Joanne MacIntyre releases CD, Craobh a' Mhathain
Mabou Mines singer and Gaelic teacher Joanne (Rankin) MacIntyre has a wonderful new CD of Gaelic songs that has just been released.
Joanne is a younger sister to Rita and Mary Rankin, two other well-known Gaelic singers in Cape Breton, and it’s great to see the depth of the tradition evident as she follows in their footsteps with her own release.
With such a wealth of tradition from her own family and from her sources through her study of Celtic and Gaelic culture, it is worth noting how Joanne came to choose material for her debut release.
“Most of the songs chosen for this recording were due to their connection to Inverness County,” MacIntyre told The Oran last week. I tried to stay true to audio recordings I heard from other native speakers or tradition bearers,” MacIntyre added.
Except for some piping from Mabou Mines neighbour Kenneth MacKenzie, there is very little accompaniment to the singing, something that MacIntyre consciously chose to do.
“Gaelic songs were a part of the lives of the Gaels: in working the fields, milling the cloth, sailing, mourning and celebration. As such, they were typically sung unaccompanied, as I heard them in my childhood. The language of the poetry is composed in a manner which creates rhythms and percussive elements within the songs,” MacIntyre writes in the liner notes.
MacIntyre said she heard some of the songs from her father and from his cassette collection of songs while she was growing up. Other songs common to Inverness County were sourced through her repertoire or from websites such as www.gaelstorm.stfx.ca, www.androchaid.ca or from other collections.
You’ll find beautiful melodies here and wonderful singing – songs about going to sea, songs of love and affection and songs lamenting the missing of friends and places close to the heart, such as Alexander the Ridge MacDonald’s longing for Mabou from his new home on the mainland of Nova Scotia. You’ll also hear songs from and known to Lauchie MacLellan and songs carried by oral tradition to the New World from Scotland. Michael MacDonald’s Fair Is the Place, believed to be the first Gaelic song composed in Cape Breton about 1775, is also part of the collection.
On some of the cuts Joanne is joined by her children and other family members.
“We had a really great day at the Highland Village in Iona, and I was very pleased so many of my family and great friends were able to come together for a day of recording,” said Joanne who noted that it is a day she will cherish for the rest of her life.
MacIntyre credited the Celtic Colours Drive ’ers Association and to Lakewind Studios for their support of the project. Each year the volunteer association contributes funding for studio time to a Cape Breton artist, and last year Joanne was chosen to receive their award.
Craobh a’ Mhathain opens with a Gaelic story from Joanne’s aunt Katie Margaret which recalls how her great-grandfather, John Rankin, was out in the woods trying to retrieve his cattle when he was wounded by a bear. He later died from those injuries, leaving behind a wife and a very large family.
The story is a vivid reminder of the challenges facing the new immigrants to Cape Breton and the strength, tenacity and sacrifices made by the early pioneers as they worked to make a better life for their children and grandchildren.
Craobh a’ Mhathain was recorded by Joanne over the past year at Lakewind Sound and at the Highland Village in Iona with engineer Mike Shepherd. Shepherd also did the graphic design for the recording which also features cover art by Joanne’s husband Jamie MacIntyre and CD art/etching by Joanne’s niece, Sarah Rankin.
While the CD is full of thank-yous from Joanne, she wanted to make special mention to Effie Rankin for her contributions on translations and transcriptions for the songs.
That such care was put into creating a beautiful and informative booklet with the lyrics and stories behind the songs is a great credit to MacIntyre and her collaborators. It’s also very helpful to the many people who may not have the Gaelic language skills but who nevertheless are very interested in the history of the songs and the context from which they came.
CDs are now available at several locations locally including Aisling Gallery in Mabou, the Mabou Freshmart, Bear Paw Gifts in Inverness, Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique and The Blue Heron in Baddeck.
Join Joanne, family and friends for a CD launch event at An Drochaid in Mabou on Friday, December 6th at 7:30 p.m.
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