'A vertical connection to God': the euphoria of Gaelic psalm singing

The Gaelic language may be in steep decline, but a collaboration between the composer Craig Armstrong and traditional Hebridean singers hopes to keep a centuries-old style alive.


On the north-western edges of Britain, in a handful of churches, one of the world’s most unusual song forms can be heard. It begins with a precentor, a leader singing the opening lines of a psalm to a church congregation, who then drift in. Each person decorates the tune individually, driven by their own tempo and rhythm, before everyone returns, together, to the same note. Imagine the sonic equivalent of a murmuration of starlings.

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