A multi-lingual collaborative music residency and recording based on an ancient song set in Galloway. The work incorporates Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Scots and English. The Oran Bagraidh album will be released on 2 February 2019 at Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. The collaboration will then tour across the UK and Ireland.
Galloway has a unique history. One of the last places in Scotland to have spoken a Brythonic language, a high volume of people would have passed to and from Ireland as well as sea faring Scandinavians, due to its strategic location on the Irish Sea. Anglo-Saxons would have also been in the region and on the Eastern borders from very early times. Later the independent lordship of Galloway was a powerful Gaelic speaking kingdom in its own right for hundreds of years before it was incorporated into Scotland.
Gaelic is now generally accepted to have been spoken across the region up until somewhere between the 18th and 19th century. The extinct dialect is understood potentially to have been as like Irish or Manx Gaelic as Scottish Gaelic. No surviving trace of the language has been found. Except one…
The song Oran Bagraidh – ‘Song of Defiance’ was collected in North Uist by a Canadian song collector and his Gaelic Editor and published in the 1978 book ‘From the Farthest Hebrides’. The song mentions several Galloway place names in the Glenkens parish of Dumfries and Galloway.
Partly unintelligable to contemporary Gaelic speakers, several attempts have been made by historians and academics to unlock its meaning. Its very authenticity has even been questioned. The conversation continues, though it now seems likely to be accepted as historically ‘genuine’ by leading academics.
Vocalists and musicians from across the UK and Ireland collaborated during a residency in Barscobe house in Galloway in September 2018.
During the residency the artists produced an original arrangement of Oran Bagraidh. The song was published along with the music ‘When the Kye Comes Hame’ by lowland poet James Hogg – the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’ (1770 – 1835). Though the song is relatively recent the melody is believed to be much older and it is this melody that the artists used.
Taking informed guesses as to pronunciation, the song is sung in its original format in a Lingua Gadelica*, combining Scottish and Irish Gaelic elements which, from the evidence of local place names, was the case with Gaelic in Galloway. The song is also rendered in part in Welsh phonetics, reflecting mention of Welsh place names in the song and the fact that early Welsh was spoken in South West Scotland until as late as the 12th century.
The artists then took the song as a springboard for further work which explores commonalities and differences between musical styles and languages, within the context of the historical diversity of Galloway. They worked on original compositions and arrangements inspired by Oran Bagraidh, the landscape and each other. Taking the theme of multiple identities they explored commonalities and differences between languages, regional histories and musical sensibilities, dipping into traditional, experimental and electronic.
*a phrase coined by Scottish Gaelic/ Irish poet Rody Gorman during the residency.
Hebridean Josie Duncan, Gaelic and Scots singer, harpist and Radio 2 Folk Award winner offers crystal clear vocals that come from the gut.
The extraordinary Irish Lorcan Mac Mathuna is celebrated for his haunting and ageless vocal interpretations of ancient Irish manuscripts,
Artist adventurer, poet, singer, playwright and former Wales’ Poet Laureate, Gwyneth Glyn is a cultural colluder, rooted in the Welsh tradition.
Experimental sound artist MacGillivray is a poet, singer, Gaelic researcher, writer and wolf carrier.
Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde is a celebrated sean-nós singer from Donegal. He sings both alone and directs choirs, preserving and breathing new life into Gaelic songs from Ulster.
Belfast based fiddler Conor Caldwell crosses the boundaries between classical, folk, and electronic musics, diving into new poetry and creating shimmering soundscapes.
The inimitable Barnaby Brown is a celebrated musician who has recreated the ancient northern triple pipes, which preceded the bagpipes.
Rody Gorman is an Irish born, Skye residing Scottish Gaelic poet who writes and translates between Irish and Scottish Gaelic.
Bragod are a strange, beautiful and esoteric Welsh duo who play medieval strummed and bowed lyres and perform music to the metre of ancient poetry, resulting in time signatures ‘folk’ has never seen before. Ben Seal has recorded and produced the album.