Flora MacNeil,
Orain Floraidh: The
Songs of Flora MacNeil

(Temple Records, 2000)

Orain Floraidh: The Songs of Flora MacNeil is a collection of Gaelic songs sung by Flora MacNeil, a renowned Scottish vocalist with more than 50 years of performing under her belt. But it is also something more than a simple collection. Although the songs are traditional, they are also her songs. For some, she describes her personal remembrances of where or from whom she first heard the song. For others, she describes their origins in a manner which makes their connection to her apparent to the listener.

Even more so is the way MacNeil sings them. There is a cleanness of line, a simplicity to the sound of the songs which adds to their beauty. She lets the tone, the sound and the pace paint the mood for each.

She sings for the most part a capella. Where she does not, her daughter Maggie MacInnes joins her on harp and, in some cases, adds additional vocals as well.

A couple of the highlights on this CD are "Siuthadaibh a Mhnathan" ("O Women with Vigour"), a traditional waulking song on which MacInnes joins in on the chorus. They both have strong voices and the rhythmic pounding adds to the working beat of the song. Another is "Nach G˜rach mi Gad Chadoineadh" ("How Foolish of Me to Cry for You"), on which MacNeil's voice captures the mournfulness and sorrow of unrequited love in the lyrics, the sense of sadness for what could not be.

For the most part I found I liked how MacNeil sang the songs from the first time I heard them. The only song I had any problems with initially was the first track, "A Mhic Iain 'Ic Sheumais" ("Son of John, Son of James"). It was not so much that the song was not good, but I couldn't help but feel that as strong as her voice is, there needed to be more voices for this one. However, the more I listened to it, the more I appreciated the strength in MacNeil's voice on its own.

Having the lyrics in both Gaelic and English helps when it comes to listening to the CD. The lyrics are written side by side, line beside line, making it possible to follow the songs in the Gaelic and see what they mean in English. This in turn allows one to see how the songs are sung fits the mood and meaning of the lyrics.

Orain Floraidh is an enjoyable celebration of the music of the Gael. The songs are sung well and with heart. Take the time to taste these songs from long ago.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

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