Gaelic Gospel Choir “Soisgeul” on Iona

This track was recorded during a practice inside the abbey on the Isle of Iona, one of the earliest centres of Christianity in Scotland. It is sung by Soisgeul, the only Gaelic language Gospel choir. The song is called St Columba’s Hymn, St Columba being one of the first Irish monks to bring Christianity and the Gaelic language to Scotland.

Òrain Soisgeulach an Eilean Ì (English version following below)

Dh’fhaodte gun deach òrain ann an stoidhle gospel a sgrìobhadh ann an Gàidhlig. B’ e sin a thuirt Gareth Fuller a tha na stiùiriche air diofar chòisirean ann an ceann a deas Shasainn. Gu dearbha cha robh ann ach fealla-dhà, ach bha e a’ feuchainn ri ràdh gun robh ceòl soisgeulach agus a’ Ghàidhlig a’ dol còmhla glè mhath. Dh’aidich e gun robh teagamh gu math mòr air dar a chunnaic e an t-eadar-theangachadh an toiseach ge-tà.

Thàinig timcheall air 50 de mhuinntir “Shoisgeul” còmhla an Eilean Ì air a’ mhìos seo. Chan eil fada bhon a thòisich iad a’ seinn òrain soisgeulach ann an Gàidhlig. Ach leis nach eil iad stèidhichte ann an àite sònraichte sam bith bha dùbhlan romhpa mun t-slighe air adhart. Cha bhi iad a’ cruinneachadh ach dh’fhaodte dà thuras sa bhliadhna. Ach an turas seo fhuair iad cuideachadh proifeiseanta. Dh’eadar-theangaich an seinneadair Màiri-Anna NicGualraig òrain a tha aithnichte ann an saoghal soisgeulach gu Gàidhlig. Ged nach eil e furasta eadar-theangachadh a dhèanamh a tha dlùth ris a’ chiall agus a tha ag obair a thaobh ruitheam rinn i fìor dheagh obair air.

Bha spòrs air leth againn. Nach e bha math ùrnaigh a dhèanamh anns an dòigh seo cuideachd. Cha robh na h-òrain furasta ionnsachadh ge-tà. Ach theirinnsa gun robh an Tighearna a’ coimhead sìos oirnn gu fàbharrach air sgàth is gun tàinig a’ ghrian a-mach timcheall air meadhan là agus bha feasgar àlainn ann an Eilean Ì. Choisich sinn suas bhon talla, far an robh sinn ag obair fad an là, dhan abaid. Abair fuaim a rinn sinn an sin is sinn cuideachd a’ seinn “Sìneadh/ Laoidh Chaluim Chille”. B’ i Màiri-Anna a chuir co-sheirm ris agus ged nach b’ e òran soisgeulach a bh’ ann bha e air leth freagarrach ga sheinn ann an àite aig a’ bheil ceangal cho dlùth ris an Naomh Chaluim Chille.

A’ coiseachd air ais dhan talla bha a’ ghrian air a dhol fodha agus a’ ghealach a’ dèarrsadh. Abair sealladh ga faicinn a’ dèarrsadh tro uinneagan tobhta thaigh nan cailleachan-dubha. Bha e mar gun robh na cailleachan-dubha a-staigh agus an solas aca air. Dh’fhaodte gun do chòrd an ceòl san talla ri a thaobh riuthasan cuideachd. Thàinig là air leth gu crìch le cèilidh far am facas dannsa gu leòr is eile.

Dh’fhuirich mise ann an taigh-ùrnaigh na h-Eaglaise Caitligich air a’ bheil Cnoc a’ Chalmain. Is e àite snog a th’ ann airson beagan fois agus sìth fhaotainn. Tha e suidhichte air cnoc le sealladh eireachdail dhan a’ mhuir. Bha Sr Jean a tha a’ ruith an àite glè fhialaidh gu dearbha, ach dh’innse i dhomh gu bheil i a’ gluasad gu obair ùir agus gun tig cuideigin na h-àite.

Cho-dhùn “Soisgeul” feuchainn ri cuirm a chuir air dòigh aig Celtic Connections na h-ath bhliadhna. Thug na h-òrain seo togail air leth dhomh is iad gam bhrosnachadh mo làn earbsa a chuir anns an Tighearna agus anns na comasan agam fhìn.

Maybe Gospel Songs Were First Written in Gaelic
Those were the words of Gareth Fuller, a well known gospel choir director during a workshop on the Isle of Iona recently. He admits he was puzzled when he first saw the translations of gospel songs into Gaelic, but soon found they worked really well. Not only did the translations by Mary-Ann Kennedy fit perfectly into the rhythm, but they remained true to the original meaning as well.

“Soisgeul” are a Gaelic gospel choir. They haven’t been going for very long and only meet about twice a year as they aren’t based in any particular locality. This challenge led some to question the future of the choir. Now they decided they needed some expert gospel training and around 50 people got involved this time round.

The Lord must have enjoyed the singing since the weather turned for the better as the day progressed. In the evening Soisgeul performed their songs inside Iona Abbey. They were so uplifting and really encouraged faith in the Lord and in one’s own abilities. At night the ruined nunnery was lit up by the moon in a way that it seemed as if the lights were on inside. Maybe the nuns enjoyed the singing, too. The day concluded with a good west coast ceilidh in the village hall.

I stayed at Cnoc a’ Chalmain, Catholic House of Prayer. It is a great place overlooking the sea and very well looked after by Sr Jean. She is leaving soon, but a replacement has now been appointed and so this place of rest and peace will remain open. After the gospel workshop Soisgeul’s conductor, Mary-Ann Kennedy said, they would now aim for a gig at Celtic Connections next year.

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