Hysterical and Happy. Musarc at LCMF, 19 June 2022
7—19 Jun 2022
School of Art, Architecture and Design, LondonMet
Sunday 19 Jun 2022, 7pm
Musarc performing at LCMF, 19 June 2022. Photos by Dawid Laskowski
On 19 June 2022, Musarc filled the hall with the hallucinatory, transcendental clouds of sound of Gaelic psalm-singing which Musarc brought to life and radically re-interpreted with new texts written by the choir. The project, led by Musarc’s creative director Joseph Kohlmaier with acclaimed vocalist and long-time Musarc collaborator Melanie Pappenheim, offered an opportunity for new singers to join the ensemble for a three-week workshop and rehearsal programme culminating in a performance at the closing event of the Festival on Sunday 19 June 2022, 7pm. The rehearsal programme combined learning to sing in the Gaelic psalm singing tradition – also known as ‘lining out’, or ‘precenting the line’ – with exercises from Melanie Pappenheim’s extensive and unique repertoire of vocal performance workshop materials.
In LCMF’s programme notes, Musarc’s creative director Joseph Kohlmaier explained:
‘People brought text passages from the Big Sad bibliography we put together and gave each other reading gifts. We wrote in the sessions (shared Google doc, friendly destruction) and then more poems and late night edits, remixing, constellating. Ian had a go at rhyming it and editing it some more. Then I went in and messed it all up again so now we have these exquisite corpse poems that throw you from one thing into the next, brittle and a bit unwieldy, sadness and melancholy being the starting point, …
There are around ten or so psalm melodies that are commonly sung in this tradition. We are using Kilmarnock and Martyrdom. Both are written in four parts. But in Gaelic psalm-singing you just sing the melody – and you do it in this particular way that leaves no silence, where the congregation alternates with a leader (the ‘precenter’) who introduces each line of the psalm. The singers add their own private grace notes, each interval like a small itinerancy, pushing the sound forward in a slow-moving, choral procession.’
LCMF – The Big Sad programme sleeve and concert insert, 19 June 2022. LCMF 2022 ‘Sad Boi’ sleeve design and all programmes graphic design by Musarc’s creative director Joseph Kohlmaier.
- ‘Noel Meek explores the sights and sounds of Gaelic psalm singing‘, The Wire, November 2016. Includes archive material and recordings on cassettes, 1970s/80s
- Steven Connor, ‘Choralities’, a lecture given at Voices and Noises, Audiovisualities Lab of the Franklin Humanities, Institute, Duke University, 27 March 2015 – not on Gaelic psalm singing, but the ‘choric voice’, the ‘voice-body … many-in-one … one-from-many’
- Terry Miller, ‘A Myth in the Making: Willie Ruff, Black Gospel and an Imagined Gaelic Scottish Origin’, Ethnomusicology Forum 18 (2), November 2009, pp. 243–259
- Ewan MacLean, ‘Gaelic Psalm-singing and the Lowland Connection’, Liturgical Review 3 (2): pp. 54–62
- Jude Rogers, ‘“A vertical connection to God”: the euphoria of Gaelic psalm singing’, The Guardian, 27 Augus 2020.
- L MacBean, Gaelic Psalmody, Including the Ancient Tunes & Precentor’s Recitatives. Edinburgh, McLachlan & Steward, date unknown
- Rebecca Tavener, ‘The psalms of Scotland’, in Choir & Organ 7 (3), pp. 43–46
- Calum Martin, Gaelic Psalm Singing Workshop Vol. 1, YouTube, 2020
- Gaelic Psalm Singers, Salm Vol. I & II, YouTube Playlist