9 Day Highland Cultural Celebration on The Horizon

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Tuesday August 22 2017

Blas Festival begins on Friday 1 September.

Some people travel across the world to sample Highland culture during the Blas Festival. 

Others travel shorter distances. 

Whatever the duration of travel organisers of this year’s festival, taking place from 1 to 9 September, are looking forward to offering audiences – visiting and local - a great 9-day taste of music, song and poetry.

Blas promotes traditional music and Gaelic language taking in the best of what Scotland has to offer as well as performances by some of our Celtic cousins and organisers promise concerts and cèilidhs across the Highlands as well as at several venues in Argyll and the Western Isles.

Beginning on Friday 1 September, Blas will feature around 40 events including performances by established artists such as Skipinnish, Breabach, Mànran and Duncan Chisholm. 

Skerryvore will be joined at Eden Court in Inverness by Ireland’s Sharon Shannon, returning after her successful Blas appearances last year. 

Iain MacFarlane and Ewan Robertson will be joined by Dermot Byrne, formerly Altan’s box player.

Blas also makes a virtue of involving young people and new Gaelic song trio Sian [Ceitlin LR Smith, Eilidh Cormack & Ellen MacDonald], traditional trio Hecla, as well as former Radio 2 Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Mischa Macpherson, will be appearing as will young people from several Fèisean and the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music based at Plockton High School. 

The Angus Nicolson Trio, Donald Black Band, Ireland’s Fidil and Canada’s MacIsaac & MacKenzie will appear as will an array of the finest Gaelic singers including Mairi MacInnes, James Graham, Iain MacKay, Margaret Stewart, Rona Lightfoot, Ewan John Morrison, David Mackenzie, Murdo ‘Wasp’ MacDonald, Amy MacKay, Mary Catherine MacNeil, Freddie Mackenzie, Dingwall Gaelic Choir and Inverness Gaelic Choir. 

In an ongoing partnership with Comhairle nan Leabhraichean Gaelic poets, including Maoilios Caimbeul and Aonghas MacNeacail, will make a guest appearance at some events.

A hallmark of Blas over the past few years has been the recognition of some of Gaelic music’s most revered artistes. 

This year is no exception with special events celebrating the 80th birthdays of four icons of Gaelic Culture - Kenna Campbell, Fergie MacDonald, Morag MacLeod and Finlay MacLeod. 

Each year Blas offers a new commission and this has resulted in several excellent new pieces of music having been composed and performed well beyond their Blas debut. 

This year, organisers have taken a different tack and Dìleab Uilleim will explore the Gaelic song legacy of Rev William Matheson, one of Scotland’s foremost collectors and authorities on Gaelic song. 

Those shows will feature introductions to the songs by Jo MacDonald and performances from Robert Robertson, Rachel Walker, Ross Wilson, Alasdair Whyte, Eilidh Cormack, Linda Macleod, Allan MacDonald and Christine Primrose.

New music will still be a feature with Mary Ann Kennedy performing songs from her newly-launched album An Dàn and Gary Innes will be performing music from his new album Era. 

A CD of Lauren MacColl’s Fèis Rois Commission The Seer will be launched at two performances during Blas with a stellar line-up of musicians in her ensemble including Mairearad Green who, along with Mike Vass, will introduce another new album A Day A Month at a joint performance in Ullapool. 

Two Fèisean - Fèis Lochabair and Fèis na h-Òige - will host concerts celebrating their 25th anniversaries and Glòir nan Caman: Shinty’s Heroes returns with Hugh Dan MacLennan and a host of fine musicians focusing on PM William Lawrie from Ballachulish. 

Arthur Cormack of festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, explains:

“Unlike site-based festivals, Blas was devised by The Highland Council to bring good quality traditional music events to venues large and small, along the lines of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours. 

“This involves working with a large number of voluntary and professional promoters, venues and artistes and Blas offers communities an opportunity to organise and participate in quality events in their locality rather than travelling to centres of population. 

“We partner The Highland Council in delivering the Blas Festival and are very grateful for its ongoing support. 

“While the bulk of the festival continues to be in its area, we are also supported by HIE, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland and Marine Harvest as well as Argyll & Bute Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and we take in some venues in Argyll and the Western Isles. 

“We have a packed programme and look forward to welcoming people from all over to Blas events.”

 

The full festival programme is now available at www.blas-festival.com where full details of all events and how to buy tickets can be found.

 

 

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