Blas Festival showcases historic collection of Highland music

Blas Festival

A collection of Highland music, left behind in the library of Raasay House in the 1800s has been given a fresh lease of life in a new edition of the collection by renowned piper, Dr Angus Macdonald.

The Eliza Ross Collection, published by Taigh na Teud and compiled by Dr Angus Macdonald, features the Highland tunes and songs collected by Elizabeth (Eliza) Jane Ross, a niece of James MacLeod, one-time laird of the Isle of Raasay. The collection was left behind in the library of Raasay House when Eliza Ross left in 1813 to travel, with her sister, to India where she later married Baronet Charles D’Oyly. The collection is thought to be the earliest unpublished collection of Highland music and was discovered and bought for the School of Scottish Studies by folklorist and collector, Francis Collinson in 1954. It contains 150 airs of which about 100 are vocal airs, the others being instrumental dance tunes or slow airs. These instrumental tunes are now available for the first time in bagpipe notation with a complete section in the book featuring these tunes.

Dr Angus MacDonald, Gaelic song group, Sian, and fiddler, Ronan Martin, will perform a selection of these tunes and songs during the Blas Festival, which runs from 2-10 September at venues across the Highlands and Islands. On both nights, the concert will open with a set from up-and-coming 5 piece folk band, Falasgair, from the Isle of Skye.

The performances will be on the following dates:

  • 6thSeptember, 7.30pm, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye
  • 7thSeptember, 7.30pm, Raasay Community Hall, Raasay

Dr Angus Macdonald commented: “Of the 150 tunes Eliza Ross collected in Raasay many of the airs have been paired with their Gaelic songs. In addition 59 tunes have been written out in pipe music. Some of these unknown elsewhere. This is a fascinating and valuable resource for anyone interested in Highland music and we will hear many of the highlights at this year’s Blas festival.”

Christine Martin, Director, Taigh na Teud, added: “We are looking forward to hearing these old tunes from the Eliza Ross Collection played live on Skye and Raasay during Blas Festival.”

The Blas Festival, which is organised by Fèisean nan Gaidheal in partnership with The Highland Council, showcases Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over 9 days of events in venues across the Highlands and Islands and this year will host 40 concerts and cèilidhs, an extensive education and communities programme and an online offering which will include workshops and livestreamed concerts. Musicians performing this year include Mary Ann Kennedy, Julie Fowlis, Emma Macleod, Paul McKenna, Gillebride Macmillan, Kim Carnie, Martainn Skene, Norrie MacIver, Allan Henderson and Bruce MacGregor.

Other highlights include two 80th birthday celebrations from Gaelic singer Mary Smith, and storyteller, Essie Stewart; Tomhas, a collection of new Gaelic songs, by Calum Munro, exploring love, loss and mental health performed by Norrie MacIver and Kim Carnie; The Badenoch Suite by Capercaillie’s Charlie McKerron; Talamh Beò with Mary Ann Kennedy; and Ìtheamaid is Òlamaid, a fascinating evening of songs and stories, all related to food and drink, with research by Jo MacDonald and Gaelic singers Rachel Walker and Gillebrìde MacMillan – perhaps with a wee dram thrown in too!

Calum Alex Macmillan from Blas Festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, added: “We are delighted to be able to showcase this important Highland music collection during Blas Festival this year. This year’s festival really will showcase old and brand-new Highland music with concerts like The Eliza Ross Collection and Chloë Bryce’s commission, The Summer Walkers.”

The full programme of events can be found at along with details of how to purchase tickets.

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