Duan Nollaig

Christmas Song

Music: Trad. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: Trad. Gaelic
performance time approx 1m 30s
Range S: b♭ – f'' / A: g – b♭' ( T: g – d') / B: d – b♭
Price code: B
Complexity: *

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A traditional carol from the west of Scotland, arranged with simple (though occasionally dissonant) harmonies and flexible voicing. The choruses hail the traditional Christmas bannock — a flat bread, made in different ways for different occasions. (For a fascinating article on festival bannocks and bannock traditions, visit the website and go to the Recipes section).

The beautiful and poetic verses describe the Christ child. In this arrangement, two of the verses are sung pianissimo, for a dramatic contrast with the rowdy choruses surrounding them.

The voicing is flexible. The alto part can easily be sung by tenors, allowing altos to join the sopranos on the tune and more sopranos to sing the descant.

Time is needed for non-Gaelic speakers to become familiar with the language. Don't be put off - they're not hard, and the alliteration in the lines of the verses is wonderful to sing. We provide a full pronunciation guide, including a transcription in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and an audio file.

Pronunciation guide included


Heire bannag, hoire bannag
Heire bannag air a' bheò.
Mac na niula, Mac na neula
Mac na runna, Mac na reula
Mac na dìle, Mac na déire
Mac na spire, Mac na speura
Mac na lasa, Mac na leusa
Mac na cruinne, Mac na cé
Mac nan dùla, Mac nan nèamha,
Mac na gile, Mac na gréine

Traditional Gaelic song


Hey the (Christmas) bannock,
Ho the bannock.
Son of dawn, Son of cloud
Son of mystery, Son of star
Son of the torrent, Son of the deep
Son of the welkin, Son of the sky
Son of flame, Son of light
Son of the globe, Son of the earth
Son of hopes, Son of the heavens,
Son of purity, Son of the sun

English words © Peter Hill and used with permission

Purchase – 1514: Duan Nollaig

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