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Francis George SCOTT (1880-1958)
Moonstruck – The Songs of F G Scott
1. Milkwort and Bog-cotton [2.32]; 2. Crowdiknowe [1.36]; 3. Moonstruck [2.37]; 4. The Eemis Stane [2.03]; 5. The Sauchs in the Reuch Heuch Hauch [1.12]; 6. Ay Waukin, O [3.52]; 7. Amang the Trees [1.26]; 8. The Discreet Hint [1.36]; 9. Je descendis dans mon jardin [2.22]; 10. Florine [1.46]; 11. Lourd on my hert [1.22]; 12. The Watergaw [2.26]; 13. Country Life [1.14]; 14. Wheesht, Wheest [1.31]; 15. O, wha my babie-clouts will buy? [2.04]; 16. My wife's a wanton we thing [1.33]; 17. The Inumerable Christ [3.06]; 18. I wha aince in Heavens' Heicht [1.24]; 19. An Apprentice Angel [2.08]; 20. Hungry Waters [1.49]; 21. Te Deil o'Bogie [2.48]; 22. To a Lady [2.32]; 23. Cupid and Venus [2.33]; 24. The Old Fisherman [2.24]; 25. Im Tiroler Wirsthaus [1.02]; 26. In Time of Tumult [2.05]; 27. The Man in the Moon [2.07]; 28. First Love [1.46]; 29. Empty Vessel [1.13]; 30. The Wren's Nest [1.09]; 31. Love of Alba [1.53]; 32. The Wee Man [1.10];
Total running time: [62.26]
Lisa Milne (soprano)
Roderick Williams (baritone)
Iain Burnside (piano)
rec. The Warehouse, London 13-14 March, 15-16 July 2006. DDD


A kenspeckle individual amongst the predominantly literary figures who powered the revival in the Scottish Arts in the early years of the 20th Century, Francis George Scott, Border schoolmaster and composer, attracted little enough attention among the general public in Scotland. This was partly due to his setting, to his own melodies, the verses of Scotland’s national Bard, Robert Burns whose own melodies, known the world over, had accrued to themselves the stamp of a tradition. Scott and Burns shared the same birthday, 25 January.

Scott’s orchestral works - the Renaissance Overture, and a ballet on Dunbar’s The Seven Deidly Sinnis’ – have been studiously ignored. His The Ballad of Kynd Kyttock for voice and orchestra written in 1934 has only been heard once - in St Andrews in November 2001 (see BMS Newsletter 89, March 2001, p.116).

Understandably reluctant, as a family man, to exchange the security of a profession for the vagaries of an artist’s life he pursued his musical interests by taking an external Mus. Bac. at Durham, and confined himself to writing songs. The early songs, although to unusual texts - such as O’Sullivan, Wilde and even Stacpoole - give little hint of the later originality of Scott’s music. There is a sense of ‘prophet in his own country’ here which Cedric Thorpe Davie once translated as “Him, a famous musician? Away – I kent his faither.’

In 1922 Bayley and Ferguson, the Glasgow publishers, issued two books of Scottish Lyrics (at the composer’s expense). Of these first seventeen songs, twelve are to words of Burns. Few can have been prepared for the raucous cascade of octaves that opened the first of these songs ‘The Carles of Dysart’; nor could one have anticipated the rich harmonic texture of ‘Mary Morrison’ or the masterly ‘Ay waukin’ O’.

In that same year 1922 Scott chanced upon a lyric, in The Scottish Chapbook entitled ‘The Watergaw’ under the name of Hugh MacDiarmid. This poem was just what the composer was looking for, and he at once set about contacting the poet – who, it turned out was the Montrose editor of the publication, fiercely nationalist whose slogan was “Not traditions – Precedents!” More surprises were to come – for when they met Scott discovered that the pseudonym Hugh MacDiarmid concealed one Christopher Murray Grieve, Scott’s erstwhile pupil in the English class at Langholm! This poem, MacDiarmid’s first in the vernacular, (lallans) proved a catalyst in Scott’s expression and of the twelve songs in the third volume to be published, seven were settings of MacDiarmid. The fourth volume appeared in 1936, the fifth and final in 1939 – and a separate collection of seven followed in 1946. The Saltire Society published a subscription volume of thirty-five songs in 1949 and the enterprising Roberton published a memorial volume of forty-one songs in 1980 - all previously published.

The present CD is doubly welcome – tho’ it is only half the story! I relish here favourites such as ‘Milkwort and Bog Cotton’ (probably his masterpiece), The Sauchs in the Reuch Heuch Hauch (who but a Scot like Lisa Milne could get their vocal chords round this!), Florine (perhaps his nearest approach to his English colleagues), Lourd on my hert (with its first seven bars of pipe music, and the wonderful anticlimax “It’s juist mair Snaw!”), The Watergaw, (with the hint of ‘Clair de Lune’) and the awe-inspiring The Innumerable Christ.

There’s so much more! There must be another disc at least, to give us ‘Reid E’en’, ‘The Kerry Shore’, ‘There’s News lasses News’ ‘Wee Willy Gray’ and above all ‘Since all thy vows false maid’ and the inscrutable ‘Scroggam’! You cannot compare these songs with anyone – they are unique.

Ronald Stevenson, always a keen advocate of FG, transcribed eight of the songs for piano solo. These virtuoso pieces were published by Roberton in 2004 – the titles are: Since all thy vows false maid are lown to air; Wha is that at my bower door; O were my love yon lilac fair; Wee Willie Gray; Milkwort and Bogcotton; Crowdieknowe; Ay waukin O; and There’s News Lasses, News.

This Signum disc is probably the finest account of FG’s songs that I have heard. Roderick Williams, despite his north London origins, grasps the vernacular with rare gusto and Burnside – not merely accompanist but a true partner - handles the rhythmic intricacies with total mastery … in addition to providing perceptive notes on the music! This is a Must!

Colin Scott-Sutherland



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