Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Runrig - Gaelic Psalm Singing

Many of you will not have heard of Runrig: they are a folk rock band who write and sing in Gaelic.  Their biggest days are behind them but the band with a changed line-up continues.
One of their most beautiful songs – No!, their most beautiful  - is based around Gaelic Psalm singing, “An Ubhal as Airde” (The Highest Apple).
One of their group – I don’t know whom – said,
“[It] is about everything really religion is about: death, salvation and the hope for eternal life.  The chorus is inspirational and expresses spiritual hope.  It's an expression of faith. so we just felt that by using the Gaelic psalms was the appropriate way to present that song and to arrange it.”
Gaelic psalms are sung in a very different way.
“In Presbyterian Free Church's across Lewis …..  the psalms are sung a cappella (without musical accompaniment), and led by a precentor (literally ‘one who sings beforehand’). In Gaelic psalm singing, the precentor leads the praise by commencing the tune, which he sings along with the congregation for two lines of a four-line stanza. On the third line, the precentor sings the line solo, which is then repeated by the congregation; this occurs for each line until the end of the item of praise. The result is a unique musical event, full of the traditions of Celtic religious culture, and deeply moving in its praise of God.  [http://www.metafilter.com/68085/Gaelic-Psalm-Singing]
You will recognise aspects of that in the song.

Below the video I’ve appended the English translation of the lyrics and also included a video of Gaelic Psalm singing in church.

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The best video -  a gorgeous video  -  I’ve come across is here but the song is incomplete.  Here now is Runrig and the complete song.

An Ubhal as Airde


The Highest Apple
The garden is well stocked
With mighty trees
With fruit growing for the whole world
Ripe, sweet
And bitter apples
And the one apple
That is beyond reach

The winds will blow
And the sun will shine
From generation to generation
Through the trees of the garden
But the day and the hour
Will surely come
To take the highest apple
From the knowledge tree

Who amongst us
Can exist a single day
Beyond our own time and our own limits
Countless and futile
Are times I've climbed
To reach and taste
The forbidden fruit

The winds will blow
And the sun will shine
From generation to generation
Through the trees of the garden
But the day and the hour
Will surely come
To take the highest apple
From the knowledge tree



Lyrics: An Ubhal as Airde, Runrig

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For those who want more I include a video of traditional Gaelic Psalm singing with a precentor.

Gaelic Psalms at Back Free Church, Isle of Lewis


Gaelic Lyrics to An Ubhal as Airde
Comhla rium
A tha thu an drasd
Mo shuilean duinte, mo chuimhne dan
Nam sheasamh a' coimhead
Gach cnoc is gach traigh
Is an siol a dh'fhag thu ann a 'fas

Tha an garradh lan
Le craobhan treun
Le meas a' fas dhuinn ann ri bhuain
Ubhlan abaich
Milis geur
Ach tha aon ubhal nach ruig sinn idir air

Seididh gaoth is dearrsaidh grian
Tro mheas nan craobhan lin gu lin
Ach thig an la is thig an t-am
Airson an ubhal as airde
Air a' chraobh a bhuain

Is co 'nar measg
A mhaireas la
Seachad air am is air oidhche fhein
A liuthad uair
A shreap mi suas
Airson an ubhal as airde chur gu beul

Seididh gaoth is dearrsaidh grian
Tro mheas nan craobhan lin gu lin
Ach thig an la is thig an t-am
Airson an ubhal as airde
Air a' chraobh a bhuain

5 comments:

  1. Many years ago I worked with a man from Lewis and, while demolishing a bottle of Cardhu, he was amazed to learn that I knew about and loved Runrig.(I prefer Capercaillie these days)
    He also told a very funny and convoluted story about sitting in the back seat of the last bus back to Back.

    Your quote at the beginning is from Donnie Munro I think.

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  2. Re Donnie Munro - would make sense.

    Can you tell us the story?

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  3. >>Can you tell us the story?<<

    We had a lot of Cardhu that night. Perhaps that was why the story was so convoluted...... but it was the alliteration of 'back seat back to Back' which stuck in my mind.

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  4. How about the Gaelic lyrics as well?

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  5. Lovely song but terrible singer.
    Back Church on the other hand was great. Where can I get more like that?

    ReplyDelete