You know a beautiful chord has made an appearance when a hushed peace suddenly falls like a veil upon the room and comes to settle somewhere at the bottom of your heart. The vocal arrangements of Loch Lomond have many of these moments. Yet like other kinds of beautiful creations of art, songs like these often belie some sort of poignant history.

“Me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” – that’s the line I’ve always heard and remembered from all the times I’ve listened to the King’s Singers’ Loch Lomond, and I’ve always assumed it’s a song about separated lovers. Sad enough, of course, but more wistful and yearning than tragic. Then the other night, I found myself fully immersed in this song for the first time, and was then moved to properly look up the lyrics.

There are apparently a few versions of the history to this traditional Scottish song. Most are related to the Jacobite uprising of 1745, and turns out the stories are really quite sad. The saddest of all to me is this one that is rather suggestive of Sophie’s choice (excerpted from Wikipedia):

“The Hanoverian British victors were known to play cruel games on the captured Jacobites, and would supposedly find a pair of either brothers or friends and tell them one could live and the other would be executed, and it was up to the pair to decide….The song is sung by the brother or friend who chose or was chosen to die. He is therefore telling his friend that they will both go back to Scotland, but he will go on the “low road”, his body being paraded along the main road controlled by the Duke of Cumberland’s forces, whereas his friend will have to head for the hilltops, taking longer to get back.”

Oh, how my heart aches now…but! Like any good old folk song (so I have come to discover from my excellent sample size of 2), there is of course a jazz version – a lovely chirpy thing, complete with bagpipe vibes, that one just must do the lindy hop to as one traipses between the living room and the kitchen. Here it is.

P.s. I would be remiss not to also share the King’s Singers version and this choral version that makes me want to cry, and then pick up a black ring binder and dive into a choir right now. There’s also a great arrangement by Jonathan Quick on spotify that starts with giving me warm fuzzy feelings, then makes me think of galloping about on a horse, and then finally reminds me of Vuelie.