Blas of Culture Across The Highlands This Week

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Wednesday August 30 2017

Blas Festival begins on Friday 1 September. Pictured Gary Innes.

The finishing touches are being put to the organisation of Blas Festival events set to take place from this Friday, 1 September, across the Highlands and some of the islands.

Meaning 'a taste’, Blas will feature around 40 concerts as well as performances in Highland schools and care homes. 

Among those performing will be established artistes Skipinnish, Breabach, Mànran and Duncan Chisholm. 

Ireland’s Sharon Shannon, returning following her debut Blas appearances last year, will join Skerryvore at Eden Court in Inverness. 

The Angus Nicolson Trio, Donald Black Band, Ireland’s Fidil and Canada’s MacIsaac & MacKenzie will appear as will Iain MacFarlane and Ewan Robertson joined by Dermot Byrne, Altan’s former box player.

An array of the finest Gaelic singers will feature 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.  Glòir nan Caman: Shinty’s Heroes returns with Hugh Dan MacLennan and a host of fine musicians focusing on PM William Lawrie from Ballachulish. 

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

Having honoured Anne Lorne Gillies, Rona Lightfoot and Jonathan MacDonald, this year it is the turn of four icons of Gaelic Culture - Kenna Campbell, Fergie MacDonald, Morag MacLeod and Finlay MacLeod – all of whom are celebrating their 80th year. 

Each has been given the opportunity to choose where, and with whom, they would like to mark this milestone.

Each year Blas offers a new commission and organisers have taken a slightly different tack with Dìleab Uilleim which 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.

Willie Matheson was an exceptional Gaelic scholar and teacher and his influence on Gaelic song is still felt today, over 20 years after his death, with many singers still recording Gaelic songs they picked up from his singing or from his collection.  

A contemporary of Sorley MacLean, Kitty MacLeod, and James Carmichael Watson, Willie Matheson worked on a book of John MacCodrum’s poetry before undertaking recording trips to the Western Isles. 

He became a Church of Scotland minister and served in Tobermory before returning to take charge of Gaelic teaching at the University of Edinburgh. 

He became Reader in Celtic following publication of his superb book of the poetry of An Clarsair Dall - Roderick Morrison, the Blind Harper.

New music will still feature in Blas 2017 with Mary Ann Kennedy performing songs from her recently released 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. 

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. 

Two Fèisean - Fèis Lochabair and Fèis na h-Òige - will host concerts celebrating their 25th anniversaries.

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

“Blas is once again upon us and we are looking forward to delivering events across the area served by The Highland Council working with a large number of voluntary and professional promoters, venues and artistes.

“This is the model of festival the council envisaged when officials and members visited Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours around 15 years ago. 

“Due to additional funding from Argyll & Bute Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, this year we are taking in some venues in Argyll and the Western Isles. 

“We are also grateful for the support of The Highland Council, HIE, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland and Marine Harvest and look forward to welcoming audiences to Blas events.”


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



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