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Blas Festival goes online for 11 days of Gaelic music and culture

(Photo above – Ingrid Henderson & Iain MacFarlane)

Highland festival launches impressive online programme of Gaelic song and music

Gaelic music will still be celebrated throughout the Highlands and Islands this November as the Blas Festival will go ahead online, with an impressive line-up of some of Scotland’s best loved traditional musicians and singers.

The Blas Festival, which usually celebrates Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over 8 or 9 days of events in venues across the Highlands and Islands, will take place online over 11 days next month, via a variety of livestreamed and pre-recorded concerts, cèilidhs, workshops and other events. It is hoped that with this year’s festival being online, people from around the world will be able to enjoy, and support, some of the Highland’s best musical talent from the comfort of their own home.

Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’ and is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council, will take place from 20-30 November, opening with a brand new musical arrangement and culminating in a St Andrew’s Night concert including performances of newly composed Gaelic songs inspired by Scotland’s Coasts and Waters and a festival finale from Hebridean band, Beinn Lee.

Whilst adhering to the restrictions due to Covid-19, the varied programme, which will consist of both ticketed and free events, will feature performances from various Highland venues, providing much needed work for musicians and creative practitioners, as well as offering musical entertainment to help lift people’s spirits at this time.

Opening the festival on 20th November will be a brand new, unique performance, arranged by multi-instrumentalist and producer, Mike Vass, featuring young people from Fèisean across Scotland.

As part of a partnership with SEALL Festival of Small Halls, Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye will host an evening on the 27th November with musicians including Hamish Napier, Su-a Lee, Lauren McColl with Gaelic singer and member of Sian, Eilidh Cormack taking the role of Bean an taighe for the evening. Other performances on the Isle of Skye, in partnership with SEALL, will take place from Braes Hall (26th November) and Sligachan Hotel (28th November) with other popular traditional musicians including BBC Radio Scotland presenter, Gary Innes and singer and harpist, Rachel Newton.

Sian will be joined by Trail West, who celebrate their 10th anniversary this year, with a livestream concert from Eden Court in Inverness on the 29th November.

Other highlights of this year’s Blas include harpist Ingrid Henderson’s commission for Nature Scotland to celebrate the 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters featuring Ingrid alongside Anna Massie, Conal McDonagh and Megan Henderson with film, animations and images by Somhairle MacDonald, streaming live from Mallaig Hall; a birthday celebration for Gaelic singer Christine Primrose who will mark the occasion with friends including Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart, singer and box player Murdo ‘Wasp’ MacDonald and Highland piper and former Battlefield Band member, Duncan MacGillivray.

As well as the main concerts and cèilidhs each evening, there will be daytime song sessions, music workshops, talks on various aspects of Gaelic culture, drama performances and film. Three online cèilidhs will take place with, among others, BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner Josie Duncan and Hamish Macleod as well as Ingrid Henderson and Iain MacFarlane.

Councillor Calum Munro, Chair of the Highland Council Gaelic Committee said: “Due to Covid-19 pandemic many of our annual events have been adversely affected. The Blas Festival is no exception to this, but, Highland Council, are happy to announce that the Festival which is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal with support from Highland Council will take place in November albeit in a different format. This year it will be online, and this has been made possible by the creativity and innovation of the Fèisean nan Gàidheal team in maximising the use of ICT.”

He continued: “The Highland Council has supported the Blas Festival for the past 15 years. I’m delighted that we are able to continue our support of the Festival this year. We recognise that it is a challenging year for us all, including artists who are employed within the creative industries. Events such as Blas not only provide exceptionally high quality musicianship and Gaelic cultural entertainment but, also assures continued much needed employment within the arts sector. The Blas Festival programme includes many different events, such as celebrating a significant birthday of an internationally renowned Gaelic singer, performances by world renowned award winning pipers, new compositions by hugely talented songwriters and musicians and performances by many talented young people from across the Highlands. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Fèisean nan Gàidheal for their hard work in creating such an inspiring and innovative programme against the backdrop of the current pandemic, and finally my advice is please log on to the Blas Programme and enjoy the events”.

Arthur Cormack from Blas Festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, commented: “In what has been a challenging year for musicians and communities, we are very much looking forward to bringing an online Blas Festival to people’s homes and to extending the festival’s reach through digital means. We are grateful to our funders, particularly The Highland Council, for continuing to support Blas and look forward to a 11-day celebration of Highland culture.”

All events taking place during Blas will strictly adhere to current government guidelines. The full programme of events can be found at www.blas.scot along with details of how to purchase tickets.

Josie Duncan
Trail West

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Fèis Blas air loidhne airson 11 làithean de cheòl is de chultar Gàidhealach
Tha an Fhèis Ghàidhealach a’ toirt am follais clàr sgoinneil de dh’òrain is de cheòl Gàidhlig air loidhne

Thèid ceòl Gàidhealach a chomharrachadh, a dh’aindheoin gach cnap-starradh, air feadh na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean san t-Samhain le Fèis Blas a’ dol air adhart air loidhne, le sàr-roghainn de chuid den luchd-ciùil is de na seinneadairean seann nòs as fheàrr ann an Alba.

‘S àbhaist do dh’Fhèis Blas a bhith a’comharrachadh cultar Gàidhealach agus cor beothail ceòl seann nòs Albannach thar 8 no 9 làithean ann an tallachan air feadh na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean ach gabhaidh e àite air loidhne thar 11 làithean an ath-mhìos, tro chaochladh chonsairtean, cèilidhean, seiseanan-obrach is tachartasan eile air an sruthadh beò no air an clàradh ro-làimh. Thathar an dòchas leis mar a tha fèis na bliadhna-sa air loidhne gun tèid aig daoine air feadh an t-saoghail air cuid den t-sàr-cheòl Ghàidhealach as fheàrr a mhealtainn is a taic a thoirt dha bhon taigh aca fhèin.

Air a chur air dòigh le Fèisean nan Gàidheal an co-bhoinn ri Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd, gabhaidh Blas àite bho 20-30 Samhain, a’ fosgladh le ullachadh às ùr de cheòl agus a’ crìochnachadh le consairt oidhche Latha Fhèill Anndrais, anns am bi òrain ùr nodha Ghàidhlig a dh’èirich à Cladaichean is Uisgeachan na h-Alba gan gabhail agus le oidhche dheireannach na Fèise bhon chòmhlan Uibhisteach, Beinn Lee.

Leis mar a dh’fheumar cumail ri riaghailtean teann Cobhad-19, bidh an clàr eugsamhail de thachartasan an-asgaidh is le tiocaidean a’ cumail obair ri luchd-ciùil is luchd-ealain, is cruaidh fheum aca oirre, aig a’ cheart àm a’ tabhann ceòl a bheir togail cridhe dhan mhòr-shluagh.

‘S e cluiche shònraichte nuadh a dh’fhosglas an fhèis air 20 Samhain, air a chur an eagar le Mìcheal Vass, fear a chluicheas iomadh ionnsramaid is a riochdaicheas ceòl, a’ toirt am follais òigridh bho fhèisean air feadh na h-Alba.

Mar phàirt de chaidreachas le Fèis nan Tallachan Beaga aig SEALL, bidh feasgar ann an Caisteal Dhùn Bheagain san Eilean Sgitheanach air 27 Samhain le luchd-ciùil leithid Hamish Napier, Su-a Lee, is Lauren NicColla, agus na bean an taighe a’ bhana-sheinneadair a tha na ball de Shian, Eilidh NicCarmaig. Bidh iad a’ cluiche feasgaran eile san Eilean Sgitheanach, an co-bhoinn ri SEALL, ann an Talla na Bràighe (26 Samhain) agus ann an Taigh-òsta Shligeachain (28 Samhain) còmhla ri luchd-ciùil ainmeil eile leithid a’ chraoladair aig Radio Scotland, Gary Innes, agus a’ bhana-sheinneadair is a’ bhana-chlàrsair, Raonaid Newton.

Thig Trail West, is iad a’comharrachadh 10 bliadhna còmhla, còmhla ri Sian le consart ga shruthadh beò bho Chùirt Eden air 29 Samhain.

Am measg nam prìomh thachartasan eile aig Blas na bliadhna-sa, tha coimisean Ingrid NicEanraig airson Nàdar Alba gus Bliadhna nan Cladaichean is nan Uisgeachan 2020 a chomharrachadh, anns an nochd Ingrid fhèin còmhla ri Anna Massie, Conal MacDonnchadha agus Megan NicEanraig le film, dealbhan beò agus ìomhaighean le Somhairle Dòmhnallach, ga shruthadh beò bho Thalla Mhalaig; comharrachadh co-là-breith na bana-sheinneadair Cairistìona Primrose, is i còmhla ri càirdean leithid na bana-sheinneadair, Maighread Stiùbhart, an seinneadair is fear a’ bhogsa Murchadh ‘Wasp’ Dòmhnallach, agus am pìobaire a bha uair na bhall den Bhattlefield Band, Donnchadh MacGilleBhràth.

A bharrachd air na prìomh-chonsartan is cèilidhean gach feasgar, feadh an latha bidh seiseanan-seinn, seiseanan-obrach ciùil, òraidean air caochladh chuspairean a thaobh cultar na Gàidhlig, dràma agus film. Bidh trì cèilidhean air loidhne a’ gabhail àite, is nam measg, Josie Duncan a choisinn Duais Dual-cheòl na h-Òigridh aig BBC Radio 2, Hamish MacLeòid, Ingrid NicEanraig agus Iain MacPhàrlain.

Thuirt an Comhairliche Calum Rothach, Cathraiche Comataidh Gàidhlig Comhairle na Gàidhaltachd: “Bha fìor dhroch bhuaidh aig galar Cobhad-19 air mòran de na tachartasan bliadhnail againn. Chan eil Fèis Blas na h-aonar, ach tha Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd toilichte a ràdh gun tachair an fhèis, a tha air a cur air dòigh le Fèisean nan Gàidheal le taic bho Chomhairle na Gàidhealtachd, san t-Samhain ged a bhios i ann an riochd eile. Am-bliadhna ‘s ann air loidhne a bhios i, agus chaidh seo a chur nar comas le tionnsgalachd is smaointean ùra sgioba Fèisean nan Gàidheal a’ cur feum mhòr air teicneolas coimpiutaireachd.”

Lean e air: “Tha Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd air taic a chumail ri Fèis Blas o chionn còig bliadhn’ deug. Tha mi air mo dhòigh gur urrainn dhuinn cumail oirnn le ar taic don Fhèis am-bliadhna. Tuigidh sinn gur e bliadhna dhoirbh a tha ann dhuinn uile, is luchd-ealain a tha a’ dèanamh beò-shlainte às a’ ghnìomhachas chruthachail am measg na tha sin. Chan ann a-mhàin gum bi tachartasan mar Bhlas a’ toirt dhuinn sàr-cheòl is brod cultar na Gàidhlig, ach cuideachd bidh i a’ cumail cosnaidh air a bheil cruaidh-fheum ri roinn na h-ealain. Tha caochladh thachartasan eadar-dhealaichte ann an clàr Fèis Blas, leithid comharrachadh co-là-breith sònraichte bana-sheinneadair Ghàidhlig a tha ainmeil gu h-eadar-nàiseanta, pìobairean cliùiteach a tha cuideachd aithnichte air feadh an t-saoghail a’ pìobaireachd, ceòl ùr le òranaichean is luchd-ciuil fìor-thàlantach agus mòran òigridh sgileil bho air feadh na Gàidhealtachd a’ nochdadh cuideachd. Bu thoigh leam an cothrom a ghabhail taing a thoirt do dh’Fhèisean nan Gàidheal airson an dìchill ann a bhith a’ cruthachadh clàr cho misneachail tionnsgnach fhad ‘s a tha an galar seo fhathast a’ dol agus, mu dheireadh, ‘s i mo chomhairle dhuibh pàirt a ghabhail ann an Clàr Blas agus na tachartasan aige a mhealtainn.”

Thuirt Art MacCormaig bho Fhèisean nan Gàidheal, a’ bhuidheann a bhios a’cur air dòigh Fèis Blas: “Bha a’ bhliadhna seo doirbh do luchd-ciùil is do choimhearsnachdan, mar sin tha fiughair mhòr againn ri bhith a’ toirt Fèis Blas air loidhne do dhachaighean dhaoine agus a bhith a’ leudachadh mar a ruigeas daoine an fhèis tro dhoighean digiteach. Tha sinn an comain ar luchd-maoineachaidh, gu h-àraidh Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd, airson taic a chumail ri Blas is tha fiughar againn ri bhith a’ mealtainn 11 làithean de chultar Gàidhealach.”

Leanaidh a h-uile tachartas aig Blas gu dlùth ri stiùradh an riaghaltais aig an àm seo. Gheibhear làn-chlàr de na tachartasan aig www.blas.scot le fiosrachadh air mar a ghabhas tiocaidean a cheannach.

Sian
Rachel Newton