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Blas Festival to celebrate Scotland’s coasts and waters

(Photo above – Mike Vass)

Brand new music and song will showcase Highland talent

This year’s Blas Festival, which will take place online for the first time, will celebrate Scotland’s musical talent with a host of new song and music commissions – demonstrating the wealth of composers and musicians across the country, whilst showcasing people, life and stories from Scotland’s extensive coasts and waters.

The Blas Festival, which began with small-scale events at three venues in Strontian, Clashmore and Strathpeffer in 2004, celebrates Highland music, Gaelic language and culture. The festival, organised by Gaelic arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal, in partnership with The Highland Council, has commissioned many new works over the years. This year, several commissions have been awarded to Scottish musicians in a bid to bring newly composed and arranged Gaelic music and song to the forefront, as well as providing much needed financial support to musicians at this time.

Due to the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s festival will largely be held online with a series of pre-recorded and live performances, workshops, lectures and other musical events. An important aspect of Blas Festival has always been the involvement of young musicians and this year will be no different. A new musical work for young musicians from across Scotland has been commissioned and awarded to multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and producer, Mike Vass. In celebration of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, Mike, who is the current traditional artist in residence at the University of Edinburgh, based at the School of Scottish Studies, will lead an ensemble of young musicians on an imagined voyage from Skye to Mull, Iona and Islay, with each island represented by a piece of music or song transcribed from the School of Scottish Studies Archives in a piece of music called Air falbh ann am bàta/Off in a boat.

About 30-40 young musicians, who will come from local Fèisean across Scotland, will be involved and will be encouraged to listen to the original recordings in Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O’Riches, to inspire their own performance whilst providing them with an insight into the wealth of traditional material in the archives. This commission, which is worth £3k, will be pre-recorded remotely and the performance will open this year’s Blas Festival on Friday 20 November.

Brand new Gaelic song will also be a focus at this year’s festival. Fèisean nan Gàidheal has awarded Gaelic singer and songwriter, Rachel Walker, the Fuaran Coasts and Waters commission to write a Gaelic song in celebration of 2020’s Scottish Government themed year. Rachel, who has released three solo albums and often appears as a guest artist with well-known band Skipinnish, will perform her song, which will explore the importance and beauty of the coasts and waters from the north to the south of Scotland, as part of a St Andrew’s Night concert on 30th November, the festival’s finale.

Rachel’s song-writing has earned her critical acclaim in the past, with her single, The Arms of the Ocean, featuring Skerryvore’s lead singer Alec Dalglish, reaching number 1 in the World Music download chart in 2018. Her Coasts and Waters song will be added to the Fuaran Year of Coasts and Waters website, a year-long project by Fèisean nan Gàidheal, and supported by the Scottish Government. The online archive now features 39 Gaelic songs, with more being added on a weekly basis, complete with new recordings of each song, links to archive recordings, the words, historical and background information on the area from where the songs originate, providing a fascinating resource and an opportunity to learn some of those songs while the majority of people are at home.

Rachel Walker commented: “I’m absolutely delighted to have been awarded this commission to write a Gaelic song celebrating the year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters for the Blas Festival 2020. My idea for the song was to take a journey through Scotland, exploring the seas, shores, rivers and waterways, the myths and legends hidden beneath the waves and the links to people and their livelihoods. The challenge has been to fit that all into a song without having 100 verses, but I’m really pleased with how it’s progressing and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to let people hear it as part of the festival.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to Fèisean nan Gàidheal for the opportunity to be creative in such challenging times for the music industry. Having festivals like Blas and the Royal National Mòd continuing to run, even if it is virtually, is such a boost for musicians and listeners alike.”

Due to the high standard of entries to the original commission call, three other songwriters have also been awarded a £500 commission, resulting in three additional Coasts and Waters themed Gaelic songs. Songwriters Mary Ann Kennedy, James Hind and Niall O’Gallagher will have their songs performed alongside Rachel’s at the festival next month.

Arthur Cormack of Fèisean nan Gàidheal added: “The Blas Festival has commissioned many Highland artists over the past 15 years to produce new work, some of which has had a life through performances at other festivals and events following its premiere at Blas. We are very happy to work with several musicians in this challenging year by commissioning a range of pieces to be showcased at the festival and even more delighted to be able to bring Blas to an online audience ending on St Andrew’s Night.”

This year’s Blas Festival, which takes place from 20th -30th November, will feature a series of specially-curated livestreamed concerts from venues across the Highlands. As always, significant birthdays of some of Scotland’s most treasured musicians will be celebrated, including that of Gaelic singer, Christine Primrose.

Information on tickets for the livestreams will be available at www.blas.scot from the last week of October, with more information about events being announced in the coming weeks.

Rachel Walker

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Fèis Blas a’ comharrachadh chladaichean is uisgeachan na h-Alba

Cuiridh ceòl is òrain ùr-nodha tàlant Gàidhealach am follais

Bidh Fèis Blas na bliadhna-sa, a thachras air loidhne airson a’ chiad uair, a’ comharrachadh sàr-luchd-ciùil na h-Alba, le meall choimiseanan de dh’òrain is de cheòl ùr – a’ sealltainn saidhbhreas luchd-dèanamh is luchd-cluiche ciùil air feadh na dùthcha, aig an aon àm a’ toirt am follais dhaoine, beatha agus sgeulachdan bho chladaichean is uisgeachan lìonmhor na h-Alba.

Bidh Fèis Blas, a thòisich le tachartasan beaga ann an trì tallachan ann an Sròn an t-Sìthein, sa Chlais Mhòr agus ann an Srath Pheofhair ann an 2004, a’ comharrachadh cèol Gàidhealach, is cultar is cànain na Gàidhlig. Tha an fhèis, a tha air a cur air dòigh le buidheann na h-ealan Gàidhealaich Fèisean nan Gàidheal, an co-bhoinn ri Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd, air mòran obraichean ùra a choimiseanadh tro na bliadhnaichean. Am-bliadhna chaidh grunn chùmhnantan a thoirt do luchd-ciùil ann an oidhirp ceòl is òrain Ghàidhlig air an dèanamh às ùr a thoirt am bith, is e cuideachd a’ cumail taic-airgid ri luchd-ciùil, rud air a bheil cruaidh fheum aig an àm seo

Air sàilleabh buaidh galar Cobhaid-19, ‘s ann air loidhne as motha a chumar fèis na bliadhna-sa le sreath de chluichean, seiseanan-obrach, òraidean agus tachartasan ciùil eile air an clàradh ro-làimh agus bèo. ‘S e pàirt eile de dh’Fhèis Blas mar a tha luchd-ciùil òg air a bhith na lùib agus cha bhi am-bliadhna air a chaochladh. Chaidh obair-chiùil ùr a choimiseanadh do luchd-ciùil òg air feadh na h-Alba is chaidh a buileachadh air Mìcheal Bhas, fear a chluicheas iomadh ionnsramaid is a bhios a’ seinn, a’ dèanamh agus a’ cur loinn air ceòl.

Airson Bliadhna Cladaichean is Uisgeachan na h-Alba a chomharrachadh, bidh Mìcheal, a tha an-dràsta na neach-ealain air mhuinntireas aig Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, stèidhichte ann an Sgoil Eòlais na h-Alba, an ceann còmhlan de luchd-ciùil òg air turas-cuain na mac-meanmna bhon Eilean Sgitheanach a Mhuile, a dh’Eilean Ì is a dh’Ìle, le gach eilean air a riochdachadh le mìr ciùil no òrain air a thar-sgrìobhadh bho Thasglann Sgòil Eòlais na h-Alba ann an obair chiùil den ainm Air falbh ann am bàta.

Thèid 30-40 de luchd-ciùil, bho Fhèisean ionadail, a bhrosnachadh èisdeachd ris na tùs-chlàraidhean ann an Tobar an Dualchais, gus a’ chluich aca fhèin a mhisneachadh aig a’ cheart àm a’ toirt dhaibh sealladh air na tha ann de shaidhbhreas ar dualchais san tasglann. Thèid an coimisean, air luach £3,000, a chlàradh aig astar ro-làimh agus fosglaidh a’ chluich Fèis Blas na bliadhna-sa Dihaoine 20 Samhain.

Bidh òran ùr-nodha aig cridhe fèis na bliadhna-sa. Tha Fèisean nan Gàidheal air coimisean Cladaichean is Uisgeachan aig Fuaran a thoirt don bhana-sheinneadair is òranaiche, Raonaid Nic an Fhùcadair, airson òran Gàidhlig a dhèanamh mar chomharradh air cuspair na bliadhna 2020 aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha Raonaid air trì clàir aonair a chur a-mach is bidh i tric na h-aoidh aig a’ chòmhlan Skippinish, agus gabhaidh i a h-òran a bheir luaidh air cho cudromach is cho bòidheach is a tha na cladaichean is na h-uisgeachan bho thuath gu deas na h-Alba mar phàirt de chonsairt oidhche Latha Fhèill Anndrais air 30 Samhain, crìoch na fèise.

Tha na h-òrain a rinn Raonaid air cliù a chosnadh dhi roimhe, agus ràinig an t-òran aice, The Arms of the Ocean, air a ghabhail le prìomh-sheinneadair Skerryvore, Ailig Dalglish, a’ chiad àite ann an cairt luchdaichte a-nuas World Music ann an 2018. Thèid an t-òran aice air Cladaichean is Uisgeachan a chur ri làrach-lìn Bliadhna nan Cladaichean is Uisgeachan aig Fuaran, a tha na phròiseict fad bliadhna aig Fèisean nan Gàidheal le taic bho Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha 39 òrain Ghàidhlig san tasglann air loidhne a-nis, le tuilleadh gan cur rithe a h-uile seachdain, agus nan cois clàradh ùr de gach òran, ceanglaichean ri clàraidhean tasglainn, na faclan, cùl-fhiosrachadh eachdraidheil air dùthchas an òrain, a’ fàgail goireas iongantach a chuireas an comas dhaoine an cothrom air cuid de na h-òrain sin ionnsachadh fhad ‘s a tha a’ mhòr-chuid de dhaoine aig an taigh.

Thuirt Raonaid Nic an Fhùcadair: “Tha mi air mo dhòigh glan gun deach an coimisean seo a thoirt dhomh òran Gàidhlig a dhèanamh a’ comharrachadh bliadhna Cladaichean is Uisgeachan na h-Alba airson Fèis Blas 2020. B’ e na bha fainear dhomh turas a ghabhail air feadh Alba, a’ rannsachadh nam marannan, nan cladaichean, nan aibhnichean is nan uisgeachan, na sgeulachdan is nan eachdraidhean a tha falaichte fo na tuinn agus am buinteanas do dhaoine agus dam beò-shlàinte. B’ e an dùbhlan sin uile a chur ann an òran gun ceud rann a bhith ann, ach tha mi fìor thoilichte leis mar a tha e a’ dèanamh adhartais agus tha mi a’ dèanamh fiughair ris a’ chothrom leigeil le daoine a chluinntinn mar phàirt den fhèis.

“Bu toigh leam taing mhòr a thoirt do dh’Fhèisean nan Gàidheal airson a’ chothroim a bhith cruthachail ann an àm cho doirbh do ghnìomhachas a’ chiùil. Leis mar a tha fèisean leithid Blas agus a’ Mhòid fhathast ann, fiu ’s air loidhne, tha e a’ cur spionnadh ann an luchd-ciùil is luchd-èisteachd mar aon.”

Air sàilleabh ìre àrd na chuireadh mu dheidhinn a’ chiad iarraidh air coimiseanan, chaidh coimisean luach £500 a thoirt do thriùir òranaichean eile, a thug dhuinn trì òrain eile bonntaichte air a’ chuspair Cladaichean is Uisgeachan. Thèid òrain nan òranaichean, Màiri-Anna NicUalraig, Seumas Hind agus Niall ó Gallchobhar a ghabhail còmhla ris an fhear aig Raonaid aig an fhèis an ath-mhìos.

Chuir Art MacCarmaig aig Fèisean nan Gàidheal ris: “Tha Fèis Blas air mòran luchd-ealain Gàidhealach a choimiseanadh thar na 15 bliadhnaichean airson obair ùr a dhèanamh, cuid dhi a tha air maireachdainn aig fèisean is tachartasan eile an dèidh dhi nochdadh an toiseach aig Blas. Tha sinn fìor thoilichte a bhith ag obair còmhla ri grunn luchd-ciùil sa bhliadhna dhoirbh a tha seo le bhith a’ coimiseanadh farsaingeachd phìosan a thèid a cur am follais aig an fhèis agus nas toilichte buileach gur urrainn dhuinn Blas a thoirt do luchd-èisteachd air loidhne a’ criochnachadh air Oidhche Latha Fhèill Anndrais.”

Bheir Fèis Blas na bliadhna-sa, a ghabhas àite bho 20-30 Samhain, am follais sreath chonsairtean le sàr-thaghadh gan sruthadh beò bho ionadan air feadh na Gàidhealtachd. Mar a h-uile bliadhna, thèid co-là-breith cuid den luchd-ciùil as luachmhoire a tha ann an Alba a chomharrachadh, nam measg am fear aig Cairistìona Primrose.

Gheibhear fiosrachadh air tiocaidean don t-sruthadh bheò aig www.blas.scot bhon t-seachdain mu dheireadh san Dàmhair a-mach, le tuilleadh fiosrachaidh mu thachartasan a’ nochdadh sna seachdainean ri tighinn.