CD A0151: The Quiet Tradition

The Quiet Tradition by Alison Kinnaird and Christine Primrose

CD Cover: The Quiet Tradition by Alison Kinnaird and Christine PrimroseAlison Kinnaird and Christine Primrose are already well-known as outstanding solo performers in their respective fields of traditional Gaelic song and Scottish harp. Christines beautiful voice with its effortless traditional style is accompanied by Alisons sensitive harp playing in a way which does not detract from the character of the singing, but supports it and adds an extra dimension to the music. Their repertoire includes love songs, laments and descriptive pieces, as well as lively dance music.

Alison adds her own voice to some of the songs sung in chorus. Their performances have won acclaim in Scotland and abroad. They have been invited to sing and play in the United States, Canada and Europe, and also teach their art in lectures and workshops on many occasions.

THE SCOTSMAN - ... Another disc which should bring enjoyment to Gaels and non-Gaels alike.

TAPLAS - ... Its one to treasure for ever.

Buy this album now    CD: £11.50 + p&p   

Track Listing & Audio Samples

1 Oran Do Mhac Leoid Dhun Bheagain (Song to MacLeod of Dunvegan)
2 O'n Chuir Mo Leannan Culaibh Rium (Since My Darling Turned From Me)
/ Do Chrochadh A Thoill Thu (You Deserve To Be Hanged)
3 Da Mihi Manum (Give Me Your Hand)
4 Tha Mi Fo Churam (I Am Full of Care)
5 Cailleach An Dudain (The Old Woman Of The Mill-Dust)
6 O S Toil S Gu Ro Thoil Leam (O I Like, I Do Like)
7 Cumha Crann Nan Teud (The Lament For The Harp Key)
8 Tha Thide Agam Eirigh (It Is Time For The Harp Key)
9 The Crags of Ailsa / Staffas Shore
10 An Smeorach (The Thrush) / The Song-Thrush / The Mistle-Thrush
11 Tha Na H-Uain Air An Tulaich (The Lambs Are On The Hillock)
12 Port Lennox
13 Bean Mhic A Mhaoir (The Wife Of The Bailiffs Son)
14 Sneachd Heisgeir (The Snows Of Heiskeir) / Sleepy Maggie
15 Mo Ghaol Oigfhear (My Dear Young Man)


CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes


1. Oran Do Mhac Leoid Dhuun Bheagain(song to Macleod of Dunvegan)
One of the great songs in the bardic tradition, composed after the death of Ian Breac MacLead in 1693,by the most famous Highland harper, Ruaidhri Dall Morison,the blind harper. He was harper to the Clan MacLeod at Dunvegan in Skye where he served the chief, Iain Breac. In the song he begins by lamenting the passing of the days of the old chief, who was one of the last great patrons of the Gaelic bardic arts; how the castle is now empty and cold where before it welcomed song and poetry. Twenty-eight verses of the song survive-we have chosen two which describe first the playing of the pipes to rouse the household and, in the following verse, the calming effect of swift fingers on the strings of the harp. The harper ends with an exhortation to Ruaidhri, the young chief, not to leave the house of his father without music. Christine learned the song from Rev. William Matheson. It has survived in the unbroken tradition for the past 300 years. Christine's style of singing is typical of Carloway in Lewis, only a few miles from where the Blind Harper himself was born -so this is probably the most direct link we can still have with the music of Ruaidhri Dall.

2. O'N Chir Mo Leannan Culaibh Rium/Do Chrochadh A Thu (Since My darling Tuned from Me/You Deserve To Hang)
Two unaccompanied puirt-a-beul, or mouth music. The first says that since her boyfriend ignored her, she certainly won't be going to the dance with him!
A version of the second, which has rather unusual timing, was collected in South Uist from Mrs. John Currie of North Glendale by Margaret Fay Shaw. It tells a nonsense story of Mairi who broke a dish and stole the milk. Christine and Alison both sing the bass line!

3. Da Mihi Manum(Give Me Your Hand)
This tune is also found in Ireland under the title 'Give Me Your Hand'(Thoir Dhomh do Lamh). It is said to have been composed by the Irish harper, Ruairi Dall O Cathain, who lived in Scotland for most of his life between c.1600 and c. 1650, The story goes that he took offence at the off-hand reception which he was given at the home of lady Eglinton in Ayrshire. When she was told of his high standing as a harper she hastened to make amends, whereupon he relented and composed this tune for her. However, it seems more likely that it was composed by Ruairi O Cathain on the occasion of the visit of James VI to the Earl of Eglinton's home near Glasgow in 1617. This sealed a reconciliation between the monarch and the Earl, whose title had been disputed by King James until 1615.This slightly unusual version of the melody came from one of the earliest Scottish printed collections, Oswald's 'Caledonian Pocket Companion' c.1750.

4.Tha Mi Fo Churam (I am full of care)
This song was composed during the last century by Peigi Nighean Eoin Mhic Mhaol Chaluim-Maol Calum was Maol  Calum Maclnnes of Leitir Fura in Sleat, Isle of Skye. (Leitir Fura is one of the many places where today nothing is left except ruins in the once populated area). His son went to Aird, Sleat and Peigi composed this song for her lover Tormod MacNeacail, fear og Sgorabreac, by whom she had a son. She says that she will follow him anywhere, without possessions, without gold, without learning. Christine learned this song from Christine Shaw, Isle of Harris.

5.Cailleach An Dudain (The Woman Of the Mill-Dust)
This tune was used for one of the very old dances of the Hebrides, the origins of which may go back to pagan times. The words sung by Christine were collected by Alexander Carmichael. Various versions of the melody exist, and it is commonly played on the pipes today. It also appears in the Angus Fraser manuscript as 'Cailleach an Durdan' (The Old Woman of the Humming), which may be the original title- perhaps even a metaphor for the bagpipes.

6. O 'S Toil 'S Gu Ro Thoil Leam (O I Like, I Do Like)
Women often sang men's love songs during a waulking - the fulling of tweed, when the cloth would be rhythmically beaten on a board to the accompaniment of their singing. We don't know who composed this song or the circumstances behind it, although it contains a lot of personal detail.

O I Like, I do like, O I like you girl
Take my greetings to Dunvegan of the chanters and the pipes
These other greetings across from me to the merchants of Leith

To the boys in Harris, and to the piper Alasdair
To Milady's page, although his were the words that convicted me
Like the curly-haired woman, although I didn't get her for my own
Like her of the yellow hair, who climbs the hill

(Published in a book of Orain Luaidh (Waulking Songs) by the Harris Tweed Association)

7. Cumha Crann Nan Teud (The Lament For The Harp Key)
This is Alison's version, with three of her own variations, of a great tune common to the repertoire of the harp and pipes. (She recorded Francis Collinson's arr of the same melody in 1978.) A version of this tune is known to have been played by the Blind Harper at a hunting party around the end of the 17th century. The piobaireachd version of the tune uses the title 'Cumha Craobh Nan Teud' (The Lament for the Tree of Strings) but it seems likely that the word 'Craobh' which simply translates as 'Tree' has been substituted for the word 'Crann' which indeed means Tree (with all the underlying symbolism that that implies) but has also many other meanings, among them 'plough', the 'mast of a ship' a 'harp key' and in poetic verse as a phallic symbol. It is a truly majestic tune which Alison chooses to interpret as a lament for a dying tradition for bardic harp music.

8. Tha Thide Agam Eirigh (It Is Time For Me To Rise)
A particularly poignant song, combining love-song and lament, this is one of the very few narrative songs in the Gaelic language. Christine does not know who composed it, but this version is associated with the island of Lewis. It was recorded there by the School of Scottish Studies from the singing of Angus Kenneth Maclver.

'When I came to the homestead the house was not as it ought to be: my smooth, bright, brown-haired girl lying in the chamber, lying beneath the window where I could not hear her talk; lying on a board in her shroud, still and cold.

Thou who did shape the words, keep me from going mad, keep me from losing my reason-and let not me endure more.'

9. The Crags or Ailsa/Staffa's shore
These two tunes appear in John Bowie's collection of music published in 1789. In this book they are both simply called ‘Air by Fingal' so Alison gave her arrangements of the melodies suitable names to distinguish one from the other. Bowie's ascription to the tunes reads 'The following pieces of Ancient music were furnished to the Editor by a Gentleman of Note in the Highlands of Scotland, were composed originally for the harp and which were handed down to him by his Ancestors who learned the same of the famous Rory Daul, a celebrated Harper in the Reign of Queen Ann - These tunes are called in our language Ports, and were composed either for Religious Worship or on Heroic Subjects'.
The second tune is rather reminiscent of Mendelssohn's 'Fingal's Cave'- perhaps he was familiar with this melody which was certainly published by the time he visited Scotland.

10. An Smeorach (The Thrush)/The song -Thrush/The Mistle -Thrush
This little chant imitating the song of the thrush was recoded from Calum Johnston of Barra in the 1950's. Alison made up the two tunes after it-the first follows the notes of the Song-Thrush, which repeats each musical motif twice. The second is called after the Mistle Thrush, sometimes known as the Storm-Cock because it is known to sing as a harbinger of bad weather.                  

11. Tha Na H-Uain Air An Tulaich (The Lambs Are On The Hiloch)
This is a version of the Irish song 'The Lambs on the Green Hill'. It was translated into Scottish Gaelic by John Alick MacPherson, and Christine has adapted it so that it tells the story from the girl's point of view. It is the sad tale of how she watched her love getting married to someone else. Her pain is so great that she just wishes to be buried beneath the green grass- that being the only respite from her anguish. This motif is often used in Gaelic song composition.

12. Port Lennox
A particular type of harp tune known as a 'port' existed in the 17th century and has survived in the lute manuscripts of that period. Some of them are associated with the Irish harper Ruairi O Cathain, but there appear to be many more 'Ports' than are likely to have been composed by a single harper. Many of them have titles which are linked with the Atholl area of Perthshire, or with the Robertson family of Lude, who were great patrons of the harpers. This version of the melody is found in the Skene manuscript for fiddle or Lowland pipes, written around 1720.

13. Bean Mhic A' Mhaoir (The Wife Of The Bailiff's Son)
This song was collected by Frances Tolmie on Skye and is one of many versions of the classic ballad of the two sisters. It is supposedly sung by the younger girl who was found sleeping on the seashore by her jealous elder sister, who plaited her hair to the seaweed and left her to drown in the rising tide. We had no tune for the middle section so Christine composed the melody for the verse which links the two parts of the song, singing as she sinks below the ripples of harp music.

14. Sneachd Heisgeir(The Snows of Heiskeir)/Sleepy Maggie
Christine and Alison have performed in schools in Uist and Lewis on a number of occasions. A couple of years ago a tremendous gale caused all the schools to close just as Alison flew into Benbcula. (Christine was stormbound in Skye.) With twenty-four hours before the next flight out, Alison settled down in Mrs Sheperd's comfortable guesthouse, 'Heiskeir' to pass the time learning some new tunes. While working on 'Sleepy Maggie' she found that a slow version of the tune was taking shape, in time with the gusts of sleet and hail on the window - the origins of the first tune 'The Snows Of Heiskeir'.  'Sleepy Maggie' is well known as a dance tune in Scotland and Ireland. This version comes from James Oswald's 'The Caledonian Pocket Companion' published between 1745 and 1759.

15. Mo Ghaol Oigfhear (My Dear Young Man)
This song is said to have been composed some time at the end of the last century by Marion Gillies from Hiort, one of the group of St Kida Islands. These are the most westerly and isolated of the Scottish islands and were eventually evacuated in the 1930's. In the song she tells of her feelings for the young Laird of Islay. An Tighearna Ileach, with whom she had fallen in love when she visited Hiort. In those days it was unheard of for one of her class to become involved with somebody of noble birth but she cares nothing for those who gossip and spread scandalous lies - she would rather listen to his tender words.


All tracks  produced by Robin Morton
Recorded at Temple Record Studio, Scotland
Sleeve Design Graham Ogilve
Photograph Dave Harrold


Album Information

Instruments:    Harp and Voice
Genre: Scottish / Gaelic Traditional
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0151
Label: Temple Records
Year: 1990
Origin: Switzerland

Alison Kinnaird Artist Information & Contact Details

It is perhaps true that, over the years, Scottish harping and Gaelic song have been paid less attention than bagpipe or fiddle, but in recent times they have been quietly claiming the recognition that they deserve.

It was previous recordings made by Alison Kinnaird and Christine Primrose which first opened people's eyes and ears to these, largely ignored, traditions.

Photograph of Alison KinnairdAlison Kinnaird comes from Edinburgh and studied cello from the age of seven, and then Scottish harp music with Jean Campbell from the age of fourteen. She studied Archaeology and Celtic studies at Edinburgh University, and at that time began to take an interest in establishing a repertoire of traditional melodies which had been composed for the Scottish harp.
In 1978 Alison produced 'The Harp Key' (Temple Records SHOOI). This was the first record of Scottish harp music and was the result of much research into the old manuscripts and collections. It remained the only album exploring this hidden tradition until 1980, when Alison produced her second record 'The Harper's Gallery' (Temple Records TPOO3) and further enhanced her position in the field of Scottish music. In 1982, she met with Ann Heymann, the great player of the wire-strung harp. A mutual admiration of each other's approach and music resulted in a duo album by 1983. 'The Harper's Land' (Temple Records TPOI2), This for the first time, brought together the different but complementary sounds of the wire-and gut-strung harps. It was not until some years later that other records of music played on the Scottish harp began to appear. Since then, many fine and interesting albums have been released, but still Alison's three records form a definitive and essential part of any collection of Scottish Harp music.
Alison's style of harp-playing has developed from many years of listening to other fine singers and musicians, and now expresses the character of the Scottish harp and is music in a way which relates to the contemporary tradition. Hers is not a purely academic approach, but is committed to presenting the 'tune' to the listener in a way which brings out the essence of the melody, rather than using the music to display techniques inappropriate to the instrument and its repertoire.

Nancy Bick Clark And Frank Clark, July 1990

Contact Details Please use form on Alison's web site click here
Artist Web Site

Christine Primrose Artist Information & Contact Details

It is perhaps true that, over the years, Scottish harping and Gaelic song have been paid less attention than bagpipe or fiddle, but in recent times they have been quietly claiming the recognition that they deserve.

It was previous recordings made by Alison Kinnaird and Christine Primrose which first opened people's eyes and ears to these, largely ignored, traditions.

Photograph of Christine PrimroseChristine Primrose was born on the Isle of Lewis, spoke Gaelic as her first language, and has been singing since she was a child. Her beautiful voice and flawless traditional style have brought her recognition as one of the foremost Gaelic singers of today. Her first album produced in 1982 was 'Alte Mo Ghaoil' (Temple TPOO6), the forerunner of a new generation of recordings by young Gaelic singers. It broke through to an audience at home and abroad who had never before listened to Gaelic song, but found that, even though they did not understand the language, Christine's singing could touch their hearts and emotions. Since then she has toured the world and performed widely on radio and TV. Her second album 'S tu nam chuimhne' (Temple TPO24) was released in 1987 to critical acclaim.
Christine herself enjoys many different types of music, from rock to jazz, and her freshness of approach to the songs that she sings, while always remaining true to the tradition, makes them very much contemporary interpretations. Her examples gave other young singers the freedom to express themselves in an area which, with a few notable exceptions, had been dominated by an 'art-music' style of performance.

On this Christine and Alison perform some of the music which has brought pleasure to audiences throughout the world-music distilled through hundreds of years of Scottish tradition, till it achieves a purity and clarity which cuts through the barriers created by language or musical convention. A quiet tradition, at the same time contemporary and timeless.

Nancy Bick Clark And Frank Clark, July 1990
Contact Details Christine Primrose
Email Use message service on My Space
Artist Web Site

Also from Alison Kinnaird

Available from Creighton's Collection:
Sheet Music & Books
Tree of Strings The Small Harp Tutor The Harp Key North-East Collection The Lothian Collection  
Tree of Strings The Small Harp The Harp Key The North-East Collection The Lothian Collection  
Compact Discs
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The Harp Key The Silver String The Scottish Harp The Harper's Land The Quiet Tradition Harps. Pipes & Fiddles