Celebrating St Andrew’s Day: music

On November 30th, people in Scotland, along with those of Scottish descent and interest in such far flung places as New Zealand, Texas, and Argentina, will celebrate Saint Andrew’s day. Saint Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland, and his day has long been seen as the beginning of a season of festivity which includes Christmas and culminates with Burns night at the end of January.

Part of any celebration of Scotland has to be music. Take a listen to these recordings as you mark the day — and perhaps as you think about your holiday gift lists, too.

For any Scottish celebration, you have to have pipes, of course. The debut album from rising piping star Lorne MacDougall is a good place to start, especially if you might think you do not like bagpipes. They are, if you give them a chance, quite a melodic and lively instrument, things MacDougall shows to fine effect on Hello World.

The fiddle is a powerful presence in Scottish music as well. Two fiddlers to know, who both draw their music from the highlands in the north of Scotland, are Duncan Chisholm and Sarah-Jane Summers. Chisholm’s album called Canaich. evokes wilderness and silence of his Highland home. Summers, who has been drawn to the strong Nordic connections in the music of Scotland’s north as well as traditional music of the highlands, offers her take on both of those and how they connect on her album Nesta.

Singer Julie Fowlis is from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, one of the few places where Scottish Gaelic is still a living language. You do not need to understand the language to hear the stories of sea and land and family she shares in the traditional songs she’s included on her album Uam.

Eddi Reader’s career has spanned folk, pop, punk, and country music, but, she points out, always with a storytelling and folk element at the heart of things. A fine songwriter herself, she found herself in recent years returning to the work of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns — work that as a schoolchild she’d thought wasn’t for the likes of her — for inspiration and with admiration. A fine place to check out what she’s done with that idea is Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns.

Want to get a quick taste of what all this is like? Take a look at Reader, fiddler John McCusker, flute player Michael McGoldrick, and friends doing a rousing version of Willie Stewart, Robert Burns’ song celebrating friendship.

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