Lyre Association of North America

Book Review: Songs of the Hebrides, Part I and Part II

Songs of the Hebrides, Part I and Part II, with lyre accompaniments by Beatrijs Gradenwitz

Reviewed by Sheila Johns, Quito, Ecuador

In the beginning of the 19th century, the folksongs of the Hebrides were collected and recorded by Marjory Kennedy Fraser and Kenneth Macleod. Piano accompaniments for the songs were composed by Marjory Kennedy. Until recently, three volumes of these unique and hauntingly beautiful songs have been available for purchase, although they are now only available through libraries or in private collections.

Beatrijs Gradenwitz has done an amazing deed to draw from these hard to find volumes and create lyre accompaniments from the original piano accompaniment scores. The accompaniments are not difficult and could be mastered by any intermediate player. Of necessity, the accompaniments span a wide tonal range, so certain instruments may be required to tune the lowest string down in some places, but there are soprano or alto range indications before each song. The simple melodies could be played by any melody instrument, such as lyre, flute, or even violin. For this reason, no words appear beneath the notation, however, a separate supplement for singers is included in both volumes with the full melodies and all of the words in both English and in the original Gaelic! The melodies to be sung differ occasionally a bit from the instrumental versions because of the rhythm of the words, but the accompaniments fit either the instrumental or the vocal melody line.

In Part One, we find eight selected songs from the original Volume I, and in Part Two, she offers us eight more selections, this time from the original Volume 2.

These Hebridean songs are a real treasure, and to have them available to play both melody and well arranged lyre accompaniments based on Marjory Kennedy’s classic piano accompaniments is a real gift to lyrists worldwide. If you are not familiar with songs from the Hebrides, you are in for a real treat with these two excellent collections of lyre arrangements suitable for early stage to advanced level players or singers!