World Listening Post


It’s easy to observe that Lossan, a collaboration between Manx singer Ruth Keggin and Scottish harpist Rachel Hair, is an exquisite collection of ballads, lullabies and jigs from the Isle of Man—and difficult to overstate the album’s transcendent mission. Keggin’s voice is not only pure it’s also pivotal: In addition to a performer she is also the Manx Language Development Officer, so designated by Culture Vannin (the Manx Heritage Foundation), responsible for promoting and revitalizing her island’s endangered tongue, spoken by only two percent of its 85,000 inhabitants. Hair’s delicate, elevating harp is the perfect accompaniment, from a kindred Gaelic artist who also has a deep connection to Manx music.

One key to Lossan’s revival aspect is that it includes both traditional songs, some going back to the seventeenth century, and freshly written ones, highlighting how a thriving culture rests on both old and new pillars. Annie Kissack, who contributed lyrics and music for several tracks, also has the official title of Manx Bard. The songs paint vivid scenes: Mish As Y Keayn (Me and the Sea, video 1) exudes an almost mystical mood of warmth and chill, evoking a small world set apart by water and sky.

The cautionary Keayrt Hug Mee Graih(Once I Gave Love, video 2), portrays a man who sells his affection cheaply. Vuddee Veg (Sweet Little Girl, video 3) is a modern lullaby with an utterly timeless feel; while the mournful Ny Kirree Fo Niaghtey (The Sheep Under the Snow, video 4) recalls the victims of a long-ago blizzard. And Eubonia Soilshagh (Shining Isle of Man, video 5) is a buoyant medley of drinking songs. In addition to their other vocations, Keggin, Hair and Kissack are all teachers, so it’s not surprising that Lossan also imparts a pedagogical truth: Offer songs for cradle, home and tavern and the language will flow.

Alan Tigay

Original review HERE