Week 320: “The Gallant Weaver” by James MacMillan


Let’s take a second to thank the country of Scotland for its uncanny ability to produce some of the most brilliant human beings in history.

Here’s just a sampling of things that might be missing or vastly inferior if it weren’t for Scottish ingenuity:

  • The television
  • The telephone
  • The steam engine
  • Rubber tires
  • The toaster
  • Radar
  • Waterproofing
  • The fax machine
  • Hypnosis
  • Beta-blockers
  • Motion picture cameras
  • The light bulb
  • The bicycle
  • Waterbeds

This list represents just a fraction of Scotland’s contributions to the world, and in my view, it more than makes up for the country’s outlying mistakes like the bagpipes, haggis, and Andy Murray’s attitude. Plus, the above is just in the field of inventions; throw in all the other pursuits in which the Scots have engaged – sport, politics, business, exploration, the arts – and it becomes apparent that without England’s under-appreciated northern neighbour, the world would be significantly less than it is.

In this gorgeous choral piece, with words by Robert Burns, composer James MacMillan adds his name to the long list of reasons to love Scotland.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. At just about any given moment in the piece, there is at least one section of the choir that is holding a note. The result is like the drone of bagpipes, but definitively and infinitely lovelier.

2. Often, the melody is sung in one part of the choir, then echoed by another section of the choir a moment later.

3. In the last few seconds, four hummed notes fade the piece away into the distance in a way that’s pleasingly reminiscent of “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre.

Recommended listening activity:

Making celebration plans for November 30th.

Buy it here.