Singing in Occitan. Beautifully.

A week or two ago I heard a recording on Radio Scotland of Dawn Upshaw singing ‪Baïlèro, one of the Songs from the Auvergne:

a collection of folk songs from the Auvergne region of France arranged for soprano voice and orchestra or piano by Joseph Canteloube between 1923 and 1930 […] in the local language, Occitan.

The song itself is beautiful, and Dawn Upshaw’s version gave me goose-bumps, it was so lovely. I couldn’t find it on YouTube, but I did find this version by Netania Davrath, which is just as exquisite.

Here’s a comment on her voice from Wikipedia, by music critic Rob Barnett

Her early recording of Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne is considered by many to be unsurpassed […] Her voice is tender, strong, nasal, arch, shy, abandoned, free from vibrato, pure and clean and distinctly un-operatic. […] Davrath’s facility in eight languages undoubtedly aids her interpretations which are always intelligent and which do not give the impression of being phonetically acquired.—Rob Barnett, music critic[2]

For language lovers (yes, there’s a language slant to this post!), the added bonus of this YouTube recording is that it shows the words of the song, in Occitan. I hope you enjoy it and that it brings a touch of springtime to this chilly Easter.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Thank you Marian,

    This was the language of my maternal grandparents and this beautiful video and song was the last thing I expected to discover this morning!

    Thanks again, I will show it to my mum and aunties, uncles and cousins when I get a chance, I am sure they will apreciate it, it is so rare to hear occitan art on the net…

    Good luck with the award!

    1. Thank you Corinne. I love that song, it’s so beautiful.
      Did your grandparents actually speak Occitan? Do any of the family still speak it? Do you understand it (or even speak it)? So many questions!

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