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oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa

GUEST,galen 05 Mar 04 - 05:04 PM
nelagnelag 05 Mar 04 - 05:10 PM
Clinton Hammond 05 Mar 04 - 05:55 PM
Ed. 05 Mar 04 - 06:35 PM
greg stephens 05 Mar 04 - 06:39 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 06 Mar 04 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,JTT 06 Mar 04 - 04:50 PM
greg stephens 06 Mar 04 - 05:42 PM
nelagnelag 11 Mar 04 - 10:56 PM
nelagnelag 12 Mar 04 - 03:18 AM
sian, west wales 12 Mar 04 - 04:25 AM
Pied Piper 12 Mar 04 - 04:50 AM
GUEST,Boab 12 Mar 04 - 05:00 AM
Cuilionn 12 Mar 04 - 08:02 AM
Heely 12 Mar 04 - 04:11 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 12 Mar 04 - 07:06 PM
greg stephens 12 Mar 04 - 07:21 PM
Joybell 12 Mar 04 - 07:39 PM
GEST 12 Mar 04 - 08:28 PM
Heely 12 Mar 04 - 10:25 PM
Alice 13 Mar 04 - 10:41 AM
The Stage Manager 13 Mar 04 - 12:31 PM
GUEST 13 Mar 04 - 02:08 PM
nelagnelag 13 Mar 04 - 09:26 PM
nelagnelag 13 Mar 04 - 09:44 PM
Celtaddict 13 Mar 04 - 10:30 PM
Uncle Jaque 14 Mar 04 - 12:18 AM
greg stephens 14 Mar 04 - 02:36 AM
The Stage Manager 14 Mar 04 - 04:43 AM
greg stephens 14 Mar 04 - 05:13 AM
The Stage Manager 14 Mar 04 - 06:10 AM
Uncle Jaque 14 Mar 04 - 07:32 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 14 Mar 04 - 09:07 AM
Cuilionn 14 Mar 04 - 09:53 AM
The Stage Manager 14 Mar 04 - 10:15 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 14 Mar 04 - 12:36 PM
Celtaddict 14 Mar 04 - 02:31 PM
The Stage Manager 14 Mar 04 - 06:31 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 15 Mar 04 - 09:02 AM
greg stephens 15 Mar 04 - 09:26 AM
GUEST,Fiona 15 Mar 04 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,The Stage Manger 15 Mar 04 - 11:18 AM
The Stage Manager 15 Mar 04 - 04:18 PM
greg stephens 15 Mar 04 - 05:36 PM
LadyJean 16 Mar 04 - 12:09 AM
greg stephens 16 Mar 04 - 01:23 AM
nelagnelag 16 Mar 04 - 02:42 AM
Pied Piper 16 Mar 04 - 07:59 AM
Uncle Jaque 16 Mar 04 - 08:05 AM
greg stephens 16 Mar 04 - 08:13 AM
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Subject: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST,galen
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 05:04 PM

Hi,

I'm interested in exploring and pursuing the "celtic" tradition of
music in north america. I realize bluegrass embodies this to a large
extent. My tastes lie a bit more toward "traditional"
scottish/irish/other music.

Just curious about this. One problem over here in No. America is that there aren't quite as many scottish/irish/etc. speakers to consult, and I like a lot of the old tunes in the original language, since they are simple and elegant.

We are getting a "pub sing" or "song circle" started to explore this,
since it lies at the root of where all this music came from, no?
We'll print lyrics and take turns leading songs that we sing together, to get familiar with the tunes. We'll also work on pronunciation and singing technique, etc.

Reply to this post or email me if you'd like to talk about this.

If you are in the Maryland/DC/Virginia, (mid-atlantic) area and a musician (including singer) or even just interested in getting involved, you are also welcome to join the following list:

mid-atlantic celtic musicians

Please read the intro message, and feel free to introduce yourself and your interest. Keep in mind you can get a "daily digest" or just read/post messages on the webpage.

best,
Galen


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 05:10 PM

Hi,

If you want to email me, I posted this thread.

G


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 05:55 PM

"We'll also work on pronunciation"

Just don't 'affect' an accent to sing a song...


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Ed.
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 06:35 PM

Galen,

Could you please explain how bluegrass embodies the Celtic tradition?

I really don't understand what you mean.

Thanks

Ed


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 06:39 PM

I think English language folksong from the Old World probably had a slightly greater effect on USA folk music than Scottish and Irish Gaelic stuff did.
   Sing it for enjoyment by all means, though, of course.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 06 Mar 04 - 06:20 AM

Galen,
If it is Gaelic songs that you are wanting, Cape Breton is the only place in North America where that tradition still lives. A few of us still speak the tongue of our forefathers. I could direct you to some resources.
             Slainte,
                   Sandy


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 06 Mar 04 - 04:50 PM

I think Celtic is a ladylike word for Irish, essentially, even though in theory it takes in Scots, Welsh, Breton and Basque, as well as Cornish and Manx.

How does Celtic relate to bluegrass? It seems that the history of bluegrass traces back to Irish music, and "Irish-Scotch" (that is, northern Irish) music.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 06 Mar 04 - 05:42 PM

I have seen a couple of videos and other TV stuff on the history of bluegrass that tended to dwell on Irish or Scots origins(or possibly spme weird amalgam called "Irish-Scots", possibly due to the makers being unaware they are different places). One I watched in Ireland last year specifically identified the orign of bluegraa with "Irish-Scots Gaelic culture from the Appalachians meeting black music". Now I would not dispute the huge influence of balack music on bluegrass, but the gaelic bit seems a little strange. Soemhow, if that was true, I feel it would show up more strongly in the surnames of oldtime/bluegrass musicians, and also tune-titles.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 11 Mar 04 - 10:56 PM

Clinton,

I'm interested in singing in english and in "irish" and "scottish" and other "celtic" languages. So, I'm not "affecting" anything, just want to pronounce things correctly.

By the way, "affecting" an accent (in the language) actually does speed up the language learning process. It helped a lot when I was learning French and German.

Frankly, I'm surprised you jumped to accuse me of "affecting" something, since I talked about gaelic speakers etc. in the 2nd sentence. Do you mind reading what I wrote before doing this?

Others:

Yes, I realize "celtic" is a generalization that some people don't like, and I understand why.

Anyway, I appreciate the debate, though I was hoping for info like that which Sandy provided. I'm sure we can debate "celtic" vs. irish/scottish/welsh/manx/galician/cornish/breton all year :)
I should have been more clear in my original posting without the extraneous stuff.

(notice that "celtic" is much shorter - by the way, there is a reason I put the term in quotes)

Ed, as far as the "embodies to a large extent" - I am happy to be corrected if I misunderstand things. and I did qualify it with "to a large extent" :) I would not claim to be an expert on bluegrass, and shouldn't have mentioned it originally.

Greg:
Yeah, people in the "west virginia highlands" (as they call it over there) and so on were often called "scots irish". I didn't make any of this up. :) Maybe I'm wrong to call that kind of music "bluegrass". I'll leave that up to the experts.

Anyway, I'll re-say it without the extra wordage and maybe more clearly so I can focus on the info I'm particularly interested in. If anyone else is interested in this, that would be great:

I'm interested in traditional scottish/irish/welsh/breton/manx/galician/cornish/whatdidImiss
music in the original language, preferably in the mid-atlantic region. Please forget the original message.

I am coming from the point of view of enjoying this music, not a cultural statement, so there is really nothing for anyone to get offended about (though I'm sure that's always easy to do, being rude is pretty easy!)

Just that I'd be interested in hearing from people about that. I'm aware of webpages.

thanks for your postings and info,
G
--

Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: ClintonHammond - PM
Date: 05 Mar 04 - 05:55 PM

"We'll also work on pronunciation"

Just don't 'affect' an accent to sing a song... \\


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 03:18 AM

Oh, and to clarify my "question" further (hopefully, I appreciate your indulgence, it's late and I do make mistakes, don't we all):

I'm also interested in the "oral tradition", which was in the original subject. I'll look into Cape Breton. For instance, are there song-circles where people practice singing in the original language from any of these "Celtic" (please bear with me) cultures?

In my humble-and-often-errant hypothesizing opinion, the oral tradition is where all of this "traditional" music comes from, since it was probably often sung by people in the countryside and passed down as such, and maybe not originally played on any instrument (except possibly a whistle or whatever was available, which might not always have been much - I'm talking a long long time ago, when some of the oldest songs we know of originated). So, in this sense the "oral tradition" constitutes the "core" or origin of all of this traditional music and tunes. That's why I think it might be interesting and important to look at that and explore it a bit.

If you disagree or have a correction, I am very happy to hear it and learn from you as long as it's polite and you actually have read my ramblings.

thanks and best,
G


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: sian, west wales
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 04:25 AM

The author of "Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers" (I've leant out the book, so can't check) did make some throw-away statement about the blue-grass thing being largely fictionalized. He didn't develop the theme which was a pity ...

And people tend to forget a whole body of 'folk' music when they talk about these things - that is, hymns. Although I don't know anyone who's done any work on it, I remember reading about Fasola - in Song of the Dove? - that its American origins traced back to the Welsh Tract (Pennsylvania was it? I should know that! Shame on me.) and there were other indicators among the 'tradition bearers' that would encourage me to believe that there was a Wales-USA connection there. (And yes, Wales is ALWAYS left out of 'celtic' ... which is why I don't like 'celtic')

And I would suggest that Fasola has a significant effect on American music, yes?

siân


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Pied Piper
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 04:50 AM

Oh no, not the "C" word.

TTFN
PP


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST,Boab
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 05:00 AM

"celtic is a ladylike word for Irish"---eh???? The celtic origins of much of Scotland's culture and music is more than "theory". Welsh and Cornish tradition also is unmistakeably part of the celtic genre. And, quite rightly, Breton culture is mentioned. A wee tale [a true one!] which may have some bearing on the "celtic influence " on American music. Ali Bain, whose world-class talents on fiddle are, I'm sure, well known to most of those who frequent the forum here, once in conversation told me of one particular occasion which gave him some personal enlightenment re. the effects of transatlantic culture on American folk music. Ali was building material for a tv series he did on British tv --"Down Home". He told of arriving in Nashville, and being asked to play in a Pub [at least, as far as Ali was concerned it was the equivalent]. He duly took up his fiddle, and launched a medley of Scottish and Shetland reels. Ali reckons that before he was through his first tune, there were SIX fiddlers onstage playing along, note for note! And in every case, they had a different name from Ali for the tune being played. Influence can't be more direct than that, I'd reckon! Just by the way---the same Mr Bain insisted to our group that the finest fiddlers in the world didn't hail from Shetland, Scotland or Ireland---they are to be found in North America, and in Appalachia in particular.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Cuilionn
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 08:02 AM

Ane guid resource for consultation in the "Virginia Highlands" wuid be Dr. Michael Newton, a scholar & Scottish Gaelic speaker whae teaches some "Celtic Studies" courses at a university in Richmond, VA. He wis the host/convener o a November 2003 conference on the legacy o Scottish immigrants in the USA, an Ah'm sure the subjects o Irish & Scots-Irish influence were touched on as weel, seein as how they're weel-entanglit wi the rest o the tale. He micht be able tae direct ye tae Welsh/Breton/Cornish/Manx/Galician resources as weel.

There's alsae a group o Welsh language/culture/music students & devotees in Roanoke, but Ah'm no sairten how ye'd track 'em doon.

Och, an if ye ever happen tae come up tae Maine, aiblins Ah cuid set up a session or ceilidh wi some o the Celtic folk in this area. Ah ken a Cornish concertina player, a few singers o Scots, Scottish Gaelic, & Irish Gaelic, & ithers whae ken tunes an sangs frae Brittany & Wales, plus pipers o every description!

Best o luck wi yir ain sessions, sang circles, & ceilidhs!

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Heely
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 04:11 PM

I'd love to know where in the mid-atlantic that you are located. We are in Virginia. I have played in a Sea Chantey/Folk/Bluegrass group since 1970. We do what is called "early" bluegrass. We sing in Irish and Scots Gaelic - some Manx. I have a sea chantey workshop monthly in Norfolk to learn the old chantey tradition from the Old World. Also, I am a piper in the Tidewater Pipes and Drums, we have a gaelic speaking group associated with our Tidewater Scottish Society.
Last year I was honored at the opening of the "Roots of Virginia Music" Display at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. I play concertina, mandolin,fiddle and Guitar. We know -- from being often at Grandfather Mountain (The games have a Gaelic singing competition) and Apalachian State University ( and having lived 15 years in the Shenandoah Valley) that early Bluegrass music is the same tunes and themes as the Old Music of Great Britain. (Connect to threads on the movie "Songcatcher" My son is with the City of Washington Pipe Band in DC. We need to keep in touch . Heely


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 07:06 PM

Bluegrass grew out of Old-Timey music (that's what the early old-time bands called it...e.g. Asa Martin, and earlier ones); Old-timey music grew out of the traditional ballads, love songs, fueding songs, play-party songs, etc. which made up the repertoires of the first settlers (on these shores) from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, mostly- with remnants of folks from several other countries who made it into the mountains of Southern Appalachia. That's the progression I see because I lived through it all.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 07:21 PM

Thank you kytrad."England, ireland, Scotland, Wales mostly, with remnants of folk from several other countries " says it all. "Celtic" is a very useful term for classifying language families(but do remember the people concerned didnt call themselves Celtic. An academic linguist started using the term to classify their languages, and the term then started spreading). The most cursory glance at the surnames of oldtime musicians shows that the Celtic/Gaelic/Irish-Scots stuff you read about Appalchian or oldtime music can only represent a fraction of the truth.Folk music is wonderful, and true to life. Its origins dont need fictionalising, the reality is so much more lovely.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Joybell
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 07:39 PM

Oh! Happiness and joy! How great to hear such intelligent comments about the dread "C" word. Of course I've come to expect that from Mudcatters by now. Here in Australia, even though I have an American husband who has studied and sung American music all his life, I still get lectured at by ill-informed people. I'm constantly being told that the roots of all the songs we sing, as well as the roots of all bluegrass and old-timey songs are "Celtic" - by which they mean "Irish". I think that the makers of several documentories shown here over the last decade are to blame. I do wish, as I've just said on another thread, that the
everything's-Irish fashion would go away. Joy


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GEST
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 08:28 PM

LOL @ Joybell ~

I have come to believe that all "Celtic" music travelled by way of the sea, and the New World sailor's first port-of-call was Newfoundland. :-)

GEST Songs Of Newfoundland And Labrador


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Heely
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 10:25 PM

Joybell, I have to comment. I am an Australian American. My Mum was from Ballarat. Her Grandfather was a church musician for 54 years. His brother was an Australian operatic teacher, but they knew the old music from "home". Actually, home was Wales, for them. I sing Irish and Scottish in the STATES. Say "Hi Ya'll" to your husband. Heely


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Alice
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 10:41 AM

Galen, I'm in Montana and I sing traditional Irish and Scottish and British songs. I have a page of music links on my web site that may help you.
Click here

I like getting John Moulden's old recordings of Irish singers. You can order them from the link that says ULSTERSONGS. John's valuable participation in Mudcat threads can be found in many discussions of song origins. Get the old field recordings of singers as they sat in their kitchens and sang songs to collectors - a treasure trove of material.http://www.ulstersongs.com/

There is a great book of lyrics, music, and info with 2 CDs of Elizabeth Cronin. You can buy it online.
The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Irish Traditional Singer: The Complete Song Collection. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, editor. Four Courts Press, Dublin. 2000. ISBN 1- 85182-259-3. 332 pp. Book plus 2 Compact Discs

Another great contributor to Mudcat is George Seto. His web site is loaded with song lyrics and info.Click here

Also get recordings of Joe Heaney - there is a great 2 CD set collected by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, songs and stories, a booklet included with lyrics and stories about Joe and by Joe about the songs.

Look for anything on the net about "sean nós", old style traditional singing. There are a couple of links for sean nós on my page and there are many Mudcat threads.

(Hi, Jean! Nice to see you in this thread.)

Have fun, Galen!

Alice Flynn
Montana


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 12:31 PM

I have found this to be an extraordinarily wide and fascinating subject. My own interest stems from brief observations, leading to a belief, that much of the history of minority cultures of the "The British Isles" may be locked up in some of the oral traditions in the lands of the Celtic Diaspora. One gets a very different view of the history of the 'old countries' from traditional song, anecdote and a few texts, than that history taught in mainstream 'English' education, certainly of my generation.

As others have noted on various threads, Cape Breton is a great repository, of song and story, and there are some excellent collections that have been made over the years.

I'd be particularly interested to know if you turn up anything from the Carolinas. For example, I keep coming across references to the slaves in the plantations speaking Scots Gaelic. There has been the pretty well publicised research from a professor at Havard that has led to the observation that some black church music in the South is traceable back to Uist in the Hebrides.   

I've been trying to find some transcripts on the recent conference at the University of Virgina on the contribution of Scots Gaelic to present American culture. If anyone can point me in the right direction I'd be grateful.

I wish you the very best of luck, dig deep, because I feel sure that somewhere, there must be some depositories of little explored material. I know of singers this side of 'the pond' who have been stunned to find what they though of as their traditional music sung by or played by musicians from the most unexpected corners of the 'new world'.

What is even more extraordinary that in some cases this music is little altered in more 250 years. When I come across this sort of thing I feel the hairs tingle on the back of my neck.

It may be my overactive imagination, but when you do come across small morsels of this largely forgotten history, you don't so much notice them, they scream out at you! Perhaps you don't find this stuff, it finds you.

From other websites I am aware that there are small groups of people all over the world re-learning the various languages of their various 'Celtic' forebears. It is fantastic when they are able to tie in stories learned from grandparents into actual historical events.

I look forward to reading how you get on.

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 02:08 PM

Regardless of the origins of some American folk music, evidently neither Scottish nor Irish Gaelic survived as a spoken language anywhere in Appalachia for more than a generation.

Also, despite the commonly held belief that the Southern Appalachians were "mostly" settled by the "Scots-Irish," the evidence, based almost entirely on a comparison of settlers' surnames with names in Ulster, is not terribly reliable, because the circa 1900 researchers counted a name as "Scots-Irish" even if it was equally common (in some cases even more common) in England or Wales.

We know now that the Scots-Irish were almost certainly the largest *single* immigrant group, but they were the largest among many minorities. *Most* early settlers were *not* Scots-Irish. Nearly as large was the second-largest minority, the English.

Immigrants from all of Great Britain made up by far the largest group of settlers from a single country (as Britain and Ireland were until 1922).


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 09:26 PM

Wow.

I'd say "thank you!", but that doesn't do your postings justice. Looks like maybe I finally figured out how to ask the question.

So, who's interested in traveling back in time with me and getting some local song-circles going? One thing I'm noticing is that the "green beer singing" that st. patty's day in the US has become sloshes all over the oral tradition that I'm interested in.

I'm in the DC area of the mid-atlantic. Please feel free to send me a private message if you're interested in exchanging email addresses, etc. In my view, all of this started with community and oral tradition playing a big role, and as a fiddle-player friend has said recently, has become a "virtual reality" of sheet music and recordings, which really has little to do with the human side of all of it. (learning songs/tunes by hearing them in person and in the language!)

I am interested in getting back to where it really came from. For instance, what were people like and what was the oral tradition like that would create a song such as "Dulaman" - very poetically about seaweed? This is not a simple "question" I am asking. I walked across Spain this past summer, and started to get some feel for what it was like to really be living close to the land and other people, so I'm interested in exploring that, on a personal level, not just reading about it or imagining. I think I can possibly learn a huge amount about the music, myself, the country/people of origin, the times, and much much more.

Yes, Sean Nos, thanks for mentioning that. I have to look into that a bunch more, along with the other things mentioned.

Yeah, well, it's also my English language, I bought stock back before the bubble ;P , and I don't like the marketing, etc. usage of "celtic" either, but that's not the way I'm using it. I'm using it to describe the music of countries/people that are historically/linguistically Celtic. Of course, there were people there before the celtic tribes moved in, and that would be interesting too if that was very accessible. (Layers of celtic tribes, romans, many various other people, and industrial development/activity makes that difficult, I think.)

And yes, as anyone who has traveled to any place where people have been for a long time knows - old cultures vary quite a lot from village to village, so of course it is not "fair" at all to use a label to describe a big chunk of western europe. Celtic tribes/culture have been found from Ireland all the way to the Black Sea.

You might find things like this interesting or helpful:
http://www.unc.edu/depts/art/verkerk/celtic/celtic/project.html

While I'm at it, I'll mention: Wouldn't it be interesting to try to reconstruct (very hard to do, I realize) what music was like based on archeological finds and what we know about current local music in various areas in Europe, and the movement of people over time, cultural influences, etc.? Of course, it would be mostly very hypothetical.

As I understand it, the word "Celtic" comes from Greeks who traded and colonized up the Rhone river in SE france and were exposed to the "Gauls" as the Romans called them. The Greek word was "Keltoi".
Correction or more info, welcome by experts, etc.

Anyway, let's all take a moment to realize that reality is much more complex that we can describe, esp. by email.....................

Ok, thanks again! I really learned a lot.
G


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 09:44 PM

I have to mention something else possibly very interesting to people on this topic:

The book:

Green hills of magic; West Virginia folktales from Europe by Ruth Ann Musick

is about folktales told, largely by miners, who came from many places in the "old country". Very very interesting, no?

G


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Celtaddict
Date: 13 Mar 04 - 10:30 PM

If you have not yet found him, check out Patrick O'Flaherty. He has a website (can't make a blicky from work but will post address). He grew up in the Gaeltacht in Connemara and on the Aran Islands and so is a native speaker of Irish Gaelic, and one of rather few writing songs in the language. He is currently is the DC area. He sings in Irish Gaelic (and English) and plays accordion and also was described in "Irish Voice" as "possibly the best mandolin player on the planet." He can often be heard at Pat Troy's Ireland's Own.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 12:18 AM

Clinton - RE.: " Just don't 'affect' an accent to sing a song..."

Is that the same as "FAKE" an accent?

Shucks; I do it all the time!
Mebbie I has a case of "Celtic Envy" or something, do ye suppose?

Living up here in Maine, I really ought to know better; nothing irritates a DownEaster more that some Summer Complaint - or worse, a TV Actor - trying to "Talk Yankee" and butchering it horridly, as they are rather wont to do.

It's proably about the same for a "Real" Celt having to put up with some dipstick Yankee trying to sing with a feaux-brouge, eh?

So if I ever sees ya at a session, I'll try to avoid singing, and just play my tinwhistle or something instead. And if I don't recognize ye and start lilting merrily away when my turn comes, I'll know who ye are pretty quick I suppose - the bright purple complexion, smoke at the ears, and frothing at the nose ought to be a clue by about the third bar... {8^{*~

UJ in ME


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 02:36 AM

I'm intrigued by these slaves that speak Scots gaelic in the USA. Just how widespread was this> Can someone supply a reference?


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 04:43 AM

Hi Greg,

This is where the "slaves speaking Scots Gaelic" started for me:

Willie Ruff

My Apologies, Willie Ruff is Professor at Yale not Harvard.

I have mentioned this to people interested in the subject and a number of them have pointed me to literary references. For example, a character in a Rudyard Kipling story is a gaelic speaking black sailor.

Ruff believes that the slaves learned Gaelic from their Scottish slave masters, but there is a body of opinion which points to the possibility that they learned it from fellow white bonded slaves from the Highlands.   There is an incident referred to as "The ship of men" where some of the people that the lairds had "sold" to an unscrupulous captain escaped when the ship stopped off in Belfast on its way to the Carolinas. The incident caused a scandal and some believe is was the threat of this scandal being revived that kept Sir Alexander MacDonald and McLeod of Dunvegan out of the '45 Jacobite rebellion.

There are references to this "white slavery" (it wasn't quite the same as the iniquitous African experience) in "The Lyon in Mourning" A book of eye witness accounts and interviews written after the rebellion. This is a source for every writer on the subject and has been digitised by the National Library of Scotland and is available via the internet.

Gaelic as a language, if not actually supressed, was certainly deliberately marginalised after the '45. There is even a pretty vigorous debate about Gaelic medium education in Scotland today. The more I go into this, the more convinced I become that there is a side to the history of the British Isles that is in danger of being lost. A number of people have indicated to me that the Americas may be a better place to look than the UK, as the emigrants would have carried this history with them.

Sorry I have shamelessly drifted this thread. But I find this is a fascinating topic.

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 05:13 AM

Stage manager: thanks a lot. I will look into this, it looks very interesting. I find it difficut to credit that there can ever have more than a tiny handful of black gaelic speakers, but I'll look it up, and maybe be convinced otherwise. I must say that I do feel that the majority cultural influence on what one might call oldtime music was predominantly English and black, with a hefty admixture of Irish, scottish and Welsh: in contrast to the tendency ofa lot of TV and magazine writing, which tries to push an Irish and/or Scots origin.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:10 AM

I would tend to agree with you Greg. I am no expert on how languages developed or spread in America from early immigration to the decision to adopt English. I suspect that different ethnic groups settled in particular areas. Presumably slaves adopted the language of their masters? I would anticipate someone somewhere has done a study of this. I would not be in the least surprised if it were the case that 18th century slaves spoke Swedish, German, French Spanish, or any number of other European languages.

Please forgive my ignorance, but could you be a little more specific by what is meant by oldtime music?   My limited understanding is that some of the European musical traditions 'branched' some surviving more less intact others going into the melting pot as it were. This depending as much on geographical location as much as intent. I understand some bands and performers today, like 'Le Vent du Nord' from Quebec can trace their origins back to the French Breton tradition. Cape Breton in Canada as has been pointed out in earlier postings is rich in Scots Gaelic traditions. Although there was once a strong link between Scotland and the Carolinas, I understand Gaelic has not been spoken in the south for some generations, although interest still survives.   Are there regions of America that might be thought of as being Irish Gaelic or Galician? In this context I fear oldtime music might be one of those terms that means different things to different people.

Galen, I hope all these various points of view are not giving you too much of headache. There must be some Gaelic singers here on Mudcat who could drop into your pub sing or circle. And as you point out this is an oral tradition.

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 07:32 AM

Now I'm beginning to wonder, Greg, if you might be on to a cultural phenomenon that may have existed in the somewhat vague area between "Slavery" and "Indentured Servitude".

An Ancestor of ours, James ADAMS, was a "Loyalist Scot" who came up on the losing side of the Battle of DUNBAR in 1650. Some luck was still with him, however, as he was not among the many Scots who were slaughtered while trying to surrender or flee, and somehow managed to survive the subsequent Death March and squalid confinement with fellow survivors in a little church for months.

At length, he and about 60 of his fellow survivors were packed into the HMS "UNITY" and shipped as "Indentured Servants" to the Colonies where he was essentially "sold" to the Saugus Iron Works in what is now Massachusetts.

Apparently someone, bless their hearts, smuggled some Lawyers in about the same time, and everybody took to suing everybody else for about every real or contrived grievance they could imagine, and within about 7 years of consistant losses the Iron Works went out of business and ADAMS quietly faded away to Salem where he was active in some organization to help and advocate for fellow Scots Immigrants.

Since the distinction between slavery and servitude may have been a bit vague, and in some cases perhaps even moot (I don't think that Adams had a lot of options at the time) it is concievable that they lived and worked together on at least some occasions, sharing cultural elements such as language.

The work of the Mariner seems to have been one of the oldest truly integrated vocations from time immemorial, and even during the American Civil War the US Navy held to this tradition even when the Land Services were strictly segregated.

It well may be that Sailors of Color, slave or free, picked up Gaelic from the Crews and/or Officers of ships they sailed on.

There certainly is a strong African influence behind the whole concept of the "Sea Chanty" as well as their musical construction, so it stands to reason that a lot of cultural interchange went on at sea.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 09:07 AM

The character of the black cook in Kipling's Captains Courages was based on two real people, identical twin brothers John and George Maxwell from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. They both spoke Gaelic as their mother tongue and both were great Gaelic singers. These two men worked on the salt bank schooners . Before Kipling wrote his book he sailed on a schooner to the Grand Banks fishing ground and based his novel , although fiction, on some real life people.
John and George were sons of a runaway slave who escaped from a plantation to Cape Breton, where the common language of the day was Gaelic. That was the enviroment in which these brothers were raised.
                   Sandy


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Cuilionn
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 09:53 AM

Regairdin the North American revival o Scottish Gaelic, tak a luik at the websicht o "Slighe Nan Gaidheal" in the Seattle area: www.slighe.com. That's whaur Ah stairtit ma ain Gaelic studies, an they're gearin up for "Feis Shiatail 2004" in mid-June, a muckle guid opportunity for onyane wantin tae study Gaelic music, language, & culture. They bring teachers ower frae Scotland & Cape Breton for several days o instruction & several nichts o unforgettable ceilidhs! Ah'm savin up ma ain siller tae attend... 'twuid be guid fun tae see some ither Mudcatters there!

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 10:15 AM

Uncle Jaque, Sandy, I love your posts. I continue to learn. You really can't make up this sort thing, and I rather fancy there are thousand of other similar tales.

One whose outline only I am aware of is that of the Rev Norman McLeod, who started off from Assynt in Sutherland and ended up in New Zealand. They were starved out of one settlement in Nova Scotian and I understand even built their own ships for some of their voyages.

I have a feeling that the extraordinary experiences of some of these individuals, and communities, must be recorded in song in the oral tradition, in one language or another.   I just don't seem to have heard any. Anyone care to point me in the right direction?

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 12:36 PM

The following is a few passages from Captains Courageous. The language is racist but the writing was a century ago, in very racist times.
             Sandy


The cook was a huge, jet-black negro, and, unlike all the negroes
Harvey had met, did not talk, contenting himself with smiles and
dumb-show invitations to eat more.

"See, Harvey," said Dan, rapping with his fork on the table, "it's
jest as I said. The young an' handsome men - like me an' Pennsy
an' you an' Manuel - we 're second ha'af, an' we eats when the
first ha'af are through. They're the old fish; and they're mean
an' humpy, an' their stummicks has to be humoured; so they come
first, which they don't deserve. Ain't that so, doctor?"

The cook nodded.

"Can't he talk?" said Harvey, in a whisper.

"'Nough to git along. Not much o' anything we know. His natural
tongue's kinder curious. Comes from the in'ards of Cape Breton, he
does, where the farmers speak home-made Scotch. Cape Breton's full
o' niggers whose folk run in there durin' aour war, an' they talk
like the farmers - all huffy-chuffy."

"That is not Scotch," said "Pennsylvania." "That is Gaelic. So I
read in a book."


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Celtaddict
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 02:31 PM

This local query has led into one of the most interesting drifts I recall.
In fact this feels almost a drift to follow up with a concrete message on the original query.
Patrick O'Flaherty's site is < http://www.poflaherty.com > and contains not only general information and his schedule but links to Pat Troy's in Alexandria.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 06:31 PM

Sandy,

Looks like Kipling was right. Thousands of slaves it seems fled the United States for the 'freedom' of Nova Scotia.   I put 'Negroes & "Cape Breton"' into Google and it returned all sorts of stuff including census returns and reproductions of Contemporary Documents. The link to the Empire Loyalists is particularly interesting.

This is a chapter of History I had absolutely no inkling of. Kipling's cook was probably not an isolated incident. I'm not quite sure what this adds to the discussion about Gaelic singing in the States, but as a potential aspect of Gaelic Language transmission, it is something of a surprise to me.

Amazing what turns up when you start digging.

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 09:02 AM

The following is taken from Highland Settler (pub.1953) by Dr. Charles
W. Dunn. Professor of Celtic Languages, Harvard University.            

HIGHLAND SETTLER
The most celebrated case in Cape Breton of non-Gaelic speaking persons adopting the language is that of John and George Maxwell, Negro twins. The father of these twins was adopted when a child by a Gaelic-speaking sea-captain whose home was in Cape Breton. Here the boy quickly and inevitably learned Gaelic—the language of the household and of the neighbourhood. When he married he continued to use Gaelic in his own home, and thus his twin sons learned the language. John settled in Malagawatch and died some twenty years ago. His twin brother, George, settled in Whycocomagh and died in 1936 when in his seventies. According to report he always enjoyed speaking Gaelic and sang the Gaelic songs enthusiastically. Since Negroes are much more rare in Cape Breton than in North Carolina, the Maxwell twins are remembered as a sort of monument to the language.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 09:26 AM

Stage Manager(and others): I was really only discussing the very popular view that the origins of oldtime and bluegrass music can be traced to predominantly "Celtic", Irish, Scottish of "Scots Irish" music from (possibly) Gaelic speakers settling in the Appalachians, and to the influence of black music on this.
I was disagreeing, and saying that I would have thought English traditional singing and fiddling had an equal or greater influence; and I was also suggesting that this downplaying of the English influence is a political thing, at variance with the historical evidence. I totally agree that black music had a huge influence on it. I'm specifically talking about southern American oldtime music here. not Cape Breton, where obviously Scottish settleers had a much more powerful influence. and Gaelic speaking was much more signicant over a substantial period of time.
    The link to a piece about the Scots Gaelic (Outer Hebrides) origins of black gospel singing was interesting, but to me highly unconvincing (except as a minor element in the cultural mix). Students are generally taught something about the dangers of statistical arguments leading to connections where none actually exist. Examples commonly cited are (1) Canadian blanket sales correlate very well with the temperature in London(England). However, you would wrong to assume from this that the temperature in London affects Canadian blanket sales. (2) Having measles is virtually invariably associated with havinf a high temperature. This does not mean that a high temperature is of much use s a diagnostic test for measles.
   I think we have the same thing here with black gospel music and psalm-singing in Lewis and Harris.(I have an excellent recording, which I am listening to at the moment). Yes, they have traits in common. No, I dont think those features necessarily link the two forms of music in a hugely signicant way. I think the professor has got a bee in his bonnet (that's what folk music research does to you, and dont I know it!).


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST,Fiona
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 11:10 AM

Just for anyone out there who'd like any information on any aspect of Scottish Gaelic song, - lyrics, recordings, research , composers etc , get in touch with me. I work in the Highlands of Scotland as the Mairi Mhor Gaelic Song Fellow and its my job to encourage as many people as possible to particpate in Gaelic song! So if you need phonetic translations or recordings of a particular song, etc please get in touch with me. reply to this thread and I'll do what i can.
Le gach deagh dhurachd
Fiona


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: GUEST,The Stage Manger
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 11:18 AM

The problem with this type of discussion is that all the sources seem to contradict each other. For example:

"The Negroes in the American continent, for instance, speak various languages according to the particular area they inhabit. Most of them speak English; in Brazil they speak Portuguese; in the rest of South America, in Central America and in parts of the United States, they speak Spanish; and in certain areas of the United States and Canada they speak French. "On Cape Breton island in Canada, there are even Negroes who speak Gaelic" (Julian Huxley, We Europeans, 1936 p. 123)."


At some stage I think we have to look at the music itself and consider the 'gut reaction' of musicians who play the stuff, and then look at the "sources".

I'm increasingly convinced the historians only ever see half of half the picture, if that. It why I think the Oral Tradition is so important.

While this side of the Atlantic we have a pretty good concept of what we undersatnd by the Oral Tradition. Because of the history of the States over the last three hundred years that picture is perhaps less clear because of the vast range of competing cultural influences. Whatever else, it gives amazing vitality and drive to the music.

Personally, I would rather hope that an Amercan Oral Tradition would embrace and acknowledge all these influences.

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 04:18 PM

Greg

A pal just forwarded this link to me. See what you think.

The man himself explains

This came at the same time:Highlanders in the American South seldom overcame the practices and values of slave-holding society, however. Their slaves, being members of a Highland community, also spoke Gaelic. Lady Liston, wife of the British minister in Washington, wrote in the late eighteenth century, "The Gallic language is still prevalent amongst them, their Negroes speak it, and they have a clergyman who preaches in it." John Sinclair wrote in 1872, "I have met with a number of coloured people who speak the Gaelic as well as if they had been raised in any of the Hebrides." Sinclair himself was minister to the freed slaves of Harnett County, and some black churches continued to use Gaelic in religious services well after the abolition of slavery. Some African musicians were acknowledged masters of Highland music, such as fiddler John "Jack" McGeachy who lived in Robeson County, North Carolina from 1769 to 1869.

This is an extract from a text presented at the Highland Settlers Conference Virginia Historical Society and University of Richmond November 6, 2003 by Michael Newton.


Re: Fiona's post

Everyone,

If you've not come across Fiona before...She is a real font of quite extraordinary knowledge on Gaelic music, with access to the best sources and musicians in the Highlands today. And a lovely lady with it.

She really does meant when she says get in touch if you need information. You'll do no better!   

SM


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 05:36 PM

Stage manager: I hope you listen to zydeco music. This must be the most accessible music of the kind you are talking about. French language black Louisiana music, self-contained, traditional and also totally up to date. And a complete product of its own environment, there is nothing remotely like it back in either France or Africa, whether in the vocals or the accordion style. French Louisiana kept going, black white and mixed, in a way that the small Gaelic enclaves of the south did not. An extraordinary and exciting bit of cultural history.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: LadyJean
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 12:09 AM

I have been told that the American tune "Bonaparte's Retreat" began as an Irish tune called "The Eagle's Whistle". I know that an Irish tune called "The Beggarman" is called "The Red Haired Lad" here in the U.S. I also know that I danced strasthpeys to a tune very similar to the song my Kentucky cousins sang, "Will your horse carr double Uncle Joe Uncle Joe." and that The Chieftains played it as a finale at one of their concerts.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 01:23 AM

Ladyjean: the Uncle Joe Uncle Joe tune is one of the all time super-successful tunes(Soldiers Joy and the Sailors hornpipe come into the same category). It seems to have started life as a Scottish tune ""Miss McLeod of Raasay", and became known throughout Britian(played in A) and Ireland(played in G, and occasionally A in north). Generally known as Miss McLeod's Reel, nowadays, and "Hop High ladies" and a few other tthings in America. A great tune, and good for sessions with people you dont know, as everybody knows it.


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: nelagnelag
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 02:42 AM

Wow again. I'll have to actually read all of this tomorrow when I have a brean...brain.

I'll just throw in that I'm reading about the underground railroad right now, and it's pretty interesting. I'm sure I'll run into connections with all of this.

I do get a sense that many of the people who came to the americas came straight from a very rural background, under extreme duress - financial/health/family/religious hardship - , were very parochial in their thinking, and moved to rural areas, where they could continue to be parochial in their thinking. By parochial I mean "tribal", only aware of their own kind of people and way of thinking.

This is why I mentioned the book by Ms. Musick.

So, you end up with a culture that has a limited/local horizon of understanding about the human experience, who often came here under extreme duress, often in a position of power over another group of people who also came here under extreme duress. No wonder slavery was such an incredibly brutal horror.

Sorry, I guess this should actually be in a different thread.

best,
G


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Pied Piper
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 07:59 AM

Hi ladyJean.
Is that the Bonaparte's Retreat with the extra bar at the end of the A and B music?
I play the Eagle Whistle on the pipes and now you come tmention it there is some similarity.
Bonaparte's Retreat is the title of at least 3 differant tunes that I know of 2 of which I play.

TTFN
PP


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 08:05 AM

Fiona - Do you know of any popular songs my Ancestor might have been familiar with - or perhaps even sung - prior to the Battle of Dunbar in 1650?

About all we know of his Scottish life is that he was a "Loyalist Scot" and probably from the Lowlands somewhere.

Were there any "laments" written about the massacre at Dunbar?

If Could learn such a song phonetically it might help enhance my understanding of Gaelic a bit I suppose - although I'm not sure that I have the linguistic aptitude or resources to ever get really fluent in it.

One of the ways I remember, honor, and pay tribute to our Ancestors who served to preserve the American Union and abolish Slavery during the American Civil War is to sing their songs as part of my impression as a Reenactor, and It'd be sort of nice, I think, to be able to do that for James Adams - and his People - as well.

Someone here mentioned "Sol-Fa" Music - by that do we mean the style of Musical notation popular in Scotland & England in the middle 19th Century?

We had quite a discussion about that here a couple of years ago, as I recall - it might still be in the Archives (?).

One of the books in my collection - published in the 1880's, i think, is a collection of Scottish Songs all in SolFa notation.
It's rather interesting, although I never could figure it out entirely, despite the kind attempts of a couple of Mudcatters to teach me.
For a while I thought it might have potential for sharing scores on this forum - but alas; few keyboards & WP programs can handle it, as far as I can tell.

Thanks - UJ in ME, USA


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Subject: RE: oral tradition - 'celtic' singing in usa
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 08:13 AM

Uncle Jacques: in the context of 1650, what does "loyalist Scot" imply? I'm unfamiliar with the term. King, or parliament? And i would guess if he was Lowland Scot, he probably didnt speak Gaelic. That's not an inflexible rule, but in 1650 Gaelic(which tended to be called Irish in Scotland in those days, which is confusing) was mainly a northern and western activity.


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