Maggie Carchrie,
Songs the Mermaid Sang
(Mermaid, 1998)

Songs the Mermaid Sang is a collection of Gaelic songs from the tradition of Cape Breton and the Scottish Isles. Maggie Carchrie, from Cape Cod, found her way to Cape Breton and Scotland to study the language she loves. On this CD she sings many songs familiar to the Cape Breton ear.

With the sounds of the rushing waves, she sings the old language in words that speak of the sea. It is the sea that joins Cape Breton to the Hebrides and to her home, Cape Cod, and nothing pleases those of this heritage more than connections to family and home. The irony is that "Gael" once meant "a stranger."

The list of songs include "Oran na Maidhgean (Song of the Mermaid)," "Hi U Bhi Mairi Anna," "'S Ann an Ile," "Creag Ghuanach," "Morag a Dun Bheagan," "Mac-a-Phi," "Cha Bhi mi Buan," "'S Cruinn Donn Sgiobalta," "Am Bratach Bana," "Hooley in the Henhouse," "Oran do Ghille a Chaidh Bhathadh," "The Dark Island" and "Seallaibh Curaidh Eoghainn." Though the English and Gaelic translations do not accompany the CD, you can get them by writing to Mermaid Productions. In the liner notes are short explanations of the songs and a little bit of their history.

For instance, track 7 has an interesting note. "Mac-a-Phi" in its Gaelic form is about MacPhee who lives on Loch Feorain, but its American Appalachian rendition is a children's song called "Hop High Ladies." She sings both on the CD.

Cut 13 is puirt a beul, or mouth music. When there were no fiddles or pipes handy, those who could would hum a tune for dancers. The beauty of Gaelic songs are that they seldom need the adornment of music. The rhythm and beat of the words is very often enough to carry the song.

Carchrie sings "The Dark Island," an English version, with the same clear and melodic voice that you will hear throughout the entire CD. It's so clear, it would be a fine CD to have if you wanted to learn how to twist your tongue around these ancient words. This CD is a splendid piece of work in the traditional Scottish Gaelic style, and Maggie's voice is true to the tradition. I really liked it.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 16 November 2002

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