minstrel: Accents in songs

EoganOg at aol.com EoganOg at aol.com
Tue Apr 18 19:45:30 PDT 2000

In a message dated 4/18/00 9:46:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time, a2241 at truman.edu 

> I found a song recently, I believe it's known as MacPherson's Lament. I've
>  found several names and variants. It's supposed to be pronounced in a
>  Scottish accent, but haven't found any resources on changing your accent
>  for singing Scottish, Irish, or Welsh songs. Any hints?

Please don't. ;-)  I really don't mean to sound rude--please let me explain.  
I am and have been involved in the Scottish folk music scene outside of the 
SCA, and the general consensus is that it really harms the performance of a 
song when an obvious American "adopts" a false Scottish or Irish accent for 
the performing of a song.  At best, it can annoy those who can tell a 
difference in the accents and at worse it really detracts from the song.  If 
you sing in your normal voice, the song usually goes a lot better and it 
doesn't detract from the mood like a fake accent does.

Now, this being said, some people are just really good with pronunciation and 
can get by with this.  But unless you have heard the piece done by a native 
speaker, I wouldn't recommend it.

MacPherson's Lament has a bit of Scots but is mostly English, so there isn't 
too much in it of difficulty.  I learned the song from various Scottish folk 
singers, so I picked up their tones and accents a bit.  I sing it in my own 
accent, and pronounce the Scots words as they should be pronounced in 
Scots--and I have been confused for a native speaker.  The best compliment I 
have gotten was after I performed this very piece at a ceilidh at the 
Williamsburg Scottish Festival, and afterwards a man came up (from Stirling, 
I believe), and asked what part of Scotland I was from.  I explained I was 
from NC and he had a good laugh, and then complimented me on my singing.  He 
told me most Americans really overdo a Scottish accent when they sing but I 
had him fooled.  That was because I wasn't trying to "do an accent" and I 
believe that is the key.

That being said, I will be happy to help you on any words you have problems 
with.  It is very hard to help with pronunciation when typing though, so if 
you like I can put together a .wav file to send you.

Eogan Og

BTW, for those keeping score, MacPherson's Lament was written by Robert 
Burns, and the tune doesn't date any earlier than 1700, as far as I can tell.

Tighearn Eoghan Og mac Labhrainn, CP
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