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Where I was yestreen - two tunes by John N MacNeill for an old Gaelic lyric or an English lyric based on the Gaelic

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Where I was yestreen (two tunes)

When the 19th-century Scottish poet Mary Mackellar translated the Gaelic lyric FAR AN ROBH MI 'N RAOIR by Neil MacLeod (Niall MacLe˛id), she called it Where I was yestreen. The Gaelic lyric and Mackellar's translation are both in MacLeod's compilation ClÓrsach An Doire.
And a lyric is offered here that is an adaptation of Mackellar's Where I was yestreen. Some of Mackellar's lyric has been replaced, some slightly amended, and some left exactly as she wrote, most notably the title, a title that is also a much-repeated line.

MacLeod was one of the most popular 19th-century Gaelic poets, but that century is regarded as having produced Gaelic poetry of lesser quality, a point that Sorley MacLean, who has been called father of the Scottish Gaelic renaissance, made, taking MacLeod as an example: "Indeed, Neil MacLeod's poetry is symptomatic of the rapid decline in the backbone of Gaelic poetry. It is sentimental, pretty-pretty, weak and thin, only sometimes attaining splendour in its occasional realist moods ..." (from a talk to the Gaelic Society of Inverness in 1938, as quoted here). Still, perhaps all right for a song lyric?

At least two traditional tunes have been used for the Gaelic lyric, and two more tunes are offered here.

All three versions of the lyric (MacLeod's original Gaelic, the Mackellar translation and the MacNeill adaptation) follow more or less the same metrical pattern - so you can pair tune and lyric as you please.

The sheet music offered here gives just melody line, harmony line and chord symbols. Traditional musicians will anyway devise their own arrangements to suit their resources and to bring variety to the singing of several verses. The audio files lack expression and dynamics, but serve to let the tunes be heard.

No note of tune or harmony offered here is an accidental. So these tunes may suit players of folk/lever/wire/Celtic harps.

In each audio file, there is just the most basic guitar accompaniment, namely a chord at each chord symbol, though in some places a 2nd/9th has been added to the chord indicated. There is also a short guitar intro.

For both tunes, to offer more arrangement possibilities, an optional harmony part has been added above the melody, and may be heard in the audio sung by a female voice, though it could be played on an instrument. The first verse in each audio file has no harmony part; the second verse adds the harmony part only for the 5-syllable lines of words; the third verse features the entire harmony part, with the melody only for the 5-syllable lines of words; the fourth verse has melody and harmony but no guitar; the fifth verse has melody, harmony and guitar.

Tune one: harmony part added, 22 June 2015; audio extended to 5 verses, 23 June 2015.
Tune two: penultimate chord amended, 20 June 2015; harmony part added and audio extended to 5 verses, 1 July 2015.
English lyric: significant changes, 8 June 2016.

Words: Gaelic (MacLeod) - Scots/English (Mackellar) - English (MacNeill)

Audio: tune one.

Audio: tune two.

PDF sheet music: tune one melody.

PDF sheet music: tune one harmony.

PDF sheet music: tune two melody.

PDF sheet music: tune two harmony.

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