Jamie Shearer’s was composed by Scottish fiddler and dancing master James Scott Fiddler. 

 

Griselda Sanderson ft. Simo Lagnawi – “Carnera, The Biggest Horse”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Earlier this week, I have been introduced to the music of Griselda Sanderson, and I thought I would really like to also introduce her music to those of you who may not be familiar with it. Griselda is a musician from Scotland, but based in the southwest of England. She plays such instruments as fiddle, hardanger fiddle (the Norwegian one), and nyckelharpa (the keyed fiddle used in Scandinavian folk music), among others. As someone who loves both Celtic and Nordic folklore, predictably, what I instantly liked about her music was the way she very effortlessly blends the Celtic influences of her homeland with those of Scandinavian folk music, as well as musical traditions from other parts of the world, such as Africa for example, and genres like classical music or jazz. This particular tune comes from her 2016 album Radial, and also features the Moroccan guembri player Simo Lagnawi. Guembri is a sort of bass lute used in  Gnawa music of this country. It was also indirectly through this album that I first heard of Gnawa music. This tune refers to the famous horse from Falkirk called Carnera, who was claimed to be the biggest working horse in the world at the time of his life. 

Phamie Gow – “Seeing the Light”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Today’s song is a piano piece from the Scottish multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow. This is her 2020 single. 

   Phamie Gow – “Seeing the Light”. 

  https://open.spotify.com/track/74YBWfGP9ROTdDMnZOqFCv?si=75bd9366fb4c44b0

Phamie gow ft. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – ” Scott Monument”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Today I thought I’d share with you another piece by Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow, from her collaborative album with The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – The Angels’ Share. – This composition refers to the Victorian monument dedicated to Walter Scott in Edinburgh. 

Rachel Hair Trio – “The Marching Gibbon”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   For today, I’d like to share with you another piece by the Scottish Rachel Hair Trio, consisting of Rachel Hair (harp), Jen Butterworth (guitar and vocals) and Cameron Maxwell (bass). This tune was written by Glasgow-based jazz pianist and accordionist Tom Gibbs. 

Rachel Hair Trio – “Tune for Esme”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   For today, I’d like to share with you an instrumental folk tune from the Rachel Hair Trio. Rachel Hair is a Celtic harpist, who also plays solo, and has collaborated with the guitarist Ron Yappy. I have shared before several of her other pieces. This one appears to be Rachel’s original composition. 

Emily Smith – “King Orfeo”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Not long ago, I shared with you a version of Scarborough Fair sung by Celtic Woman, and in that post I also briefly mentioned Emily Smith’s song Sweet Lover o’ Mine, which is also based on the same theme. And, since I really like this Scottish singer as well, and have for years, but still haven’t shared anything by her on here in all the years I’ve had this blog, I thought I’d share something today. And I decided on a very interesting ballad with a link to Shetland, specifically the island of Unst. 

   It is based on an anonymous Middle English poem called Sir Orfeo, which is a retelling of the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, but in a Celtic setting and with a happy ending. Emily Smith sings a version similar to that sung by a Scottish folk band Malinky (which I also really like btw 😀 ). It was collected by a folklorist Patrick Shuldham-Shaw from John Stickle of Unst. The original refrain is in Norn (a now extinct Scandinavian language which used to be spoken in Shetland as well as Orkney). Indeed, when I got to see the original Norn refrain in writing I was actually able to understand it because it looks surprisingly similar to Swedish or Norwegian (perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me given that it IS a Scandinavian language after all and Scots  has a lot of words that derive from Scandinavian languages as well, but I wouldn’t have thought that Norn could be this close to Swedish or Norwegian that it would be intelligible (at least in writing) for a Swedish/Norwegian speaker). However, Malinky made this refrain to sound a bit more Scottish-like and before having seen it in writing I didn’t understand a word of it and thought it’s possibly some random Scots neologisms. 😀 But what it actually means is: “early greens the wood, where the stag goes yearly”. 

Rachel Newton – “O Cò Thogas Dhìom An Fhadachd”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Today I’d like to share with you another song by  Scottish singer and harpist Rachel Newton, this time one coming from her 2018 album West. It is an entirely solo album, consisting only of Rachel’s vocals and harp, both acoustic and electroharp. It was recorded at her grandparents’ house and produced by Mattie Foulds. I don’t know much about this particular piece, other than what Rachel wrote herself, that it is based on the singing of Jenna Cumming on BBC Alba (BBC Alba (the Scottish Gaelic TV channel), and since I don’t speak Gàidhlig (yet) I don’t know what it is about, but it sounds beautiful to me nonetheless. 

Phamie Gow – “Balmerino”.

   Hey guys! 🙂 

   Today I thought I’d share with you another piano piece from the Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow. A whole lot of her music has a strong connection with her homeland and various places in Scotland, and so is the case with this composition. It’s title refers to a little village in Fife, which used to be a monastic centre in the middle ages, with a Cistercian abbey called Balmerino Abbey. 

Phamie Gow – “Balmerino”

Rachel Newton – “Three Days”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   For today, I want to share the third piece on here from Rachel Newton’s very interesting concept album called Changeling. I really like it, because as someone who happens to simultaneously be into folklore as well as all things disability and mental health, I have a bit of an interest specifically in changelings as well and I like the fact that she thought about making a whole album dedicated to this topic, and it’s a great album. This particular instrumental piece speaks to my imagination particularly much though. It is Rachel’s original composition, inspired by the old Scottish custom which said that, after the birth of a child, three women must have stayed with the mother and baby for three days, to make sure that the child won’t be taken away by the fairies. And so from the image of this that she had, she wrote this piece for fiddle, viola and cello, where the three instruments symbolise the three women. 

Rachel Newton – “To the Awe”.

   Hey dear people! 🙂 

   The song I have for you today is the title track from the Scottish singer and harpist Rachel Newton’s last year’s album To The Awe. It was recorded during the Covid lockdown, and, interestingly, as Rachel writes on her Bandcamp, her vocals were recorded in her bedroom wardrobe. Recording this album in such circumstances must have been difficult, but I like albums that were recorded in some unusual way or setting etc. and how people can be creative and resourceful about it. It is all about women, from a historical angle, because all of the lyrics here are old ballads or poems. On the contrary, the arrangements feel more contemporary, more than was the case with her previous albums, and with quite rich instrumentation. 

   As for this particular song, it was inspired by a poem called The Rock of Cader Idris, written by the English poet Felicia Hemmans. The poem, in turn, is inspired by the mysterious Welsh mountain Cadaer Idris, whose name translates to Idris’ Chair into English. Its name comes from Idris, the medieval king of Meirionnydd, who, according to Welsh folklore, was a giant, so huge that he could view his entire kingdom from the mountain, sitting on it as if in an armchair. There’s also a rock on top of the mountain that resembles a chair. According to the legend associated with Cadaer Idris, when you spend a night on the mountain, you’re going to wake up either dead, or frenzied, or possess the gift of poetic inspiration. And that’s what both Felicia Hemmans’ poem and Rachel Newton’s song are about. I have actually already shared one other musical piece about Cadaer Idris on here, recorded by The Harriet Earis Trio

Rachel Hair ft. Ron Jappy – “Looking at a Rainbow Through a Dirty Window).

   Hiya people! 🙂 

   Today I have for you a really lovely folk tune, from the duo whom I’ve already presented before sharing this set from the same album, as well as I also shared a song by Rachel Hair Trio. I think the harp and guitar go together really well, and Rachel Hair and Ron Jappy are very competent with their respective instruments, so I really like this album. This particular tune was composed by Scottish multi-instrumentalist Calum Stewart. 

Phamie Gow & The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – “The Water of Life – Uisge Beatha”.

   Hey people! 🙂 

   Today I want to share with you another piece from the Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow, in collaboration with The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. As you may know, its title refers to whisky, called uisge beatha in Scottish Gaelic, which means water of life. 

Ailie Robertson – “Brandy Wines”.

   Hi people! 🙂 

   For today, I have another piece of Scottish folk music, this time from the harpist Ailie Robertson, a couple of whose songs I’ve shared on here in the past. This one comes from her album called Ailie’s Traditional Spirits where she is accompanied by other Scottish folk musicians. 

Kathleen MacInnes – “Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor” (Jimmy My Thousand Treasures).

   Hi lovely people! 🙂 

   Last night I was listening to Kathleen MacInnes and suddenly I realised that, in the whole nearly five years of this blog’s existence, I’ve never shared a single song by her, despite I like her very much and she’s been one of the first Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) singers that I came across when starting to acquaint myself with Celtic music, right after Julie Fowlis. So I figured the time has come to change this, and I might share something else by her, we shall see. 

   I might have mentioned that before when sharing Julie Fowlis’ songs but when I first heard Julie Fowlis singing in Gàidhlig on a Polish Celtic music radio station that existed back then, I thought it must be Irish, because I wasn’t familiar with the other Celtic languages back then really, I’m not even sure if I knew they existed, so many people here don’t have a clue. Except it sounded kind of different and it really intrigued me – was it some sort of distinct dialect/accent, so distinct that even I as a clueless noob could hear it? Or maybe it was mixed together with some other language, ‘cause sometimes it sounded almost like oriental. – I don’t know about other countries but here in Poland, in my experience, an overwhelming number of people I come across, when they hear a Celtic language (be it a Goidelic one like Scottish or a Brythonic one like Welsh), they say it sounds similar to something like Arabic or Hebrew or things like that. One of my uncles, when he heard me speaking Welsh, he said it sounded like Hindi. 😀 And like I said even I myself had similar associations with Scottish at the beginning even though now I perceive it totally differently and don’t really get how it could sound oriental to me, it sounds just very, well, Celtic, and it’s way too rustling to sound like Arabic. 😀 It’s kind of sad when I think of it, that so many people can’t recognise Celtic languages, even though they’re right here in Europe, and confuse them with languages that are from such comparatively far away places, not to mention that so many people don’t even know that Scottish is a separate language.

   Anyway, I believe it took some time before I found out that this language is Scottish Gaelic (my English wasn’t all that good in practice back then, mind you, and there isn’t a whole lot of information about Celtic culture or languages available online in Polish compared to English) but even once I did find that out, the language continued to really grab my attention more than Irish and I found it really strange but beautiful in that strangeness. Now, although I still don’t speak it, I’m a lot more familiar with it so it doesn’t sound strange at all and doesn’t make such a jaw-dropping impression on me anymore, but it’s still beautiful, perhaps even more beautiful now. And so there was a time where I’d listen to people like Julie Fowlis, or Kathleen MacInnes and some others, and wonder what their songs could actually be about. I immersed myself in that so much that I actually started to hear Polish words in the Gàidhlig lyrics which was quite funny because it rarely made much sense or sounded absurd to be the lyrics of a song. Or sometimes I heard in it some gibberish words that sounded kind of like they could be Polish neologisms and thought they sounded cool and thought what they could mean if they were real words, or what they actually  mean in Gàidhlig though usually I think these were bits of a few different words since obviously I had no idea when every single actual Gàidhlig word in the lyrics began or ended. With Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor, I particularly remember hearing something that sounded to me like “Farofluriś”, and I thought that was such a cute, if very eccentric word, and I was imagining a creature called Farofluriś and what it would be and look like. I don’t remember much of that anymore except that I thought it would live somewhere among rocks and be very fluffy. Now I think it would be more appropriate for a Farofluriś to live among flowers, because the legit Gàidhlig words that my brain created the Farofluriś are “Far ‘eil fhraichean” (except I think without the last syllable in the last word) which come from the verse that translates into English as ” With flowers aplenty there”. 😀 Also nowadays Farofluriś sounds kind of flowery/flourishing to me lol. 

   Actually, this song is originally Irish. it’s a traditional Irish song, and the Scottish translation is contemporary and written by Seonag Monk. As you will be able to figure out for yourselves from the translation, it is about a girl who longs for her lover, who has gone to sea. 

   As for Kathleen MacInnes, she’s from South Uist in Outer Hebrides so grew up in the Scottish language, and currently lives in Glasgow. In addition to being a singer, she is also a TV presenter and an actress. 

   The translation below comes from Celtic Lyrics Corner, and they do not translate the “mo mhile stor”, because it comes from the Irish original, but I also know that literally “mo mhile stor” means “my thousand treasures”, as a term of endearment, so that’s what I went with for the title of this post. 

   A year ago my heart’s love left me
For faraway places
He’ll never return
til he sees the wide world around
When I’ll see my love coming
I’ll give him all my love
And smother him with honey kisses
Jimmy mo mhile stor
 
 
My father and mother
They never can give me ease
I’m tired and fed up
And tormented with this life
I gave my love to the fairest
Without asking I kissed him
And he went off to sea
Jimmy mo mhile stor
 
 
I’ll go to the woods
And spend there all of my time
With no one around
Listening to birdsong
Beneath the rowan tree
With flowers aplenty there
Giving love to the most heavenly
To Jimmy mo mhile stor

Rachel Newton – “A Phiuthrag’s a Phiuthar” (Little Sister, Sister).

Hey people! 🙂 

   Today I want to share with you a beautiful Scottish traditional song. I first heard it sung by Julie Fowlis and may share her version in the future as well because it’s great too and despite I really love Julie Fowlis and she’s been one of the first Scottish Gaelic singers I learned about when I started to explore Celtic music I’ve shared very little by her so far. 

   This is a waulking song (one that was sung by Scottish women while walking (fulling) cloth to give a rhythm to it and make the activity more fun as well) and is also considered a funeral lament by some, as much because of its sad melody as the lyrics. It is from the perspective of a young girl who was abducted by fairies, and in this song she calls out to her sister for help asking her sister to find her and describing what the place where she’s in looks like and lamenting over her fate. The Celtic peoples (but not only them, of course, as other cultures also have similar beliefs from what I’m aware of) often explained death to themselves as someone having been kidnapped and imprisoned by  fairies, which surely made it easier for them to cope with the loss emotionally, I guess in particular with regards to death of young people, believing that they still are alive, just not where they’re supposed to be, although personally I guess I’d much rather prefer knowing that someone has died rather than if they were kidnapped and held somewhere against their will and wondering what on Earth could be happening to them right now and frustrating myself that I can’t really do anything. Also things like mental illness, or even more prominently disabilities In children (autism or intellectual disability in particular I think) were rationalised as someone having been taken away by fairies and replaced by a fairy in human form which is called a changeling. Changelings were a widespread thing and we even had them in Slavic countries as well and so did Scandinavians. Such changeling would then often be treated in some pretty nasty ways, all with the best of intentions of revealing the true identity of the child and thus getting the real child back, there were also loads of different rituals that were supposed to keep fairies away from young babies. 

   In the case of the girl from this song, it seems most likely that she must have actually died. You can read about this song and see its translation on Terre Celtiche