OT: 26 April, 1924 – Mac “Gaelic Song and Music”



The Oban Times, 26 April, 1924
Gaelic Song and Music

19th April, 1924

Sir, All true lovers of Gaelic song and music should be indebted to Mister MacFarlane [sic] for his letter on this theme in to-day’s issue. He writes from long, practical experience. He has a first-hand knowledge of Gaelic and its music, while some people who know Gaelic well know little of its music, and there are scores of others who can collect, play and attempt to sing who know next to nothing of the language. The musically-uneducated Gael, he says, feels when fitting delivery is being given to a song. There is nothing truer.
Let us suppose a poem is being recited, not sung. What a poor impression the reciter makes if he does not give correct emphasis expression where such ought to be. You say instinctively, he does not feel when he recites. Clothe this poem with a fitting air, and let it be sung. The musically-uneducated Gael can tell you if it is properly sung. I know scores of people–Gaelic-speaking–who will not attend a concert where certain Gaelic singers are announced. Their attempts at correct quality of tone at the expense of the language is evident.
The fact is that the air of a song is only a guide to the correct recital of its words in the realm of music. Jessie Maclachlan never slavishly followed the air of a song when singing. She breathed her own soul into it because she knew the language. I am told that certain medalists would cut a sorry figure, say, in the case of an Oran Mor if the Comunn insisted that the piece should be recited first before being sung. The Gaelic judges would then know if he understood what he was to sing. I have heard some singers in a simple song, and could not follow the words where the words were previously unknown to me. I have heard others in a difficult song, where every word was absolutely distinct, and it is a real pleasure to the Gael to be able to follow the words when a song is being sung.
Mr. MacFarlane [sic] writes that the policy of An Comunn has been for a long time to discourage new creations. What a pity if this should be so, for its very existence ultimately will depend on the reverse policy. Every generation must put its own stone on the cairn of Gaelic literature and music if these are to exist, and when a new poet or composer appears on the scene the Comunn should give every encouragement, even if his work should fall below the average standard. There are a number of men all over the country who are doing quiet, steady work for Gaelic. Some of them are not members of An Comunn because they cannot afford the time nor can they find the opportunity to attend meetings with the pressure of other duties. But they are working in the same noble cause. “Mach an droch sgeul.”  –I am, etc.,

Mac.
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