Tuesday, October 23 2012
Coisir Ghaidhlig Ile, Islay Gaelic Choir, was formed in 2005 as the successor to the Port Ellen Gaelic Choir. In January 2007 the choir re-started, after a two year break, under new conductor Iseabail Mactaggart, and has gone from strength to strength, currently with 36 members drawn from both Gaelic speakers and Gaelic learners in the Islay community. During this time the choir has won several trophies at the Royal National Mods.
On Thursday 11th October the Islay Gaelic Choir performed three new songs based on the poem "The Battle of Gruinart" by William Livingstone. These three original compositions were created by Clare Jordan especially for the Islay Gaelic Choir. The performance took place at the RSPB visitor centre at Loch Gruinart, only footsteps away from where the actual battle took place. Across the road is the memorial for the Battle of Gruinart
The Battle of Gruinart, or BlĂ r Thraigh Ghruineart in Gaelic, took place in 1598 between the MacDonalds of Islay and the MacLeans on Mull. As well as being a famous battle in itself, there are many powerful stories associated with the battle, several of which are recounted in Peggy Earl's booklet, Tales of Islay, and many of which are still resonant today. They include the three warnings Maclean ignored from a witch he consulted about his quest; his mocking of the Jura dwarf, the Dubh Sith, before the battle; the fate of Angus, the Arranach, the subject of Duncan Johnstone's famous song CĂ rn Air a'Mhonadh; and the events at Kilnave Chapel in the aftermath of the battle, when the surviving MacLeans, who had taken refuge in Kilnave, were locked in by the MacDonalds and burned. Continue reading.....
I was fortunate to be there on that rainy evening in October and I've created three videos, one from each individual song.The first song is titled Caomhnaibh BrĂ thair mo MhĂ thair - Spare my Mother's Brother and is sung by the male choir members. The second song is titled O Albainn Caoidh - Oh Scotland, Lament and is sung by all the members of the choir. The third song, titled Cumha Mhic 'ill' Leathain - Lament for MacLean, is sung by the female members of the choir.
Part 1 is an excerpt from the beginning of the poem, where the leader of the Macdonalds exhorts his men to fight for their clan's honour. It follows another section depicting a similar address to the MacLean forces. At the very end however, MacDonald asks his men to spare the life of Lachlan MĂ˛r, leader of the opposition, who is his mother's brother. In the end, Lachlan MĂ˛r is killed but not by the MacDonalds.
This song weaves together three separate sections of the poem: the apocalyptic battle scene; the killing of MacLean by the Jura dwarf, the Dubh Sith; and the aftermath of the battle, with a woman mourning MacLean's death and wanting to crucify the Dubh Sith. This is MacLean's former wet-nurse.
This song is based on the poem's conclusion, the section subtitled The Lament for MacLean.