Joan Busby | Songs of the Hebrides

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Songs of the Hebrides

by Joan Busby

The Hebridean Islands, cold, wild and beautiful, lie in a chain off the west coast of Scotland. Here from their ancient culture stretching back more than two thousand years, are love songs, work songs, songs of the sea - still speaking to our hearts.
Genre: Classical: Art songs
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sleeps the Noon in the Deep Blue Sky (feat. Christine Gough)
2:09 $0.99
2. An Eriskay Love Lilt
2:17 $0.99
3. The Cockle Gatherer
1:06 $0.99
4. The Seal Woman's Croon
3:00 $0.99
5. Spinning Song
1:58 $0.99
6. The Christ Child's Lullaby
2:01 $0.99
7. Milking Croon
1:10 $0.99
8. Hebridean Waulking Song
1:50 $0.99
9. A Lively Clapping Song
0:24 $0.99
10. The Exile's Dream
2:01 $0.99
11. The Mermaid's Croon
2:52 $0.99
12. Kishmul's Galley
2:06 $0.99
13. The Bens of Jura
2:34 $0.99
14. The Sea Quest
5:37 $0.99
15. A Thirteenth Century Lovelilt
2:51 $0.99
16. Land of Heart's Desire
2:34 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
One of the pioneers who wrote down the songs of the Hebrides, in the days before TV, radio or any recorded sound, was Marjory Kennedy Fraser.

Marjory Kennedy was born in 1858 in Perth, the fifth child of David Kennedy, a renowned singer of traditional Lowland Scots song. She learned to play the piano from an early age and made her first appearance on the concert platform as accompanist to her father soon after her 12th birthday.

In her autobiography she wrote:
My father travelled incessantly, fulfilling his mission to carry the songs of Scotland to all the Scots scattered abroad – and now, plans were made for a round the world tour, beginning in Australia.

In Melbourne the Kennedy family was so popular that they sang every night, six nights a week, for three months; when they departed they were given a special civic gathering and presentation.

On the route from Melbourne to Sydney there were few towns, but if a halt had to be made, if a hall or even a barn was available, we gave a concert. Our audience would arrive mainly on horseback, simply tethering their horses out to some fence for the ‘Twa Hoors at Hame’ as my father called his miscellaneous Scots programme. For the sake of those two hours many a Scot has ridden well nigh 100 miles and back.’

In Sidney they sang every night for ten weeks, then moved on to the Gympie goldfields. They travelled on, visiting Tasmania and New Zealand, then crossed the Pacific to California, where they toured in comfort by Pullman through the USA. In the autumn and winter they toured in Canada, singing in 6 towns per week and two Presbyterian churches on Sundays, sometimes travelling by open sleigh through snow storms at 20 degrees below zero.

She wrote:
The tour came near to an end in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in June 1876, and with a fortnight in St John’s, Newfoundland, we brought it to a close. I was now 18 years of age. And of all the sections into which my life naturally falls, perhaps this looms largest – a long unbroken period of four and a half years world touring with father, mother, brothers and sister, moving continually over the surface of land and sea.
Unforgettable years, leaving their mark so deeply incised that I can still feel, while rattling along the pavements of Princes Street under the shelter of Edinburgh Castle, that my mind is looking out over vast spaces, leaving behind the familiar and moving ever forwards towards the unknown.

David Kennedy continued to make concert tours at home and abroad, and in time each of his eleven children appeared with him, singing or playing. They went to India and South Africa and re-visited Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada, and between tours there was time for study in Italy and France.

In 1887 Marjory married a young scientist, Alec Fraser, who taught at George Heriot’s Hospital in Edinburgh, and then became head of Allan Glen’s Technical School, Glasgow. They had two children, Patuffa and David.

After only three years of marriage, Alec Fraser died of pneumonia. Marjory moved with her two young children back to her mother’s house in Edinburgh, where she lived for the next 15 years, teaching singing and piano, giving lecture-recitals and writing as music critic for the Evening News. Her young sister Jessie married, in London, the eminent piano teacher Tobias Matthay; through Jessie, Marjory heard about a collection of Breton folksongs arranged and published by Bourgault Ducaudray, Professor of Musical History in the Paris Conservatoire - there was a great interest in collecting and preserving folk music at that time. She used some of these Breton songs for a lecture-recital on Celtic music at one of the Summer Meetings (a kind of summer school) arranged in Edinburgh by Patrick Geddes. There she met a young Scots artist, John Duncan, who specialised in Celtic subjects. On a painting expedition to the then remote Hebrides he heard some of the island songs and legends.

She wrote:
John Duncan knew I had long dreamed of doing original research work in Celtic music. So in 1904, when through a fellow painter he discovered so to speak the Isle of Eriskay, he instantly wrote to me that this was the place for my work, and that come out there I must. It was then a rather formidable decision. I at last faced it. So one night in the beginning of August 1905 I left by the night train for Oban. I little thought as I got on board the little steamer at Oban at 6 in the morning that I was sailing into a world that would hold me in its grip for the rest o my life. Wet, sick and weary, I stepped off the little steamer at Lochboisdale pier, where John Duncan and his friend Dr Taylor were waiting for me. They hurried me in a dreary drizzle of rain into an open fishing boat that was leaving at once for the isle. We were landed about a mile from the house that was to receive us, and I was seated at supper by about 9 o’clock. I had hardly drawn breath when John Duncan brought me in a little girl, Mary McInnes, who sat on my knee and sang island songs to me. In a little over 24 hours I had sailed I felt, out of the 20th century back at least into the 1600s.

For the remaining 25 years of her life MKF poured her energy and skill into the task of preserving the many songs she heard in the Hebrides. She wrote down the melodies in musical notation as they were being sung to her, occasionally making primitive recordings on the wax covered cylinders of a graphophone, which can still be seen at the University of Edinburgh. She partly translated the songs into English and provided piano or harp accompaniments to give the impression of the sound of the sea, always present in the islands.

Marjory gave many performances, often with Patuffa, and through these and all the connections she had made in her earlier life, the Songs of the Hebrides became widely known throughout the English speaking world.

In her autobiography she wrote:
Of the old singers to whose enthusiasm we owe the preservation of the songs to these days I would like to mention, on Eriskay, Gillespie McInnes’s mother who sang to me ‘The Christ Child’s Lullaby’, and Penny O’Henley, The Mermaid’s Croon; in Barra, Mrs McDonald, Skallary, Mrs McLean, Mrs Cameron, Mrs Boyd from Mingualay who sang me Kishmul’s Galley and Marion MacLeod of Eigg from whom I noted the airs of Dance to your Shadow and The Cockle Gatherer.

To the many who have contributed to this gathering of old Celtic melodies, we now hand them on in their written form, with our thanks for the joy they have brought us, remembering an old Gaelic saying:

A short giving with the gold – a long giving with the song.

The Christ-Child’s Lullaby

In Eigg and Uist this lullaby is associated with a legend, of which the following is a literal translation:

There was once a shiftless laddie in one of the isles who had lost his mother, and that is always a sad tale, but had got a stepmother in her place, and that is sometimes a sadder tale still. He was not like other children at anyrate, but wise where they were foolish, and foolish where they were wise; and he could never do or say anything but what put anger on his stepmother. There was no life for him in the house, and if out he should go, as out he would, that was a fault too. His neighbours said that he was growing into the grave. His stepmother said he was growing up to the gallows. And he thought himself (but his thoughts were young and foolish) that he was growing towards something which fate was keeping for him. On an evening there was, he brought home, as usual, the cattle for the milking, and if they gave little milk that time, and likely it was little they gave, who was to blame for it but the poor orphan! “Son of another” said his stepmother in the heat of anger, “ there will be no luck on this house until you leave, but whoever heard of a luckless chick leaving of its own will?” But leave the shiftless laddie did, and that of his own will, and ere the full moon rose at night, he was on the other side of the ben.

That night the stepmother could get neither sleep nor ease, there was something ringing in her ear, and something else stinging in her heart, until at last her bed was like a cairn of stones in a forest of reptiles. “I will rise,” she said, “and see if the night outside is better than the night inside.” She rose and went out, with her face towards the ben, nor did she ever stop until she saw and heard something which made her stop. What was this but a Woman, with the very heat-love of heaven in her face, sitting on a grassy knoll and Song-lulling a baby-son with the sweetest music ever heard under moon or sun, and at her feet was the shiftless laddie, his face like the dream of the Lord’s night. “God of the Graces!” said the stepmother, “it is Mary Mother, and she is doing what I ought to be doing – song-lulling the orphan.” And she fell on her knees and began to weep the soft warm tears of a mother, and when, after a while, she looked up, there was nobody there but herself and the shiftless laddie side by side.
And that is how the Christ’s Lullaby was heard in the Isles.
KENNETH MACLEOD : from Songs of the Hebrides, Marjory Kennedy Fraser : 1909

JOAN BUSBY was born in Yorkshire, and sang from an early age, both in choirs and solo. A science graduate of Edinburgh University, she studied singing with Ena Mitchell and Laura Sarti, with coaching from Paul Hamburger. She sang with Scottish Opera and in several ensembles, notably the John Currie Singers, the Hill Square Consort and Trio Felice. She appeared on STV and BBC Radio and in many recitals and concerts. She especially enjoyed arranging themed programmes for special venues, with Music is Pleasure. One of the most popular of these, devised for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and performed in Scotland, England and as far afield as New Zealand, was Songs of the Hebrides – the story and the songs of Marjory Kennedy Fraser.

Joan has taught singing for many years at the Ian Tomlin Academy of Music, Edinburgh Napier University. Interested in all aspects of voice, she is also a Tutor for the Voice Care Network UK, and leads voice workshops for public speakers. She holds certificates for Estill Voice Training and for Core Singing.
She was a founder and Director of Oxenfoord International Summer School for Singers, which continues to meets annually
Joan is married to the artist John Busby.

CHRISTINE GOUGH was born in Edinburgh. As a child she studied violin, piano and later, singing. After completing undergraduate studies in music at Edinburgh University, she was awarded a scholarship to continue training at the Academy of Music and Drama in Vienna.
After gaining professional qualifications in accompaniment and chamber music there, Christine based herself for many years in London, becoming much sought-after as an accompanist for singers and instrumentalists as well as pursuing a busy career as a teacher. She has composed incidental music for BBC productions of Shakespeare’s ‘The two gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘All’s well that ends well’.
From 1978 she was an examiner for the Associated Boards of the RSM, travelling extensively throughout the world.



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