‘Gaelic Psalm singing’ and ‘World Premier’ are not perhaps words that you would necessarily place together in the same sentence, nor even the same paragraph. But last night’s moving performance of psalm and spiritual song was more than just a simple show, it was something much deeper. The night was mix of pure Gaelic psalm and moving Gaelic hymns, culminating in the performance of ‘Ballantyne’.
The Gaelic psalms were performed by local singers from local congregations, their most natural praise to God, a wonderful thing to see on the stage. Among them were two local Free Church ministers, one of which had an important role to play in the finale.
The Gaelic hymns were sung almost entirely by singers from Harris and Scalpay, and sung with an incredible precision and moving beauty.
The world renowned Composer, Craig Armstrong has collaborated (for a second time ) with musician, elder, and psalm presentor Calum Martin. Creating a piece of music that, with Gaelic psalm form and melody at it’s core, was nothing short of beautiful.
This new piece, entitled Ballantyne was performed with 13 local Gaelic psalm singers, Duncan Chisholm, and members of the Scottish Ensemble. With Cecilia Weston conducting the piece.
Before it began, Calum informed us that it was based on words from Psalm 68:18
“Thou hast, O Lord, most glorious,
ascended up on high;
And in triumph victorious
led captive captivity”
Words of hope for the Christian, that the work has been completed, he has taken our captivity, and that as he ascended he promised to one day come again, to take his people home to himself.
With this thought in mind, we were led into the ebb and flow of the music, that familiar lilt of the Gaelic psalm melody, intertwined with musical precision.
The powerful voice of the Reverend Calum Macleod and the gentle tones of Bellan Martin then gently cut into the rising music, proclaiming:
“Is chaidh thu suas air ionad àrd”
Shortly followed by the rest of the singers, singing the whole of the Gospel-affirming verse.
It’s not easy to document what was, quite honestly, an emotional event. This was not my first time hearing these Psalms or hymns, but an event like last night makes you really listen to what is being said.
It brings a reality to the words.
These songs, both the hymns and the Psalms were written by real people, who had a real living faith who trusted in God and who served him.
Eternal words and melodies as they praise our eternal God