Monday, July 26, 2010

Highlands history in song

The Rise and Fall o' Charlie
Alan Reid and Rob van Sante

You might perhaps know the Skye Boat Song, which is sometimes used as a lullabye, or perhaps you've heard the rousing and wtty song by Robert Burns, Charlie Is My Darlin’. There’s more to the story of Prince Charles Edward Stuart than that, though, in both song and history.

It’s a history intimately connected with Scotland, as the Rising of 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie, as he was known, hoped to lead a revolution to bring the British Crown back to the house of Stuart, began and in many ways ended in the Scottish Highlands. Alan Reid of the Battlefield Band and his frequent duo partner Rob van Sante have gathered songs, written songs, and gathered friends together to play and sing them to tell the story of the prince, from rising to remembrance. It makes for a cohesive whole and good listening, whether you know anything about Charles Stuart, Johnny Cope, Preston Pans, or Culloden or not. If yuo're not up on this part of history, the liner notes will fill you in a bit on the trajectory of the story, and the provenance of the music, as well.

 cr hands with bodhran copyright kerry dexterA few of the songs, mostly those in Scottish Gaelic, are from Charlie’s time, and there are two Robert Burns songs, from not that long after. Several of the pieces come from the nineteenth century, a time when Charlie's life and quest were often quite romanticized, and Alan Reid has written four of the fourteen pieces included here. The collection opens with Sound of the Pibroch, marking the highland pipes which called the clans from glen to glen to join in the rising, and ends with Will Ye No’ Come Back Again, a song which today is still sung often at the end of gatherings to wish friends a speedy return. Between there are songs in Gaelic, songs welcoming the prince, songs celebrating victories in battle, songs questioning the future of the prince and his cause, and songs looking back and, as Reid puts it in the liner notes “beginning the long process of romanticizing the life and creating the myth” of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It’s a thoughtful collection balanced both musically, and you might say, philosophically. Reid and van Sante are joined by several gifted Scottish musicians, including rising Gaelic singer Maeve MacKinnon, cellist and singer Wendy Weatherby, fiddler Alistair White, Susan Miller on whistle and flute, Mike Katz on the pipes and Ian Fairbairn on fiddle.

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Eddi Reader sings more of the songs of Robert Burns
Music Road: Julie Fowlis: Uam

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous jessiev said...

very cool, Kerry. this seems like an extraordinary recording.

10:23 AM  

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