This conference featured Prof. Willie Ruff, ethnomusicologist and theory professor, Yale Un. Department of Music; Dr. Douglas F. Kelly, theology professor at The Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; Dr. Hugh Foley, professor of music and ethnomusicology at Rogers State University in Tulsa, OK; Calum Martin, native Gaelic speaker and precentor for Gaelic Psalms as sung by congregations on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland; and Duane Foster, St. Louis choral specialist/educator who will lead line singing.
This one-time event began at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church with Prof. Ruff’s documentary on this subject. Ruff originated the research in the USA on the connections between Gaelic Psalm singing and American forms of congregational worship practiced still today in African American, Appalachian and Muskogee Creek churches.
Prof. Ruff, Dr. Kelly, Dr. Foley and Mr. Foster presented the historic background both in Scotland and the USA and showed how Scottish descendants as well as African American and Muskogee Creek congregations continued and transformed this tradition. Participants worked with Calum Martin to learn a sampling of psalms in Gaelic (which involve each person improvising on the original hymn tune from the Scottish Psalter) and with Duane Foster on line singing. The conference closed with a service at St. Margaret of Scotland Church at which everyone participated in the singing of the Gaelic Psalms and the line singing. Following the service, we had a Ceilidh (music party) at which any participants who sing or play were invited to share their specialty – all genres were welcome.
Prof. Willie Ruff – presentation of Prof. Ruff’s documentary A CONJOINING OF ANCIENT SONG. The documentary presents the work and sounds from two conferences held at Yale Un. (2005 and 2007) researched and organized by Prof. Ruff and entitled “The Line Connecting Gaelic Psalm singing and American music”. This film reveals the deep connections among these congregational forms of worship. Prof. Ruff will hold a q and a session following the film.
Calum Martin – a singing session – Martin will introduce a Gaelic Psalm text, teach the words and the basic tune from the Scottish Psalter. Text and tune will be taught by rote and participants will also have written copies with phonetic spellings of text. The goal is to enable participants to sing the psalm in the style by the end of the day.
Dr. Douglas F. Kelly – lecture session – Dr. Kelly will discuss the history of Gaelic Psalm singing in the USA – particularly in his home state of North Carolina. This material includes the practice of Gaelic services in both the Presbyterian and the A.M.E. churches in eastern North Carolina.
Duane Foster – a singing session - line singing in African American congregations – Foster will lead participants in several praise songs and forms practiced historically and particularly in St. Louis.
Hugh Foley – lecture session on connections with the Muskogee Creek Nation.
Calum Martin – a singing session - building on the work of the morning singing session, Martin will demonstrate the adaptation of the hymn tune into its traditional congregational style of singing. This involves the presenter lining out the opening of the psalm – slowing down the hymn tune and adding improvised vocal ornaments – and the congregation joining with their own vocal improvisation on the hymn tune.
Participants will sing together the psalm/s they have learned and will share their experiences with lining out hymns and their impressions from the sessions on Saturday.
A Ceilidh (pronounced: kaylee) reception will follow the service – everyone invited to perform.