OT: 26 April, 1924 – Ceo Minn [Gaelic Song and Music]

The Oban Times, 26 April 1924

[Gaelic Song and Music]

Glasgow, 21 April, 1924

Sir,–If the remarks of Captain Campbell, yr. of Succoth, at the annual social of the Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association, and the critical observations of “Calum MacPharlain” in last week’s “Oban Times,” are properly considered and acted upon by the teachers of Gaelic song music, they will have rendered a service to the branch of Gaelic “nationalism” which, for more than thirty years has been deprived of its natural atmosphere. The influence of Gaelic song was intended by the bards to be wielded by the magic of the words. The air, I should say, was merely a secondary item, simply the casket in which the words were to be enshrined to safeguard their passage to the generations.

Within recent years, the teaching of Gaelic songs and music has been in the hands of people who know music well but who do not know Gaelic, and whose ears therefore never catch the cacophonous jarring caused by displaced quantities when words and their value are submerged in favour of a certain expression in music.

In this connection I shall only mention one song out of many which have become mere monstrosities when divorced from the traditional style of singing–I refer to “Bràigh Rusgaidh,” whose most expressive and heart-melting words are lost in the singing.
In the line, “Mar is minic a bha mi” the words “a bha mi” are rendered so short that the poetic expression is entirely lost. The word “bhà” cannot bear to be shortened anywhere, and especially in this case, where it assonates with “là” in the following line.

These little oddities, which are foreign to Gaelic, and to the very nature of Gaelic poetry, should be jettisoned, and more attention should be paid to the soul which the bards have put into their songs with all their natural imagery and affinity of expression, and in all that there is music.

–I am, etc.,

Ceo Minn