E Mo Leannan

Program Notes:

E mo Leannan: Waulking songs are Scottish folk songs, traditionally sung in the Gaelic language by women while waulking cloth. This practice involved a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to soften it. Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work. In this song, our five soloists are extolling the virtues of their handsome boyfriends, each better than the last. The fifth soloist warns that she hopes anyone stealing her boyfriend will experience pain worse than a toothache.

Conductor Notes:

Published in “Two Gaelic Songs”. The other is “Crónan”.

E mo Leannan is a gutsy, “wauking” song (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waulking_song). We sing it with about a quarter of the singers stomping their foot to mimic the sound of the tweed being pounded on the table. Five different soloists are needed in this call and response form, as each portrays a young girl telling us just why her boyfriend is the best.


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E, my love, O my love,
My love is a handsome man.

I rose early in the morning
And went across the stream.
Whom did I see but my sweetheart
Dressed in the latest fashion.

My sweetheart is a sailor
Who climbs to the topsails.
My sweetheart is a joiner
Who makes his fortune with his saw.

My sweetheart is the smith’s son
Who earns his living with a hammer.
My sweetheart is at the seashore
Where he salts herring.

There’s a sweetheart for everyone,
But there’s only one for me.
May a disease worse than the toothache
Come to anyone who steals my sweetheart.