Inside Back Cover - Gaelic Precenting on the North Shore
ISSUE : Issue 27
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1980/12/1
'' i = "./: -i'.jB ??p 1 "''l/ ' <''lH 4P (-'f*' At the first of three evenings of hymns and precenting at the Bethel United Church, Skir Dhu, March 21, 1978: first row, Sandy Kenny Morrison, Neil R. MacDonald, John Alex John X. MacDonald, Tommy Peggy MacDonald; second row,' John Shaw, Gussy Maclnnis, Murdoch MacAskill (behind John Alex John X.), D.J. Morrison; standing, Sadie MacDonald, Christie MacDonald, Jessie Mary MacLeod, Sadie Maclnnis, Evelyn Smith, Margaret MacRae, D.J. MacDonald, More about Gaelic Precenting This issue of Cape Breton's Magazine in? cludes a soundsheet: a song by Rita Mac? Neil of Big Pond and examples of Gaelic precenting. The Gaelic selections were re? corded on three evenings, when a combined choir of United and Presbyterian singers gathered with their neighbours for a H3niin Sing at the Bethel United Church, Skir Dhu, There is no question but that these are difficult tunes for those unfamiliar with them, but a number of listenings (with some attempt to follow the texts given on page 46) should allow these se? lections to share qualities of devotion and community they contain. John Shaw, Gaelic Project, St. Francis Xavier University, sent us the following: "The practise of precenting the Psalms was introduced into the Gaelic-speaking Highlands at the time of the Reformation. The first metrical translations into Gae? lic of the first fifty Psalms were pub? lished in 1659 and were followed in 1684 by Gaelic metrical versions of the 150 Psalms. The main function of the precen? tor, 'reading out the line,' was adopted because texts were scarce and the vast majority of the Highland congregations were unlettered in Gaelic or English. "The introduction of written metrical and music texts to an area with a highly evolved oral tradition has produced a kind of religious music which is unique and powerful, The Psalm tunes, printed in the psalters dating from the same per? iod, originated in the Lowlands, in Eng? land, and on the Continent, The six tunes from this source now in use (Dundee, Mar? tyrs, Stilt, French, Elgin, Old London)"";~ termed Long Tunes, were adapted to the Gae? lic musical sense: ornaments such as grace notes were added and the tunes were modi? fied to fit into the 'gapped scales' of Gaelic singing, Dundee, a Long Tune (led on the soundsheet by Thomas A. MacDonald), was published as far back as 1591. More recent Psalm tunes were composed in Scot? land on the pattern of the Long Tunes. Martyrdom (led by Malcolm Angus MacLeod) was the work of the Ayershire precentor Hugh Wilson (1764-1824). "For purposes of precenting, the metrical version of "a Psalm was combined with a tune that suited the metre. With the ten? dency to extend the words in the text over a large number of notes, two to four verses from a Psalm would suffice. The leader improvises his singing of the line (called a cantillation) and is answered by the congregation, with each person present improvising his own ornamentation on the tune." (Sources: Francis Collinson, The Tradition? al and National Music of Scotland, 1966;and Gaelic Psalms from Lewis (Number 6 in a series of Scottish Tradition recordings is? sued by Tangent Records for the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, 1975. Commentary by Morag MacLeod.) Beautiful, Intelligent and Peaceful ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK Baddeck N.S. ! WE ARE OPEN ALL YEAR, AND GUIDE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE TO GROUPS WHO CONTACT IN ADVANCE.
Cape Breton's Magazine