So, having met and blethered with Ellen at the last session we were keen to do more singing this time. I have been enjoying her CD ‘On Yonder Lea’ since I saw her last and was particularly taken with the songs ‘Far Over the Forth’ and ‘Mary Mild’. I have been listening to different versions of ‘Far Over the Forth’ by Lizzie Higgins and Jeannie Robertson on the Tobar an Dualchas/Kist o’ Riches website. It is a beautiful song, and unusual in having been taught to Jeannie by Lizzie who says she learnt it from a woman at a cross-roads. It has a real sense of place and time in nature and I’m looking forward to developing it.
We spent time singing this together, as in practising it I had altered the melody subconsciously. Ellen is very happy to chat about making the song your own by phrasing and expressing it as you feel it, but we were both in agreement that it is important to understand the changes you make and in listening to various singers’ versions of the same songs you can pick-up subtle lifts and turns which add a great deal to the way you feel a song. Ellen is very down to earth and I felt comfortable trying things out and correcting myself with her guidance.
The version of Mary Mild, a variation on the Four Mary’s theme, that I have been learning from Ellen is a poem put to music by John Eaglesham which I was not familiar with before. There are familiar lines such as-
“ Yestreen the queen had four Mary’s, the nicht she’ll hae but three,
There was Mary Seton and Mary Beaton, Mary Carmichael and me”
The melody was totally new to me and quite tricky, but it is beautifully engaging so again I am just enjoying working on it and hopefully improving. We had discussed my need to improve my confidence and I feel we are making headway. In discussing how to remove yourself from the song, and to put the emphasis on delivery rather than personal hang-ups I have changed how I think about performing and am gradually building this in as I learn my way around the songs.