A Scottish Celebration

April 22, 1989, 08:00 PM
John Currie, Conductor
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Loch Lomond John Currie
The Piper o' Dundee John Currie
Oh, Willie's Fair John Currie
Comin' Thro' the Rye John Currie
Annie Laurie John Currie
Bonnie Dundee John Currie
Jean Redpath , Folksinger
Two Songs of Old Age John Currie
Corn Rigs John Currie
My Luve's in Germanie John Currie
The De'il's Awa wi' Th'exciseman John Currie
The Bonnie Earl o' Moray John Currie
I'll Aye ca' in by Yon, Toun John Currie
O, Whistle an' I'll Come Tae Ye My Lad John Currie
The Skye Boat Song John Currie
Jean Redpath , Folksinger
Will Ye no' Come Back Again? John Currie
Auld Lang Syne John Currie


Scotland's heritage in song is one of the richest in Europe and the world. It is a heritage which stretches from the Middle Ages to the present, and which embraces the great Celtic tradition of the mountains and islands as well as the wonderfully varied songs of the Lowlands and Southern Uplands ('The Borders'). Any great folksong tradition reflects the romance, the politics, and the exuberance of a nation; the lyrics encompass public as well as personal emotions; the songs are national but also international. Scotland's tradition is no exception, and in this concert we bring to you love-songs, songs of political pride, and songs of sheer mischief and hilarity.
But what gives Scots songs their distinct flavor and peculiar emotional power? A sense of space. The songs are 'open,' often evoking the great spaces of sea and hill, and the loneliness which is a mark of the Scot and the landscape he so often deserts to live elsewhere. At other times the spaciousness is evoked in a hilarious open-air dance like "The De'ils awa wi' th' exciseman" or a subtle love-dance like "Corn Rigs."
Perhaps it is the sense of space in the songs which always makes it a special pleasure to present them in arrangements for chorus and symphony orchestra. Normally the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Sinfonia of Los Angeles present great classical, romantic and modern works of the concert-hall repertoire, but here they devote their talents to an evening of folksongs in settings which are designed to underline the spaciousness and strength of the melodies.
Many of the songs need no introduction: "Loch Lomond" and "Auld Lang Syne" are known and loved world-wide - although it should be mentioned that the latter is presented here in its correct version as a fine nostalgic song about friendship and friends separated by the oceans. It should be noted, too, how many of the songs have lyrics by Robert Burns. Those who love folk-songs owe him a great debt as a collector of songs and old melodies, and as a poet of genius who could revive and renovate a fine old lyric without destroying its earthiness and simplicity. In most of the melodies, I have used the versions found in The Scots Musical Museum, (edited by Burns) an eighteenth-century Edinburgh publication.
Less well-known beyond Scotland, perhaps, are the dance-songs: fiddle tunes or pipe tunes which combine song and dance. "The De'il's Awa" is the most glorious, "the Piper O' Dundee" a close second. Satan, usually a grotesque comic figure in the Scottish tradition, comes dancing through the town and like a Pied Piper (or rather, a Pied Fiddler) dances away with the hated exciseman, the man who makes whiskey expensive. "Corn Rigs,” a man's song, describes, as a dance, the courting of the not unwilling Annie, until by the end of the song the title has a thousand meanings.
There are also love-songs, in many cases touched by war or political strife. Although it is nowhere stated by Burns in ''I'll aye ca' in by yon toun" that the lover is a soldier, there are strong resemblances to the soldier's song in "The Jolly Beggars." Whatever his profession, the careless jauntiness of the song seems to spring from the fact that he only calls on his girl from time to time, as duty allows. Similarly comic is the provocative woman's song "O Whistle" describing (somewhat over eagerly?) how she can be called out of her father's house, if love is promised. In more serious vein the finest of traditional Scottish love songs are represented by "Willie's fair," a tragic little ballad from the Vale of Yarrow in the high hills of The Borders, and "My love's in Germanie," a wonderful, intensely sad, melody which wanders over the whole range of the voice.
"The Bonnie Earl o' Moray" and "Will ye no' come back again" are songs arising out of particular civil strifes. The latter is a Jacobite song expressing fanatical devotion to Bonnie Prince Charlie, but it has become widely associated with more general nostalgia at the parting of friends. In "The Bonnie Earl o' Moray," I have not used the original melody, but the dark Victorian melody which has become more widely known. Moray was a popular romantic hero. The handsomest man of his time, his ill-fated love for Scotland's Danish Queen led to his murder, and the tragedy gave rise to this powerful lament.
Indeed the folk-talents of the nineteenth-century have not been neglected in this traditional program. Lady John Scott, writing in a folk-tradition, produced songs which were clearly touched by European and English Romanticism, and here we include the very fine "Annie Laurie." It seemed fitting in this program, too, to include "The Skye Boat Song" - a "folksong" by a known composer and orchestrated here to underline the romance and nostalgia connected with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the awful Scottish defect at Culloden.
The two most exceptional songs are by Burns: "John Anderson" and "The Winter of Life".  Love in old age is rare in folksongs, where the old are normally treated comically, but "John Anderson" is an old woman's love-song in which death is seen as love's welcome and dignified culmination. In "The Winter of Life" there is no love, but only a lament for the loss of, youth. The lyric staggers between conventional English and pungent Scots (a favorite device of Burns), and is set to an extraordinary melody, originally from India, peacefully mixing two-pulse and three-pulse measures

Track Name Listen
Loch Lomond 19890422-01.mp3
The Piper o' Dundee 19890422-02.mp3
Willie's Fair 19890422-03.mp3
Guest Performance (Bagpipes) 19890422-04.mp3
Comin' Thro' The Rye 19890422-05.mp3
Annie Laurie 19890422-06.mp3
Bonnie Dundee 19890422-07.mp3
Guest Performance (Jean Redpath) 19890422-08.mp3
John Anderson 19890422-09.mp3
The Winter of Life 19890422-10.mp3
Guest Performance (Fiddle) 19890422-11.mp3
Corn Rigs 19890422-12.mp3
My Luve's in Germanie 19890422-13.mp3
The De'il's Awa 19890422-14.mp3
The Bonnie Earl o'Morray 19890422-15.mp3
Guest Performance (Drums) 19890422-16.mp3
I'll Aye Ca' in By Yon Toun 19890422-17.mp3
O, Whistle An' I'll Come The Ye My Land 19890422-18.mp3
Guest Performance (Bagpipes) 19890422-19.mp3
The Skye Boat Song 19890422-20.mp3
Will Ye No' Come Back Again 19890422-21.mp3
Auld Lang Syne 19890422-22.mp3
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