Brìgh an Òrain: A Story in Every Song

Brìgh an Òrain: A Story in Every Song

Brìgh an Òrain: A Story in Every Song

Brìgh an Òrain: A Story in Every Song

Synopsis

Few published collections of Gaelic song place the songs or their singers and communities in context. Brigh an Orain: A Story in Every Song corrects this, showing how the inherited art of a fourth-generation Canadian Gael fits within biographical, social, and historical contexts. It is the first major study of its kind to be undertaken for a Scottish Gaelic singer. The forty-eight songs and nine folktales in the collection are transcribed from field recordings and presented as the singer performed them, with an English translation provided. All the songs are accompanied by musical transcriptions. The book also includes a brief autobiography in Lauchie MacLellan's entertaining narrative style. John Shaw has added extensive notes and references, as well as photos and maps. In an era of growing appreciation of Celtic cultures, Brigh an Orain: A Story in Every Song makes an important Gaelic tradition available to the general reader. The materials also serve as a unique, adaptable resource for those with more specialized research or teaching interests in ethnology/folklore, Canadian studies, Gaelic language, ethnomusicology, Celtic studies, anthropology, and social history.

Excerpt

I grew up about two miles from the home of Lauchie MacLellan. He worked for many years as a carpenter and the windows through which I view the ocean as I write this were once installed by him. the house was originally built by my great-grandfather and he looked down from his picture “in the parlour” then, as he does now. When Lauchie MacLellan installed the windows, I believe the year was 1948 or perhaps it was a few years later. Lauchie was working on the outside of the house and was trying to insert a particularly stubborn part of the window’s casing. He struck the casing so vigorously with his hammer that it caused my great grandfather’s picture to come crashing to the floor. It was summer and the doors were opened and he heard the crash. He came rushing in to see what had happened and we all looked at my great-grandfather’s picture as it lay face down in the middle of the floor. We picked it up carefully and to the relief of us all the glass had not shattered. in hindsight, we probably should have had the foresight to remove the picture from the wall before he began his work. (Hindsight is easy.) I was about thirteen at the time and Lauchie about thirty-eight. Later he removed a sagging verandah and replaced it with a jutting little porch – a “portico” it was called at the time. It is still standing.

In later years his older children attended the same two-room school as I did.

We were there together for a number of years, although I was considerably older than they were. in the school pictures of the time we are all facing the camera in the bemused shynesses of our age.

Many, many years later my wife sang with him in the Gaelic group Coisir an Eileann. By that time John Shaw had come into his life and had begun the task of assembling much of the material found within this volume. As I write this I can still hear, in my imaginative memory, Lauchie MacLellan’s high tenor voice as he sang the songs he so dearly loved. He loved to “practice” the songs he cared about so deeply, although again in hindsight he probably needed very little practice because the songs were so profoundly embedded within his being. He was unfailingly enthusiastic about his music and willing to share his knowledge and his insights.

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