Bagpiping Lullaby?!

If you've ever heard bagpipes played live, then you know that they are loud. To put this into some perspective, when I practice my bagpipes I wear ear-plugs, I'm just one piper, but that's how loud they are. I also read a study that came out of Britain where they said that a pipe band is as loud as a jet engine. It is a loud instrument!

How then can a lullaby that's meant to put sweet little babies to sleep, be played on the bagpipes? Yet there's a tune that I play on the bagpipes that is in fact a lullaby.

The tune is called Suo Gan. It's actually a Welsh lullaby that's traced back to the year 1800.

It was originally written in Welsh, so here's the English translation of the lyrics:

Sleep, my baby, on my bosom, Warm and cozy, it will prove,
Round thee mother's arms are folding, In her heart a mother's love.
There shall no one come to harm thee, Naught shall ever break thy rest;
Sleep, my darling babe, in quiet, Sleep on mother's gentle breast.
Sleep serenely, baby, slumber, Lovely baby, gently sleep;
Tell me wherefore art thou smiling, Smiling sweetly in thy sleep?
Do the angels smile in heaven When thy happy smile they see?
Dost thou on them smile while slum'bring On my bosom peacefully.

It is a somewhat famous tune. Steven Spielberg used it in his movie Empire of the Sun. It's played at both the beginning:

And then again at the end of the movie:

Apparently the heavy metal band Savatage played a version of this song called Heal My Soul on their 1991 album Streets: A Rock Album. I can't find a video version of this song, the best I can do is steer you to where you can hear a clip of the song. It sounds like it's basically the same melody, so here are Savatage's lyrics:

I've been waiting, long forgotten Shipwrecked on a distant shore
Am I drifting, no more wanted Floating outward evermore
All the dreams that I have harbored In the labyrinth of my soul
Gone forever Not discarded Only sleeping Till they're whole
In the graveyard of my heart now Sleep the years that I've long sold
For their markers is there nothing Only ghost I cannot hold
And Father hear me I am tired Shall I waken In thy home
And hold me closer I am trying Sweet Lord Jesus Heal my soul

Strangely enough, I cannot for the life of me find a version of it on bagpipes. Some day when I have better audio/visual equipment (right now all I've got is the video program on my cell phone and digital camera), I will have to record myself playing it on bagpipes. It's a very lovely tune and I really like how my band plays it. We play it as part of a two tune set right now. The first tune is really fast, and than we break into Suo Gan, this gorgeous slow tune. The contrast between the two is awesome. Every time I play the two songs together, and I break into the hauntingly slow Suo Gan, it hits me hard.

Enjoy the tune, find a softer version if you really want to play it for your baby, and pipe on!


Miriam said...

Being of Scots heritage, I love the sound of bagpipes! My daughter's high school mascot is The Highlanders, and every con and assembly is begun and ended with a pipe and drum song accompanied by Highland dancers! It's amazing!

Piping Girl said...

Thanks for stopping by Miriam. It's great to hear good Scottish traditions are being kept alive by schools.

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