Day 78: Kellyburn Braes ROCKS!

HaydnCD78Today’s CD of Scottish Songs for William Napier (V of, hopefully, V) got off to a rousing start with tenor Jamie MacDougall belting out a bold and lively version of “My goddess woman” (Track 1). It’s a brash ode to a lass the protagonist deems, well, a goddess.

Track 2 (“Bid me not forget”) is given to soprano Lorna Anderson. And it’s not among my favorites.

Track 3 (“Ae fond kiss”) is another MacDougall song. Not a catchy melody. Music forgettable.

Track 4 (“Kelly-burn braes”) is a Huh? song. The melody is familiar. I’ve heard this before. But the lyrics…what do they mean? For that answer, I once again turn to the wonderful web site The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive created and maintained by Emily Ezust.

Here are the lyrics to this fetching, instantly FAVORITE, song: Continue reading

Day 77: Disappointment

HaydnCD77The songs on today’s CD – Scottish Songs for William Napier IV – are all okay. None jump out at me.

However, it’s entirely possible that I’m hearing these songs differently because I’m in an emotional funk.

Last night, I discovered that a major film company aired a movie last week with the exact same title and subject matter as a script I had written three years previously. Of course, it’s possible that the uncanny similarities are a coincidence. But now I don’t know what to do. Write off the script as a loss? Re-title it and try again? Pursue legal action?

No matter how I slice it, this turn of events has affected my listening experience this morning, which is an interesting observation. I’ll have to revisit this CD some day, under different emotional circumstances, to see if it sounds better to me.

I did note something regarding today’s folk songs: tenor Jamie MacDougall’s performances out-shined those of soprano Lorna Anderson. For the past few CDs it’s been the other way around. Something about their voices in the selections today flipped that for me.

Haydn CD 77 features Continue reading

Day 76: Of Ghosts and Miracles

HaydnCD76My first destination this morning was the new Tim Horton’s near our home. I went in, sat down, remarked to myself how much fun it’ll be to listen and write from a different location (not to mention eat different food and drink different coffee).

Then, I thought, “I’d better check to see if their Wi-Fi works before I order.” I set up my laptop, searched for a signal…

And found none.

I asked the gal behind the counter if they have  Wi-Fi (since their signs indicate they do). She told me Wi-Fi wasn’t available yet.

So I packed up and left.

I’m back at Panera Bread.

But that’s okay. It’s good coffee and good food and – like Cheers – everybody knows my name.

As I listen to Haydn’s Scottish Songs for William Napier III, I gaze out the window to witness yet another blizzard. I observe the people around me (including the very animated lady ahead at a table on the left chatting about her latest Bible study) reading, eating, laughing.

A minute ago, a friend sent me the URL to this WestJet Christmas Miracle video, which I watched, tears streaming down my face.

This line was especially meaningful to me:

“A WestJetter would say it was more than mere fun. Miracles do happen when we all work as one.”


There’s a tie-in between the WestJet stunt and today’s CD of folk songs written for William Napier. Continue reading

Day 75: Half Way!

HaydnCD75Today marks the half-way point in my exploration of the music of Joseph Haydn.

Tempus fugit, eh?

The songs on Haydn CD 75 are a continuation of the ones on CD 74: Scottish Songs for William Napier. Only difference is today’s CD is titled Scottish Songs for William Napier II.

The story of what Haydn did for Mr. Napier is quite extraordinary. I wrote about it yesterday. Take a look when you get a chance.

There are 33 tracks on today’s CD. But the total running time is only about 63 minutes. I’m not math whiz. But when I cipher that ratio is comes out to less than 2 minutes per song.

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 7.37.47 AMTrack 1 (“Duncan Davison”), for example. At just over one minute, it’s a wee song. But a fun, bouncy way to start the CD.

“They call him Duncan Davison,” sings tenor Jamie MacDougall in a Scottish brogue so heavy you’d swear he was wearing the traditional belted plaid during his performance.

Track 2 (“Be kind to the young thing”) is another MacDougall performance, thought not as jaunty or fun.

Track 3 (“Had awa frae me, Donald”), performed by soprano Lorna Anderson, is one of the best tracks on this or any previous Scottish Songs For [fill in the blank] CD. Her voice is lilting, and poignant, and wistful all at once. So very, very pretty. This could be Anderson’s finest moment in these Scottish song CDs. Favorite!

I’m going to see what these lyrics are, what they mean. “Had awa frae me” means nothing to me at t his point, although I have an idea. To learn more, I Continue reading

Day 74: Haydn Saves the Day

HaydnCD74Today’s Haydn CD – number 74 out of 150 – changes direction again, slightly. Instead of Scottish Songs for George Thomson or William Whyte, it’s Scottish Songs for William Napier.

Once again, I turn to Google to put “William Napier” in historical context. Who was he?

According to a product listing on the AllMusic web site, William Napier was a Scottish publisher who had fallen on hard times. Haydn saved him. Here’s the story:

The first of the three volumes of 50 settings each for Napier was partly motivated by charity on Haydn’s part, as in 1791, Napier was forced into bankruptcy and looking at serving some time in debtor’s prison; for a man with 12 kids, that must’ve seemed like a raw deal. Haydn spun out the first 100 settings heard here in typically short order, and Napier was saved; a further 50 were published in 1795. Setting Scots’ popular melodies turned out to be something of a cottage industry for Haydn in his last years, as overall he produced 400 such settings for various publishing houses. It proved highly profitable for Haydn, and as he was in failing health when the final commissions for yet more came around, he was able to delegate that work to students. All of these pieces, however, are presumed to have come from the master himself.

For a very busy, getting-on-in-years master like Haydn, I think it’s quite something that he took the time to dash off a bunch of songs to get Napier out of debtor’s prison.

Here’s another article about Haydn’s folk song arrangements, which includes the ones to which I’m listening today. This article, written by Andreas Friesenhagen, reveals Continue reading