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Flora MacNeil, MBE (6 October 1928 – 15 May 2015)was a Scottish Gaelic singer. Originally discovered by Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson during the early 1950s, she continued to perform into her later years.
Scottish Gaelic or Scots Gaelic, sometimes also referred to simply as Gaelic, is a Celtic language native to the Gaels of Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish. Most of modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language placenames.
Alan Lomax was an American ethnomusicologist, best known for his numerous field recordings of folk music of the 20th century. He was also a musician himself, as well as a folklorist, archivist, writer, scholar, political activist, oral historian, and film-maker. Lomax produced recordings, concerts, and radio shows in the US and in England, which played an important role in preserving folk music traditions in both countries, and helped start both the American and British folk revivals of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. He collected material first with his father, folklorist and collector John A. Lomax, and later alone and with others, Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song, of which he was the director, at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs.
Hamish Scott Henderson was a Scottish poet, songwriter, communist, soldier and intellectual.
MacNeil was born in 1928 on the island of Barra, one of Gaelic song's most important strongholds. There were singers on either side of her family, but this was a time when the menfolk were often away at sea for long periods, leaving the women to raise the children and tend the croft – singing all the while, to assuage their labours – and most of MacNeil's repertoire was passed on from her mother, Ann Gillies.
Barra is an island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and the second southernmost inhabited island there, after the adjacent island of Vatersay to which it is connected by a short causeway.
In these pre-television days (Flora's family did not even have a radio until the 1950s), ceilidhs with the neighbours were a regular occurrence in the MacNeil household, and from earliest childhood she remembers "soaking up" literally hundreds of songs, as if by osmosis.Clearly, the music was in her blood: by age four, famously, she was already tackling the sophisticated poetry of Mo Run Geal Og ("My Fair Young Love"), one of the greatest of the Orain Mor, or "Big Songs".
Like many others before her, MacNeil left Barra in 1947 to find work in Edinburgh. She found a public platform in the burgeoning round of ceilidhs and concerts that marked the first stirrings of the British folk revival. These brought her to the attention of Hamish Henderson, who recorded her singing as part of his 1950s collaboration with American musicologist Alan Lomax.
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.
The British folk revival incorporates a number of movements for the collection, preservation and performance of folk music in the United Kingdom and related territories and countries, which had origins as early as the 18th century. It is particularly associated with two movements, usually referred to as the first and second revivals, respectively in the late 19th to early 20th centuries and the mid-20th century. The first included increased interest in and study of traditional folk music, the second was a part of the birth of contemporary folk music. These had a profound impact on the development of British classical music and in the creation of a "national" or "pastoral school" and led to the creation of a sub-culture of folk clubs and folk festivals as well as influential subgenres including progressive folk music and British folk rock.
Henderson also invited MacNeil to perform at the 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh. The ceilidh, which brought Scottish traditional folk music to the public stage for the first time, took place in Edinburgh's Oddfellows Hall in August 1951. The Scottish Gàidhealtachd was represented at the Celidh by Flora MacNeil, Calum Johnston, and John Burgess. The music was recorded live at the scene by Alan Lomax.In 2005, Lomax's recording was released on compact disc by Rounder Records. Until 1954, the Edinburgh Festival Ceilidhs were an annual event. Eventually, however, the affiliation of some board members with the Communist Party of Great Britain caused the events to lose the backing of the city's trade unions.
The Gàidhealtachd usually refers to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and especially the Scottish Gaelic-speaking culture of the area. The corresponding Irish word Gaeltacht refers strictly to Irish-speaking areas.
Rounder Records is an American record label specializing in folk, bluegrass, blues, and other forms of American roots music. Its roster includes Alison Krauss and Union Station, Béla Fleck, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and Steep Canyon Rangers. Rounder's musicians have won over 40 Grammy Awards since the label's inception in 1970. The company also maintains book and video divisions.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was the largest communist party in Great Britain, although it never became a mass party like those in France and Italy. It existed from 1920 to 1991.
MacNeil also recorded two albums, Craobh nan Ubhal in 1976 (reissued in 1993) and Orain Floraidh in 2000.
She died after a short illness on 15 May 2015, aged 86.
Flora's daughter, Maggie MacInnes, is a Gaelic singer and harpist.
Scottish folk music is music that uses forms that are identified as part of the Scottish musical tradition. There is evidence that there was a flourishing culture of popular music in Scotland during the late Middle Ages, but the only song with a melody to survive from this period is the "Pleugh Song". After the Reformation, the secular popular tradition of music continued, despite attempts by the Kirk, particularly in the Lowlands, to suppress dancing and events like penny weddings. The first clear reference to the use of the Highland bagpipes mentions their use at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547. The Highlands in the early seventeenth century saw the development of piping families including the MacCrimmons, MacArthurs, MacGregors and the Mackays of Gairloch. There is also evidence of adoption of the fiddle in the Highlands. Well-known musicians included the fiddler Pattie Birnie and the piper Habbie Simpson. This tradition continued into the nineteenth century, with major figures such as the fiddlers Neil and his son Nathaniel Gow. There is evidence of ballads from this period. Some may date back to the late Medieval era and deal with events and people that can be traced back as far as the thirteenth century. They remained an oral tradition until they were collected as folk songs in the eighteenth century.
A cèilidh or céilí is a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering. In its most basic form, it simply means a social visit. In contemporary usage, it usually involves dancing and playing Gaelic folk music, either at a house party or a larger concert at a social hall or other community gathering place.
Jeannie Robertson was a Scottish folk singer.
Mary Jane Lamond is a Canadian Celtic folk musician who performs traditional Canadian Gaelic folk songs from Cape Breton Island. Her music combines traditional and contemporary material. Lamond is known as the vocalist on Ashley MacIsaac's 1995 hit single "Sleepy Maggie", and for her solo Top 40 hit "Horo Ghoid thu Nighean", the first single from her 1997 album Suas e!. Her 2012 collaboration with fiddler Wendy MacIsaac, Seinn, was named one of the top 10 folk and americana albums of 2012 by National Public Radio in the United States.
Catherine-Ann MacPhee is a Scottish Gaelic singer.
Anne Lorne Gillies is a singer, writer and Gaelic activist. She is a classically trained musician and a professional singer/songwriter. She was born in Stirling in 1944, and raised on a croft in Argyll from the age of five.
Ceilidh Culture is an annual festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland which incorporates folk music, song, dance and storytelling. There is currently a month-long programme of events which take place around Easter time. The current format first took place in 2003, although Edinburgh has had a festival with traditional ceilidh music also involving all the traditional arts since 1951.
The Scots Trad Music Awards celebrate Scotland's traditional music in all its forms and create a high profile opportunity to bring the music and music industry into the spotlight of media and public attention.
Calum Iain Maclean, was a Scottish folklorist, collector, ethnographer and author.
Dr John Lorne Campbell FRSE LLD OBE (1906–1996) was a Scottish historian, farmer, environmentalist and folklore scholar.
The Bonnie House of Airlie is a traditional Scottish folk song of the seventeenth century, telling the tale of the raid by Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, on Airlie Castle, the home of James Ogilvy, Earl of Airlie, in the summer of 1640. A broadsheet version first appeared in 1790 and it received formal publication as number 199 in Francis Child's collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads of 1882.
Fiona J Mackenzie is a Gaelic singer from Dingwall in Scotland, and has toured and performed throughout Europe and North America. In 2005 she won the An Comunn Gàidhealach Gold Medal at the Royal National Mod in Stornoway.
"Brochan Lom" is a Scottish Gaelic nonsense song about porridge. The tune is popular and appears frequently at Scottish country dances and ceilidhs. It falls into the category of "mouth music", used to create music for dancing in the absence of instruments. It is a strathspey song and is commonly sung or played for the Highland Schottische, and for the Highland Fling.
The School of Scottish Studies was founded in 1951 by Professor William Lindsay Renwick and is affiliated to the University of Edinburgh. It holds an archive of over 9000 field recordings of traditional music, song and other lore, housed in George Square, Edinburgh. The collection was begun by Calum Maclean - brother of the poet, Sorley MacLean - and the poet, writer and folklorist, Hamish Henderson, both of whom collaborated with American folklorist Alan Lomax, who is credited as being a catalyst and inspiration for the work of the school.
Maggie MacInnes is a Scottish folk singer and clàrsach player, who performs primarily in Scottish Gaelic. She is the daughter of folk singer Flora MacNeil.
For the English author, see Sheila Stewart (author)
Mary MacPherson was a Scottish Gaelic poet from the Isle of Skye, whose work focused on the Highland Clearances and the land struggle. Although she could read her own work when written she could not write it in Gaelic. She retained her songs and poems in her memory until others wrote them down for publication. She often referred to herself as Màiri Nighean Iain Bhàin, the name by which she would have been known in the Skye of her childhood.
Anna "Annie" Arnott (1887-1978) was a Scottish singer who sang in Scottish Gaelic in the puirt à beul style.
Dr Kenna Campbell MBE is a Scottish singer, teacher, tradition bearer and advocate for Gaelic language, culture and song.