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Poetry - recitation - song links

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GUEST,Philippa 14 Jun 02 - 06:13 AM
Aodh 16 Jun 02 - 01:33 AM
GUEST,Philippa 17 Jun 02 - 03:03 PM
Aodh 19 Jun 02 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Philippa 21 Jun 02 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,Philippa 24 Jun 02 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,Philippa 25 Jun 02 - 12:05 PM
Aodh 07 Jul 02 - 04:55 PM
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Subject: Poetry - song links - Gaelic & other
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 14 Jun 02 - 06:13 AM

Poetry - recitation - song links (Gaelic and other)

Bill Innes posted a bi-lingual message about recitiation a couple of days ago at Gaidhlig-B (available on line -see the Sabhail Mòr Ostaig website and click on Gaelic-L on your right hand side of the page (www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/liosta).

Bill will be giving a workshop at "Ceolas" in South Uist (7th - 12th July). He writes "The workshops (on music, song and stepdance) are geared to the principle that in order to understand Gaelic music you have to know something of Gaelic traditional song. This year there is a further dimension - that in order to understand Gaelic traditional song you have to know something of Gaelic traditional poetry (of which Uist has a rich treasurehouse).

"I will be running some (unadvertised) workshops on the almost forgotten art of reciting poetry aloud - which was so fundamental to the oral tradition."

I do hope Aodh can respond to tell us what he knows about poetry and recitation in the Uists, and Annraoi more generally about the links between poetry and song in Gaelic.

The thread needn't be limited to the Gaelic tradition. In fact, where I live in the north of Ireland (though obviously we are influenced in some way by a Gaelic past) recitation in English is still fairly common. There are recitatin competions included in the Feis and it isn't uncommon to hear a recitation at sessions - a couple of William Marshall's Tyrone poems are popular as is "The Man From God Knows Where" (to be found in Mudcat archives). You might hear poems by Robert Burns or Robert Service. Some people prefer to recite what most people would sing; I recently heard The Bodhrán Song recited at Foyle Folk Club (I prefer it sung). And some songs such as William Bloat and The Brickie are also found in recitation versions.

In the Donegal Gaeltacht, my experience is that spoken performance is at least as valued as singing. The story-tellers recite lays about the legendary Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna, and the 'agallamh beirte' - a poetic dialogue form, usually comical, is popular. There is a specific rhythm used in storytelling and recitation (personally I would prefer more variation in tone).

Another aspect of spoken word linked with song is the telling of a story along with the song. Songs such as "A' Bhean Údaí Thall"* (A' Bhean Eudach") and "An Maighdean Mhara"* really aren't complete without the narrative story. I think that tradition is dying out except when singers tell the bones of the story in English for an audience who may not understand the Irish of the song. [*also archived at Mudcat forum]

I need Annraoi's help for this one - or maybe we can enlist Bill Innes in Mudcat - Some of our Gaelic songs are shortened forms of longer poetry from the 17th-18th centuries and some have even earlier origins. But I think it was normal in those days to sing, or rather chant, these poems.

And now it's open to you.


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: Aodh
Date: 16 Jun 02 - 01:33 AM

Poetry in South Uist

The Sothern isles in general have been able to preserve much of the traditions of the Scots Gael, I can only speak about South Uist though, We do seem to have quite of few Bards to our credit, ranging from Mhgr Ailein Domhnallaich(1859-1905), Domhnall Ruadh Mac an t-Staoir ("The Paisley Bard," 1889-1964), Domhnall Iain MacDhomhnaill (1918-1986) As well as being the birth place of modern Bards such as Angus Peter Campbell who was Bard in residence at Sabhal Mor Ostaig. Why does South Uist has so many? Some say that because of the fact that the Southern Isles are predominantly Catholic, they where saved from the purge of the Anglocentric Reformers from the Lowlands that where sent to the Isles to encurage the reformation. Others, that the tide was too high for Cromwell to cross the sands from Benbecula to South Uist. Either way traditions flurished in The Uists for a long time. In the 1930s Margret Fay Shaw, and others recorded songs, poems and traditions, long since vanished from other parts of Scotland, and Ireland. Ossianic ballads were still being used in Uist. Most of that generation would have leared the songs and poems through the oral tradition, To an extent the oral tradition is still with us, but in an altered state. As for us young ones we certainly learned poems at school, and learned songs first as poems and then learnt the tune, I used my mothers old text book "Cascheum nam Bard" to learn "Chi mi na Mor-Bheanna" as a poem in primary 6, And every year the local and national Mod takes place with contestents in every age group. But we also learned songs and poems at home as well, and thats where the oral tradition is still with us.

As far as I'm aware it is unusual to hear a recitation of a poem at a Ceilidh Dance (The Village hall type) but I've been at many a true ceilidh where old stories and poems have been recited with people joining in as the poem goes on. Though that could have been because the township I grew up in had two bards, Roidseag Mac Iain Clachair and Domhnall Aonghais Bhan!

Anyway I'm no expert on these matters, but I am more than willing to sing the praises of Uist, and to help widen the understanding of Scot Gaelic culture. If I can be of any further help please let me know!

Slan leat.

Aodh.

Sheinneas ailleachd is cliu Tir an Eorna,(lb) 'S gum bi mi'g iarraidh's ag urnaigh, (lb) Gum faigh mi chriochnachadh m' uin ann, (lb) 'S gum bi mi tiodhlaicht' an uir mo luchd-eolais.


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 17 Jun 02 - 03:03 PM

Thank you, Aodh, for your contribution. Maybe we should all spend time reciting words to songs when we are learning a song, rather than only singing it. But your tale of learning the "poems" first and getting tunes to them later made me think of the cantaireachd for practising pipe tunes when you hadn't got any pipes to play. It also reminds me of a song my father sung and because he can barely carry a tune, I was amazed and delighted when as an adult I heard someone else sing the same words and I finally knew how the air went. But I have also had the experience of reading lyrics out loud and guessing correctly, from the rhythm, how the tune went (if I already knew the tune but didn't recognise the words; that has happened when a song went to the same tune as another song and also when I had heard songs in Gaelic and not picked up the words)

I'm straying slightly from the oiriginal direction of this topic, but at least this thread is refreshed and I hope others will have something to say about the subject.


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: Aodh
Date: 19 Jun 02 - 02:54 PM

A recent example that came to me not long ago, is Capercaillie taking two poems by a modern poet,(Aonghas MacNecail,) Breisleach and Oran, and putting them to music.

Aodh


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 21 Jun 02 - 03:02 PM

1)We also set English language poems to music. Poets like Burns, Yeats and Kavanagh who themselves matched their verse with tunes tend to write in regular metres and the sort of language that lends itself to song. Or maybe it is because we are used to singing some of their poems that we think of setting their other poems to song. Yeat's "Song of the Wandering Aengus" has been set to airs a few times. I set "I Will Go With My Father a-Ploughing" to an air similar, but not identical, to "The Rocks of Bawn" and later I heard someone else set it to a tune.
"The Highwayman" has had tunes provided by Phil Ochs and by Andy Irvine.
Seán Tyrell is a master at finding poems and setting them to music. Some of the poems he sings wouldn't strike you immediately as singable if you read them, but his settings work.

2) When I made a comment about the tune in a thread about Úrchnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte, written by Peadar Ó Doirnín (1704-1768), Annraoi jumped in saying that we didn't have an air for the poem. In a further message he said, yes there is a tune but it was set much more recently by Peadar Ó Dubhda. But that doesn't mean the poem was sung in centuries past, just that only the words have been handed down.

While we tend to think of folksongs being composed by "anonymous", in Irish-language songs we have numerous songs 200 or even 300 years old with known authors, which have been passed on largely by oral tradition. Although the original authors are known and we may have early texts of the poems, different versions are found. Part of the variance is because people sing different selections of verses. If you and I were to choose 5 verses of a 25 verse poem, it might well be that we only choose 1 or 2 verses the same. I suspect that if we compare the variants of the 17th/18th century songs with known authors -discounting for selection of different verses - with the variants of anonymous songs that there would be smaller differences between the composed songs. But I have made no study of this question.

3) What I was inferring in my suggestion that we follow Aodh's example and practise reciting the songs we were learning, is that this might make us more conscious of phrasing and pronounciation. Admittedly, I don't much practise what I am preaching, but I am a new convert.

4) Aodh's last tidbit reminds me that we've had requests concerning modern day Donegal Irish poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh. A few of his poems have been set to music, but not by himself. And Louis De Paor first made a name as a contemporary Irish-language poet and is now teamed up with John Spillane writing/performing songs.


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 24 Jun 02 - 04:13 PM

I'll write more soon, but meanwhile am refreshing to invite others to join this discussion


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 12:05 PM

By the way, Joseph Campbell wrote 'I will go with my father a-ploughing'(see item 1, 21 June above) Known for songs also, Lagan Love and Gartan Mother's Lullabye

Recently I've been adding some poetic translations of 18 th century Irish-language songs - collected in Kathleen Hoagland's "1000 Years of 1000 Poetry" some can be sung to the tune the Irish Gaelic lyrics are sung to, others not. But it made me think how often I have seen what I think of as songs published in collections of Irish poetry.

Talking Blues are another interface of song and recitation. You can't really take the music out of Talking Blues, the instrumental interplays with the talking and is very important. This genre does, however, illustrate something of what I had in mind about reciting songs we are learning, how that makes you think of phrasing for meaning rather than just to fit an air. Talking Blues sound much the same, but we really listen to the words - which we must admit we don't always do with melodic singing. -- but there are some traditional styles of singing and story-telling in which it isn't the done thing to put in a lot of intonation and inflection to emphasize meaning, in which the words themselves (not the way the are said) do most of the work carrying the message


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Subject: RE: Poetry - recitation - song links
From: Aodh
Date: 07 Jul 02 - 04:55 PM

"once more into the breach dear friends, once more"


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