MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Songs of Gaelic Cape Breton

Farm, Broad Cove. Phoeo by Stacey MacLeanGaelic songs are often categorized by scholars according to their structure, function or theme. This may present problems when trying to classify many genres at once as all types of song will generally share certain structural, thematic and even functional elements. Therefore a sailing song, which is recognized as such on account of its subject matter, may serve the function of a milling song. Additionally, the category of homeland songs may also be further subdivided into several separate genres indicative of structure rather than theme. In classifying the Leach songs, we have chosen to note those recognized as belonging to distinct genres by Nova Scotian tradition bearers. This is particularly pertinent when classifying milling songs, especially in Nova Scotia, as they tend to span several traditional genres, identifiable to singers only by their frequent performance at milling frolics.

The Leach collection showcases many types of Gaelic song from Psalm singing to bacchanalia. Neither lays (Ossianic or Fenian) nor puirt a beul (mouth music) are represented. The collection is of particular interest to scholars of twentieth century Gaelic song as it showcases the talents of the community bard whose songs chronicle the events of their region, highlighting community values and personages.

photo: farm, Broad Cove. Stacey MacLean