MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada



Song Text Transcriptions:

The Newfoundland song text transcriptions on the website are based on those made by Leach. Songs from Leach's Cape Breton collection were transcribed and translated by Dr. Margaret Bennett. Where we have been able to make some corrections, we have done so, but there are many places where the drawn out singing style makes it difficult to discern the words. Hence, there are words omitted, question marks, and, very likely, some inaccuracies. If website users are able to offer corrections, we would be grateful for them. E-mail .

Audio Clips:

The tapes from which these audio clips were made are more than fifty years old. Deterioration in the quality of the sound has taken place, although some of the tapes - particularly the paper-backed tapes - are in remarkably good condition for their age, thanks to the preservation standards of the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive.

Although some audio restoration work is being done at Memorial University, the sound files on this website are the unmodified originals. Usually only one or two stanzas of a song are posted. There are several practical reasons for this. First, we could not have posted as many songs, had we included entire songs. Second, the excerpts are sufficient to enable users to learn the tune and this was one of our objectives. We have noticed that, on some computers (but not others) the final few notes of the tune are cut off. If you encounter this problem, we suggest you go to your public library and try a different computer. If website users are interested in obtaining recordings of entire songs, they should contact the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive ( ). Charges may apply.

Musical Transcriptions:

Written notation can never convey the nuances of a singer's style. The rhythmic freedom that many of the best singers used in ballad performance, for instance, is best learned from listening to the recorded examples. Nevertheless, individuals who are accustomed to learning from printed music may find transcriptions useful. We have included only two dozen musical transcriptions thus far.

The tunes for the songs in the Leach collection were transcribed in part by the distinguished ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl. Later, more transcriptions were done by folklorist Julia Bishop. The transcribers usually also transcribed the words of one or more stanzas, although there are many discrepancies between their text transcriptions and those of Leach. The hand-written scores in the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive have many details about tune variants that are not evident in the scores that you can see on this web site. Our purpose here was to provide a score for those singers who read musical notation to use as an aid to learning songs. In a few instances (see "The Water Witch") the transcribers have attempted to convey the skillful ornamentation of a specific singer. If you compare the starting pitch of the recorded examples, it will be apparent that tunes have often been transcribed to avoid unnecessary sharps and flats.