The project entitled Salm (Gaelic for Psalm) has been the passion and the brainchild of Lewis musician and good friend of the band, Calum Martin. Calum, will I'm sure be well know to those of you that have an interest in the Gaelic music scene. As a singer / guitarist / songwriter, he fronted the local Lewis band Island Express, and has been involved in various solo projects. He is currently working as a music singing specialist in schools on the Island of Lewis. Island Express was undoubtedly the band from the grass roots that were closest to Runrig in both the style of song and in actual sound. In these early heady days we shared a lot of common ground, and good crack and were delighted to drag them out of retirement in 1991 to support us when we played the RAF Hanger in Stornoway as part of our Islands tour, just after the Loch Lomond concert... but I digress.
Gaelic psalm singing is a unique music form: a type of music that those of us brought up in the Western Isles, within the Presbyterian religious tradition, know so well from childhood and beyond. It is a sound that makes a massive imprint and its resonance never leaves you. I know that it has certainly played its part in so many of the Runrig songs, i.e. An Ubhal as Airde, Abhainn an t-Sluaigh, Healer in your Heart , and Stepping Down the Glory Road.
Although various recordings have been made over the years, ranging from archive recordings undertaken by the School of Scottish Studies in the 1960s, to the many amateur point and press cassette and reel to reel tape recorders, they have been largely unprofessional, and I have heard so many recordings of the Gaelic Psalms lost in a hissing ambient haze interspersed with an annoying assortment of coughing, muttering and spluttering. It all does this glorious sound a great disservice. In short, psalm singing has never been captured for posterity in a high quality, state of the art recording.
This was Calum's prime motive in getting this project off the ground. As a leading luminary of this musical genre, he knew that it was a national treasure, which for too long had been hidden from the outside world, and that anyone hearing it for the first time could not but recognise its unique qualities. It is a genuine and authentic World Music.
Artists — Gaelic Psalms /3
Spirit, Salm and Sacred Song at Celtic Connections
The heart and soul of celtic music connects the sacred and spiritual to everyday life. Three Celtic peoples who first met in the Aran Islands last St Patrick's Day reunite in Glasgow for St Bride's Day.
The most authentic and ancient traditions of Gaelic Scotland, Ireland and Wales come together in the Psalm singers from Lewis, the Innis Oirr singers from the Aran Islands, and the Powys Male Voice Choir (one of the oldest in Wales). These amazing voices may move you to tears and awaken your soul - they will definitely inspire you and lift your spirits.
The Launch date for the third and final CD from the Salm Series, entitled Salm & Soul is set for release on the 22nd November 2005 in the new £5 million An Lanntair Art Centre in Stornoway.
This CD was recorded live at Celtic Connections 2005 and features both the Gaelic Psalm Singers from Scotland as well as a Black Gospel Choir from Alabama USA.
This CD is dedicated to the memory of a close friend Martyn Bennett who sadly passed away earlier this year after losing his own battle with cancer.
Martyn was very much involved with the whole Salm Project and I felt that it was fitting that the whole project would finish with Martyn's own playing, showing us all what an incredible talent he really was. This is him playing the pipes aged 16 years.
There are some additional bonus tracks on the CD where I was helped by the fantastic musical talents of two of Scotland's (if not the world's greatest) your own Malcolm Jones and the equally brilliant Fraser Fifield, so all in all I am very pleased and proud to be involved with this slice of musical history.
A team of Gaelic Psalm Singers from Stornoway made a trip to Ireland recently and were interviewed on the BBC. The audio clip can be heard at the following web site:
Siubhal nan Salm (Journey of the Psalms)
This was a three part TV program exploring the link between Gaelic Psalm singing and African American Gospel Music. Broadcaster and Mod Gold Medalist Mary Ann Kennedy travels from The Scottish Hebrides to the US to examine the idea with theory originator Willie Ruff, a noted jazz musician and Professor of Music at Yale University and Gospel singer Dr. Bobby Jones. There is also footage of the Alabama Choir joining Runrig onstage at Celtic Connections in a moving rendition of Every River. The DVD can be played on PAL and NTSC machines. In Gaelic with English sub titles. 76mins.