Two Gaelic Songs

  • Composer: Traditional Scottish 
  • Arranger: Stephen Smith 
  • Publisher: contact the composer through the Elektra office at manager[at]elektra.ca
  • Canadian Composition: Yes
  • Duration: 4:50

Program Notes:

Cronan: This cryptic, traditional song is translated as: My swift-moving little basket, They couldn’t hear your sound (Oh woe is me, oh woe is me) against the roar of the waves. I am filled with grief. (Oh woe is me, oh woe is me). Your two little piercing eyes watching me through the opening. (And I cannot reach you, and I cannot reach you) The others are tending the sheep, and I am tending the child. (And I cannot reach you, and I cannot reach you).

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:

SSAA a cappella. A contrasting pair of Scottish songs. The biggest challenge is the Gaelic language. Stephen has recordings he can send you of a native Gaelic speaker reading them, which I highly recommend. Both pieces employ the lower end of the alto range, so they are probably not good choices for a children’s choir.

Cronan is the first – a slow and mysterious traditional lament about losing a baby in one’s care. The interweaving of lines and subtle dissonant notes makes this a mesmerizing, flowing experience for the singers and audience. Duration: 3:00

E mo Leannan is a gutsy, “wauking” song (see below). 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.

References:

This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.

Recordings

Collections:

Translation:

Cronan

My swift-moving little basket,

They couldn’t hear your sound

(Oh woe is me, oh woe is me)

Against the roar of the waves.

I am filled with grief.

(Oh woe is me, oh woe is me).

Your two little piercing eyes,

Watching me through the opening.

(And I cannot reach you, and I cannot reach you)

The others are tending the sheep,

And I am tending the child.

(And I cannot reach you, and I cannot reach you).

E mo Leannan

Chorus:

E, my love, O my love,

My love is a handsome man.

Verses:

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.