Monday, August 06, 2012

From Scotland: Archipelago from Fiona J MacKenzie

Scotland is known for its rugged mountains and wooded glens. It is a country of the waters, as well, though, with miles of coastline and the landscapes on ninety nine inhabited islands as well as many more islands where people no longer live. It is the life and music of Scotland's islands that Fiona J. MacKenzie has chosen as the focus of her recording Archipelago.

MacKenzie opens the collection with three songs that contain threads of work, legend, and life which run through the music she has chosen. There is Cumha Iain Ghairbh from the island of Raasay, a lament written by the sister of a man who drowned at sea, Iorram Suirghe, a song of Saint Kilda that is a rowing song whose melody which echoes those of waulking songs; and The Great Selkie of Suleskerrie, a song of sea legend from Orkney. Through them, and indeed, through all the songs Mackenzie offers her, you hear the sea, the life of the people who are shaped by living on the waters, and the stories they tell.

 scotland archipelagoMacKenzie’s graceful soprano proves a natural voice to tell these stories, and to honor the differences and connections among the communities from which they come. MacKenzie, a renown and awarded Gaelic singer and educator, sings in Scottish Gaelic, Scots, English, and Norn, as the stories she tells require, and through each language those stories remain vivid. There are songs long handed down from tradition, and several new compositions as well. Outstanding among the latter is Journey Back to Arran, a gathering of a traditional melody, words from MacKenzie, and a song written by musician Gill Bowman with the students in grade four through seven at Pirnmill Primary School. Renown fiddler Gillian Frame, a native of Arran whose music you’ve met here before along the music road, adds tasteful backing to MacKenzie’s voice.

The contributions of other guests including Barbara Dickson, Alex Hodgson, and Mairi Chaimbeul add to the mix, as does the liner notes booklet with artist Jenny Hallahan’s cover painting as well as Mackenzie's’ notes on the songs, lyrics, and photos from the islands. From Shetland in the far north to Ailsa Craig in the south, through just eleven songs, MacKenzie offers thoughtful interpretation and intriguing insights on life and legend in Scotland’s islands.

you may also wish to see
from Scotland: Brave the movie, Julie Fowlis, and music
from Scotland: Joy Dunlop & Twelfth Day
history into song: capercaillie: glenfinnan
on Twitter, MacKenzie will teach you bits of Scottish Gaelic in just a few words as @GaelicSinger

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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