Improvisational hymn singing from the Scottish Isles
November 16, 2016 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Noel Meek writes about Gaelic psalm singing and includes several recordings from the 1970s and 80s. A precentor sings the opening line from a hymn, and then the congregation joins in, improvising on the melody. With the decline of the Scottish Gaelic language the tradition is fading and lives primarily on the islands of Lewis and Harris in the Hebrides. Here is a video from Back Free Church on Lewis and a BBC radio documentary on Gaelic psalm singing by Ken Hyder.
posted by Kattullus (5 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
brautigan posted about Gaelic psalm singing in 2008, and its connection to the African-American song tradition of lining out.
posted by Kattullus at 5:43 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

This is fascinating. The lo-fi aspect adds to the mystique, but a better recording would really capture the "shimmering" effect.

If I zone out a bit, the loose structure and minor tonality sound a lot like my region's more dour Lutheran services - a combination of old women with weak voices and men who seem to want to be anywhere else.
posted by Think_Long at 8:50 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Beautiful and strange music. I followed your links down into the YouTube rabbit hole.
posted by lucasgonze at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like early African-American spirituals. Turns out, there's a theory of a connection there.
posted by trombodie at 9:09 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oops! (Note to self: read all comments before commenting.)
posted by trombodie at 9:12 PM on November 16, 2016

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