Published: November 30, 2000

Gaelic Choral Tradition To Be Revived in Skye

Guthan Thròndarnais (“Voices of Trotternish”) is a new musical project launched by Highland piper Barnaby Brown, a Gaelic learner and pibroch scholar from Glasgow, Scotland, intended to bring back original Gaelic choral music.

According to Brown, The project is “a response to the notion that Gaelic choirs and An Comunn Gaidhealach are in a rut, promoting music that belongs more to Victorian drawing rooms than Gaelic culture.”

Rehearsals apparently have started, and Guthan Thròndarnais will be heard on March 17, 2001, at Arainn Chaluim Chille, Slèite.

Part of the program will be a bardic “contest” between Iain Lom and Domhnall Gruamach, a hymn by St Columba, a vocal rendition of Charles MacArthur’s piobaireachd, “Sir James MacDonald’s Lament,” and a poem by Maoileas Caimbeul, all residents of Trotternish. Pupils at the local school, Sgoil Stafainn, are composing lyrics for a new musical work, which will also be performed.

“Rather than taking finished Gaelic melodies and submerging them with urban harmony, I’ve been creating Gaelic vocal polyphony from scratch,” Brown commented. “This has been directly inspired by the outdoor vocal harmonies of Georgia, Bulgaria, Sardinia and the Solomon Islands. But, more importantly, the forms and ethos of the music belong to the local classical tradition.”

The performances will be followed by outdoor recording sessions in May, with choirs, solo singers recorded around cliffs, caves and the sea, with the intent of adding “the majesty of the Trotternish peninsula” to the work. There will be a different “soundscape” for each track.

This project is part of Scotland’s Year of the Artist Residency program, part of a UK-wide initiative placing 1000 artists-in-residence.

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