Katie Mackenzie of the Blas Festival has sent the following….
This year’s Blas Festival, a showcase of the best of Highland culture, features a healthy and impressive line-up of pipers as well as celebrating some of the great pipers of the past. A name synonymous with all things related to Highland bagpipes will be the centre of attraction on the first day of this September’s Blas festival.
The music of the late great piper Pipe Major Donald Macleod MBE (pictured top) from the Isle of Lewis, will be showcased in Crossing the Minch; a project dreamt up by The Big Music Society, led by world class pipers Calum MacCrimmon (Breabach and Tryst) and John Mulhearn (Tryst). Crossing the Minch will commemorate the outstanding music of Donald Macleod, who was arguably the most influential piper and composer of the 20th century.
The two-night tour, which will visit An Lanntair in Stornoway on 7th September and Ullapool Village Hall on 8th September, will wow audiences with a unique showcase of Donald Macleod’s music featuring special guests including James Duncan Mackenzie (Breabach), Innes White (Assynt), Fiona MacAskill (Kinnaris Quintet) and the Glenfinnan Cèilidh Band. With a concert performance in the first half and a cèilidh dance in the second half, bringing your dancing shoes is highly recommended!
Alix Aburn, the granddaughter of another 20th century piping legend, John Burgess MBE, and one of the Blas Festival’s Youth Ambassadors working with the festival to celebrate the Year of Young People 2018, said: “Although he died in 1982 young pipers and players of other instruments are very mindful of the legacy of Pipe Major Donald Macleod. His tunes are still played regularly by young players and it is fitting that Blas will mark the great composer’s work in Crossing the Minch, the title of one of his best-loved tunes.”
Carradale piper and composer, Lorne MacDougall, will take part in Stòras, an event celebrating the riches of Argyllshire Bàrdachd. Taking you on a musical journey from Kintyre, through Mid Argyll and around Lorne alongside MacDougall will be Oban Gaelic Choir, guitarist Finlay Wells and Skipinnish fiddler Archie McAllister. Stòras takes place on 8th September at Caol Community Centre, Fort William.
Although young people have always featured in Blas, the festival organisers have introduced some exciting opportunities for young people to design and deliver some of the main events at this year’s festival, supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund, managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
Blas will culminate in an enormous concert at the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness on Saturday 15th; Òran Mòr meaning Great (or Big) Song, will feature over 1,000 young musicians, including a large number of pipers, alongside some of the best pipers and bands in the folk world today, including Breabach, Brìghde Chaimbeul and Trail West. A new Gaelic song written by Glasgow-based Gaelic student, Robbie MacLeòid, will be performed by every single musician taking part in the concert, the largest event Fèisean nan Gàidheal will have organised in its 30-year history.
Other events heavily featuring some fantastic piping from young musicians will be RURA (8th September, Nairn Community & Arts Centre), Assynt (10th September, Carnegie Hall, Portmahomack and 11th September, Glengarry Community Hall) and Niteworks who will open the festival at Ironworks on 7th September alongside Inyal.
Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from 7-15th September. It aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over nine days of concerts, cèilidhs and larger events in venues across the Highlands and Islands.
Other headline acts at this year’s Blas, which takes place at venues from Bernera to Applecross and Portree to Portmahomack, include Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, two previous winners of BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards, Mischa Macpherson and Brìghde Chaimbeul, and Celtic rock group Wolfstone, Two icons of Gaelic culture, Alasdair Gillies and Dolina Maclennan, will be celebrating their 80th birthdays with special events in Skye and Lewis featuring hand-picked artistes. With Runrig having celebrated their Final Mile, Trail West will celebrate 40 years since the release of the band’s ground-breaking Play Gaelic, playing the songs from that album at two concerts during the festival.
The full programme of events can be found at www.blas-festival.com along with details of how to purchase tickets, including special prices for Young Scot cardholders.