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Carolina OLIPHANT (Lady Nairne) (1766-1895)
White Rose O' June -The songs of Carolina Oliphant (Lady Nairne)

The Auld Hoose; Chairlie is my darling; The Land o' the Leal; The County Meeting; White Rose o' June; The Banks o' the Earn; Wha'll be King but Chairlie; Caller Herrin'; The women are a' gaen wud; The Rowan Tree; The Pleughman; The attainted Scottish Nobles; The Laird o' Cockpen; The Lady Grange; Wi' a hunndred pipers an' a'; The Scottish Regalia; Bonny Gascon Ha'; The Fife Laird; Will ye no come back again?
Anne Lorne Gillies (vocals, keyboard)
Alistair McCulloch (violin, fiddle)
Marc Duff (recorder, cittern, bodhram)
Rhona MacKay (clarsach)
Gordon Cree (keyboards)
Stuart Forbes (flute, clarinet)
Lindsey McCulloch (cello)
Rick Standley (acoustic bass)
Duncan McColl (bagpipes, guitar, electric bass)

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The annals of Scottish folk music are rich in song - both lowland and highland (which latter must include the heritage of the Gael) - an infinite variety of melody.

I have no doubt that many of the songs on this disc will be well known to many listeners who yet, quite probably, have never heard of Lady Nairne (1766-1895). In fact the young poetess - emulating Burns' practice of writing lyrics to fit existing melodies - deliberately concealed her identity (later writing under the pseudonym BB, or Mrs Bogan of Bogan!) since it was then not thought proper for a well bred young lady to indulge in such things.

Born Carolina Oliphant of Gask in the county of Perthshire her beauty and grace earned her the soubriquet of "The Flower of Strathearn" and led to her marriage in 1806 to her cousin Major William Nairne, later elevated to the peerage. Carolina's mother's family, the Robertsons of Strowan (Struan), were loyal supporters of the Jacobite cause. This is expressed in many of her songs such as 'Wi’ a hundred pipers' and 'Wha'll be king but Chairlie' and the evocative 'Will ye no come back again'.

This brief background is much amplified in the expansive notes written by Dr Anne Lorne Gillies herself with an enthusiastic erudition that reveals this recording to be rather more than a simple account of the lyrics of Baroness Nairne. One can readily imagine the delight that the poetess might have shown had the instrumental and harmonic resources deployed here been available in her day. These are truly "nineteen highly individual tracks", whose treatment, pace the purist, is rich in its variety with the most subtle touches of instrumental colour. The setting of so many traditional and folk melodies presents problems of harmonisation that refuse to fit neatly into the conventions of quasi-classical procedures - but here, in the hands of an imaginative group of musicians, the result is quite ravishing.

From the simple sentiment of "The Auld Hoose" to the quasi-puirt-a-bheal of 'The women are a' gaen wud" - from the beautifully harmonised "The Rowan Tree" to the almost classical "Caller Herrin' " - from the exquisite "The Land o' the leal" (where the tune 'hey tutti tattie' is quite transformed from its usual 'Scots Wha' Hae' and accompanied so evocatively by Rhona MacKay on clarsach) to the cheery double-tonic dance measures of "The County Meeting" - there are gems. The "White Rose o' June" is certainly one: the limpid clarinet of Stuart Forbes in "The Banks O' the Earn" is another, surely recalling Schubert?

Above all however no voice is more suited to express the sheer beauty of these songs than that of Anne Lorne Gillies - and it may be sentimental - or perhaps a spirit of my own ancestry - that for me raises a lump in the throat. But this is music of universal appeal.

No texts are provided … at which some may cavil - yet Anne's voice is perfectly clear in the quieter moments - and in the quicker, then often the sense is in the rhythm! I recommend this disc for lifting the spirits

Colin Scott-Sutherland


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