In a garden so green

 

Click here for ‘In a garden so green’ lyrics.

In its contents page, ‘In a garden so green’ is described as being an ‘unaccompanied song’. It is easy to imagine the atmospheric ambience of this piece of music with its minor key and haunting refrain of ‘Elore, elore’. This was the first piece I sight read and sang from Music of Scotland and was the first piece which captured my imagination. I felt instantly that this song could be performed in a contemporary context.

Unlike the other pieces, I decided not to listen to any previously recorded versions of ‘In a garden so green’ and made all of the musical decisions based on instinct. I deviated from the printed melody by omitting the sharpened mediant accidental which gives the original piece its ‘medieval’ sound. I also changed the rhythm of the theme to allow for a steady 3/4 tempo. In short, I made some ‘updates’ to allow for more creative freedom in the recording process. The harmonium drone provides a pedal over which the (occasionally dissonant) melody can weave in and out.

Amanda Nizic sang improvised backing vocals during our rehearsal and refined them for the recording while Kris Pohl performed some simple percussion which I felt the piece needed.

Overall, I took the most liberty with this one, in terms of the musical performance.

Ryan English, who wrote and performed the guitar arrangement, writes:

The first point of order was to avoid “cowboy chords” (standard shapes) at all costs.  The shapes are designed more for ease of playing than pleasing harmonic movement.  While certainly workable, nothing makes a song sound more generic than the use of these chords on guitar.  The mysterious feel of the lyrics and melody also lend themselves to alternate voicings, suspended chords etc. With these two points in mind, I opted for an open tuning, namely DADADF, since open tunings both provide a different flavour and are particularly suited to suspended chords and such.  To fit the voice, I transposed up two-and-a-half steps for a final key of Gm.

The verse uses an Ebmaj7 for interest before doubling the melody.  To avoid competing with the voice, I picked the melody on the lower bass strings while alternating with a quietly-plucked higher D.  Had I prepared more thoroughly, I might have judiciously removed some of these D notes, since their regularity might imply a different, ‘faster’ rhythm, but I believe they work as they are.  To avoid being repetitive, the second part of the verse uses one of my favourite tricks from my days as a bass player – a stepwise bass line that hits roots, thirds and fifths to change the feel of the harmony while remaining part of the basic chord tones.  In this piece, the notes chosen function mostly as passing notes between roots, although a rogue C quickly resolves down to the appropriate Bb.  The ear, having been prepared for this, accepts it as part of a pattern.

The chorus has a vocal harmony appear, and as such, the guitar drops back a little.  I play mostly block chords, before resuming the picking pattern of the verse when it returns to Gm.


Vocals: Roslyn Potter; Amanda Nizic
Guitar: Ryan English
Percussion: Kris Pohl
Harmonium: Roslyn Potter

Recorded at Green Door Studio by Samuel Smith.
Mixed by Kris Pohl at Post Electric Studio.