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Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms

09 Jun 11 - 01:00 PM (#3167757)
Subject: Origins: Britten's The Highland Balou: Need Help!
From: GUEST,ktynedodd

I am a classical singer currently studying Britten's "The Highland Balou" from the song cycle A Charm of Lullabies. Normally I would just listen to the great recordings of a piece to figure out pronunciations/meanings, but I am having a problem with this piece and a friend recommended posting a thread here on Mudcat Cafe for answers.
The lyrics are as follows (just a little different from the lyrics posted here on the site):

Hee balou, my sweet wee Donald
Picture o' the great Clanronald!
Brawlie kens our wanton Chief
What gat my young Highland thief.
(Hee balou!)
Leeze me on thy bonnie craigie!
An thou live, thou'll steal a naigie,
Travel the country thro' and thro',
And bring hame a Carlisle cow!
Thro' the Lawlands,
o'er the Border
Weel, my babie, may thou furder!
Herry the louns o' the laigh Countrie,
Syne to the Highlands hame to me!
Hee balou, my sweet wee Donald (x2)
Hee balou.

I am mostly concerned with the pronunciation/meaning of a few words, and any help would be greatly appreciated! I have heard it sung multiple ways, and I would just like to be as accurate as possible. ([]= IPA)

Highland= [hilan] or [haIlan]?
babie= [baebi] or [beIbi]?

In terms of meaning, I will translate what I have and if anyone would like to fill in the blanks/correct, I would be so grateful!

Shush my sweet little Donald,
Picture (all or oh?) the great Clan Ronald
Proudly know(s?) our wanton Chief
Who fathered my young Highland thief
Shush
(Leeze?) (me?) on your pretty (face or neck?)
(As or if?) you live, you'll steal a horse
Travel the country through and through
And bring home a Carlisle cow!
Through the Lowlands, over the Border
(Well?) my baby, may you (thrive or conquer?)
(Harry?) the lads of the (low?) country
(Then?) to the Highlands home to me!
Shush my sweet little Donald
Shush

Thank you so much for your time!


09 Jun 11 - 02:11 PM (#3167803)
Subject: Info Required: Highland Terms
From: GUEST,AGuestInNeed

Wondering what these phrases mean:

"Leeze me on thy bonnie craigie!"

"Weel, my babie, may thou furder!"

"Herry the louns o' the laigh Countrie"

Any takers?


09 Jun 11 - 02:25 PM (#3167810)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Jack Campin

They are not Highland terms - that's Lowland Scots - and you have already asked the same questions under a different guest name in this thread:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=138407

That behaviour is not allowed here for good reason.

I'll answer tomorrow evening if nobody else jumps in. Look at the Scots glossary (available from the main dropdown menu) first, though.
    Threads combined. -Joe Offer, Moderator-


09 Jun 11 - 02:30 PM (#3167812)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

I was told that the original thread was too confusing/complicated, and encouraged by a friend to summarize the main points. That's what this is. If I could figure out how to delete the first post, I would. Thanks for your words.


09 Jun 11 - 02:31 PM (#3167813)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: Dave MacKenzie

For a start they're not Highland, but Lowland. The literary form of the language is often known as Lallans.

Leeze me is I like or love (German 'lieb ist mir'),
bonnie is beautiful (French 'bon')
weel is well
herry is harry, the verb.
louns are boys
laigh is low
and Countrie is country.


09 Jun 11 - 02:40 PM (#3167822)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

Thank you so much for your help, Dave MacKenzie! I had assumed it was Highland because it is from "The Highland Balou", but your information has definitely pointed me in the right direction. My Grandfather says "craig/craigie" is a cliff/hill, but from what you have said, I'm thinking it could be used to describe one's face. I'm working on this in a masterclass with Graham Johnson tomorrow (=desperation), and I would love to bring it in the correct Scottish (as opposed to British-influenced). I have never heard of Lallans, but I will look into it now.
Thanks again!


09 Jun 11 - 02:56 PM (#3167835)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: Dave MacKenzie

Craig/craigie is indeed a cliff/hill and is unlikely to be used to describe a face.


09 Jun 11 - 03:01 PM (#3167840)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh

I thnk "craig" (diminutive "craigie") can also be used of the neck?


09 Jun 11 - 03:05 PM (#3167844)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

Translation based on Glossary (wish I had seen that before!):

"Leeze me on thy bonnie craigie!"
Dear to me is your beautiful neck.

"Weel, my babie, may thou furder!"
Well, my baby, may you succeed.

"Herry the louns o' the laigh Countrie"
Harry the lads of the low Country.

It was interesting to find that Lallans was traditionally used to represent the Scots language as a whole, which is why this Highland song is in the Lowland dialect. Thank you again for your help! I appreciate your kindness to an amateur and guest such as myself.


09 Jun 11 - 03:05 PM (#3167845)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh

Having looked at the other thread, where the "craigie" word is rhymed with "naigie" (which I've never encountered elsewhere, but that's not an indication that the word is made up for purposes of rhyming), I guess that there's some suggestion of the child eventually being hanged (Scots, "hingit") for horse-thieving.


09 Jun 11 - 03:13 PM (#3167849)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

What a wonderful thought, An Buachaill Caol Dubh! That had not occurred to me, I did not know that horse thieves were hung. That ties in so beautifully with the sentiment about the child's neck. I am looking into that now.


09 Jun 11 - 03:27 PM (#3167861)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh

You might also like to wonder whether the song is satirical?


09 Jun 11 - 03:37 PM (#3167865)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: Sandy Mc Lean

"It was interesting to find that Lallans was traditionally used to represent the Scots language as a whole"
Guest, I am unsure what you mean by that. Gaelic was and still is the native language of the Highlands and Islands. Lallans is an Anglo-Saxon based language while Gaelic is Celtic. Craig is indeed Gaelic but the rest is Lallans. It seems to be a bit of a mixed bag.


09 Jun 11 - 03:52 PM (#3167874)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

That is an interesting interpretation, and while I can clearly see that as plausible for the poem, I don't believe Britten's setting of the text lends itself to the satirical. It's a cheerful/wistful rocking lullaby in the accompaniment, and very sensitive dynamics for the singer. There is an emphasis on the cooing [u] vowel, as opposed to a focus on the hard consonant sounds (usually a method for bringing out strong/negative feeling). The prevalent dotted rhythms in Britten's arrangement are also more indicative of playfulness than anything else. I was told that "wanton" in Scottish is not derogatory as in English, so I don't see much sign of bitterness, which is the main impetus for cynical or satirical works. I could, however, be convinced. ;)


09 Jun 11 - 04:00 PM (#3167886)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: GUEST

Sandy Mc Lean--

I must admit, I had not heard the term "Lallans" before, so I googled it and came up with:

"Lallans: a variant of the Modern Scots word lawlands, was also traditionally used to refer to the Scots language as a whole...
Both Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson used it to refer to the Scots language."

This is a Robert Burns poem, so I am guessing it is in Lallans then. I did not know Craig is Gaelic, although I am familiar with Gaelic as being the native language. This forum is a wealth of knowledge, thank you for all your feedback!


09 Jun 11 - 04:38 PM (#3167920)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Guest, your confusion is well understood! The term "Scots" is applied to the people of Scotland today and most of the population is in the Lowlands and speak Germanic Anglo-Saxon dialects. The original "Scots" were Gaelic speakers (Celtic)from Ireland who settled into the Highlands and Islands and mixed with another Celtic tribe (Picts). The Romans called them Scottie but they called themselves Gaels.
Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people and from their language derives both English and Lallans Scots. Most people in Scotland, both Highland and Low, now speak English but among themselves still use their native tongue.


09 Jun 11 - 05:14 PM (#3167939)
Subject: RE: Info Required: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

I'm afraid I have to disagree as to 'craigie' being Gaelic. It is most definitely of Anglo Saxon/Dutch/old German derivation.


09 Jun 11 - 08:07 PM (#3168058)
Subject: RE: Britten's The Highland Balou: Need word meaning
From: Dave MacKenzie

According to the Concise Scots Dictionary, there are two words craig in Scots: 1 a crag, rock; cliff etc... obscurely related to Gael craeg, Welsh craig

and 2 The neck....Middle Dutch craghe

And in MacLennan's Gaelic-English Dictionary, Gaelic craeg is derived from Early Irish crec, a crag.

A case of linguistic convergence


10 Jun 11 - 04:36 AM (#3168220)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Yes, Dave, and in this case 'craigie' is, as is the rest of the poem, in Scots, derived from middle Dutch etcetera, Teutonic and not Gaelic. Two different words with different meanings and derivations.


10 Jun 11 - 09:07 AM (#3168375)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jack Campin

I don't believe Britten's setting of the text lends itself to the satirical

Britten had no detectable sense of humour in any language and certainly not in Scots. He simply didn't get the point.

I guess the authentic thing to do would be to perform the words with the sounds and meanings Britten thought they had.


10 Jun 11 - 02:32 PM (#3168508)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Another point that Guest may be interested in: cow is pronounced coo and in the West coast of Scotland there is no long u (oo) sound. It is pronounced like the French short u or the german U with an umlaut over it. If you look at written Scots, especially the poems of Burns, you'll see that words like poor or good or book are usually written with ui instead of oo. This is a signal to non West of Scotland speakers that the short oo should be sounded.


10 Jun 11 - 07:15 PM (#3168670)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST

I did get the "coo", and I knew that there was something different with the [u]s (which is my worst vowel because they always sound French), but I had no idea that they were mixed with closed and open [i] (or "ee", "eh"). That's interesting because they also seem to be darker/rounder to my ear. Maybe I am wrong on that.

I wonder why Britten would have set the poem with so many elongated [u]s if they don't exist in the language. Is there a way to know if a word should be pronounced with the French short u or the German U umlaut, other than if it is spelled "ui"?

Graham Johnson gave me full marks on pronunciation/translation, so I would just like to thank you fine folk for that. Thank you!


10 Jun 11 - 07:32 PM (#3168675)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Dave MacKenzie

Jim, if you look back you will see that I didn't offer a translation for craigie, and only said I wouldn't use it to describe a face. For the neck I'd normally use another Germanic word, hause, cf German Hals.

As for vowels, I can only remember using the long 'oo' in moo-coo before I was taught to speak 'proper'; else where I'd always use the short 'u' which now I only normally use when speaking French or German. I also nowadays usually pronounce 'film' and 'farm' with one syllable.


10 Jun 11 - 10:14 PM (#3168728)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Sorry Jim, I thought it to be a derivative of creag. I guess some words just sound similar. With coo I would think dog, not cow as well. :-}
                                       slainte,
                                              Sandy


11 Jun 11 - 05:28 AM (#3168826)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Dave, I'm reminded of the the "Twa Corbies": Ye'll sit on his white hause bane ..


01 Nov 11 - 07:11 PM (#3248818)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

That's simply not true--on the southwest coast, a word like cow (typically written "coo") would be similar to the German umlauted u, but in Burns's dialect, West Central Scots, it would have the value of the English "oo" found in "food" and "soon."


01 Nov 11 - 07:15 PM (#3248823)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

Additionally, the "ui" found in "puir" or "buik" has many different pronunciations in West Central Scots, none of which is the French u. It could be ji as in uiss, or je as in uise, or i (as in sit) in abuin, or e (as in German "Reh") as in muisic.


02 Nov 11 - 03:25 AM (#3248949)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

"Guest, I am unsure what you mean by that. Gaelic was and....." I think he wasn't talking about Gaelic. Rather he was talking about the Scots language (ie Lowland Scots) which is more often than not just called Scots. Lallans did seem to mean at one time Lowland Scots as a whole. In the 20thC some people started to use the word Lallans more to describe the literary form of Scots which re-emerged in the aftermath of Hugh McDiarmid's initial works. So I suppose it depends on who's talking to what they mean by Lallans! Though the regular publication called Lallans, issued by the Scots Language Society, includes not just literary Scots but works in the actual dialects too.


02 Nov 11 - 06:01 PM (#3249377)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Elliot, I am from Paisley which I think you would probably include in West Cenrtal Scotland and I assure you we use the umlauted u. When learning German, in Germany, I found it difficult to pronounce the long oo hence I would say the plural word for brother wich has an umlaut, when the singular was required, quite a problem!


03 Nov 11 - 05:55 PM (#3249945)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

I would certainly include Paisley in West Central Scotland. Your example notwithstanding, I would still discourage the umlauted u-style pronunciation in singing Burns, as it is hardly traditional in singing Scots (unless you could give me some examples of trained Scots singers interpreting folk songs with that vowel value, in which case I'd have to reconsider).


04 Nov 11 - 06:10 AM (#3250137)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Elliot, 'trained Scots singers' don't pronounce Scots like folk singers as in ordinary speech, more in a Bel Canto fashion. The honesty of ordinary folk singers is refreshing after years of listening to trained tenors screwing up the language.


05 Nov 11 - 03:44 AM (#3250645)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

I thought it was implied that I meant native speakers (because non-natives apparently can't be bothered to learn basic Scots phonology). I mean a Scots speaker who is familiar with singing technique and traditional interpretation. Kenneth McKellar, for example, does fine Burns interpretations, and eschews the ue sound. (Granted, much of Burns work was almost entirely in English).


05 Nov 11 - 03:57 AM (#3250646)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

Anne Lorne Gillies and John McCormack also avoid the ue sound when singing in Scots, and while neither grew up speaking the language, both have fine pronunciation (McCormack's parents were Scots).


05 Nov 11 - 04:38 AM (#3250650)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

"Anne Lorne Gillies and John McCormack also avoid the ue sound when singing in Scots" Though surely neither of these are native Scots speakers. Anne is Scottish yes but a native Gaelic speaker and not from a Scots speaking area. The truth is that pronounciation of Scots differs greatly throughout the Scots speaking areas. There are various dialects and a range of accents within each dialect area. It would be absurd to tell a native Scots speaker that he was pronouncing things wrong. Burns wrote in a range of styles from basically Scottish Standard English to his own dialect of Scots to a more literary Scots. I certainly wouldn't even try to put on an Ayrshire accent when singing Burns. I'd generally just sing more naturally in my own Borders dialect/accent. There are one or two exceptions. In this area we wouldn't pronounce "Scots Wha Hae" like it is pronounced in the song. We'd pronounce it "Scots Whae Hae" but the song is so well known it'd sound strange changing the pronounciation.


05 Nov 11 - 10:13 AM (#3250791)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Dr James Currie (1756 — 1805), Burns's first editor and major biographer writes in his The Works of Rober Burns:

"The ch and gh have always the gutteral sound. The sound of the English dipthong 00, is commonly spelled ou. the French u, which is often heard in the Scottish language, is marked oo or ui. ...."

This advice is repeated in various other books on Burns. The English long oo used by trained singers was to make the songs more suitable for the drawing room, sung round the pianoforte. It's like a breath of fresh air hearing Burns sung by 'folkies'.


05 Nov 11 - 06:02 PM (#3251020)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

You seem like a smart guy, Jim, so I hope that you already know that Currie did not know Burns at all, and was schooled in Dumfries. Furthermore, he had no experience in editorial scholarship.

This discussion need not go on endlessly; I should just like to stress that singing Burns with a long oo is perfectly fine, even for authentic Scots pronunciation, since many Scots dialects barely ever use the ue, and even for ones that do, there is a continuum between a very short ue, like the Swedish u, and a quite long ue, like the Swedish short y. But looking at your original post (on this matter), you never even said that the long oo must be avoided, so I'm not sure there's any major disagreement.

In any case, there is certainly no need in music to follow an author's peculiar pronunciations; that would be insane. I would sing Waltzing Matilda, God Save The Queen, and The Star Spangled Banner in the same accent (a native one). Obviously, to sing Burns in an English accent (or Waltzing Matilda in a French) would be absurd and off-putting, but any native accent should do fine.


05 Nov 11 - 06:24 PM (#3251027)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: Jim McLean

Hi Elliot, yes I know all about Dr Currie but as you say he was schooled in Dumfries and would have an idea about 'local' pronunciation. I agree with you and a previous post that there are many different pronunciations in Scotland (as elsewhere) but I do grue slightly when I hear Burns' songs, and other Scottish songs, given that dreadful mim mo'ed 'posh' anglified treatment. I knew Kenneth McKeller who was a fellow Paisley Buddie and, incidentally, recorded a song of mine but he said he had no sense of Scottish folk music and was brought up listening to classical recordings. That said, he was a fine interpretor of Burns.


06 Nov 11 - 11:52 AM (#3251417)
Subject: RE: Help: Britten's The Highland Balou: Highland terms
From: GUEST,Elliot

Which song?

And I agree about the horrid anglification, but I hope you are not saying that the long oo is exclusively English--http://www.scotslanguage.com/multimedia/3/all/1250/page:4
--that accent, which is mightily similar to mine, uses the long oo liberally. Did McKellar in speech?