Blas Festival announces 2019 line-up

Blas

The programme for this year’s Blas Festival has launched today and revealed an outstanding line-up of musicians from Scotland and further afield for this year’s Gaelic music festival which will take place next month in venues throughout the Highlands.

Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from 22-30 November, culminating in a variety of events across the Highlands to celebrate St Andrew’s Night. It aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over eight days of concerts, cèilidhs and workshops in venues across the Highlands and Islands.

In a programme which really does offer something for every member of the family, as well as the 20 main concerts and cèilidhs, there will also be daytime cèilidhs, a series of song lectures and a special schools programme which will see some of the musicians visit locals schools for performances and workshops.

Acts at this year’s Blas, which takes place at venues from Aviemore to Barra include the Gary Innes Band, Tideline’s Robert Robertson and Ross Wilson, Iain Macfarlane and Ingrid Henderson, an outstanding piping night at Inverness Town House and neo-trad trio Project Smok. As always there will also be special performances from an overseas act. Two of Cape Breton’s finest fiddlers and step-dancers, sisters Dawn & Margie Beaton, will be entertaining audiences in Gairloch, Resolis, Ullapool and Roybridge, alongside Gaelic singing trio, Sian, and singer Kathleen MacInnes.

This year will also feature two special partnerships. Blas and Smalls Halls Festival will present shows in Kyleakin and Edinbane featuring a world-class line up of musicians including Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw, fiddler Duncan Chisholm, Granton-on-Spey multi-instrumentalist and composer Hamish Napier and BBC Young Folk Award winner, uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson. The Highland capital will host a show by electronic celtic fusion super group, Niteworks, at Ironworks, a partnership between 432 and Blas Festival.

Fast-becoming a Blas tradition, three birthdays will be celebrated in true Highland style this year with an impressive array of special musical guests. Gaelic singer, John ‘Seonaidh Beag’ Macmillan will celebrate his 80th birthday alongside Donaidh Macleod who turns 90 this year. Celebrating with the Lewis men, at An Lanntair in Stornoway, will be Gaelic singers Kathleen Macinnes and Iain Mackay, Allan Henderson, members of the Lewis Pipe Band and other special guests. Also celebrating a special 80th birthday will be Barra’s Chrissie Macdonald, or Chrissie Denny as she is commonly known, who will be joined by Mary Ann Kennedy, Allan Macdonald, Alasdair Whyte, Còisir Ghàidhlig Bharraigh and The Cèilidh King, Fergie Macdonald at Barra’s Northbay Hall.

Currently showcasing their work in Canada, Fuaran, will take to the stage to showcase the fruits of their recent work. Fuaran, a heritage initiative established by Fèisean nan Gàidheal to encourage a new generation of Gaelic speakers and singers to actively engage in the research and collection of Gaelic songs in their local area, will perform alongside tradition bearer, singer and piper, Rona Lightfoot, and Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart, who both supported the young singers with their research.

Arthur Cormack, Fèisean nan Gàidheal Chief Executive, said: “Blas Festival has become an important event in the calendar for communities across the Highlands and Islands since its inception in 2005. This year’s programme is no exception and with its outstanding cèilidhs, and concerts will celebrate and promote Highland culture to audiences coming from far and wide. We are delighted to be able to put on Blas Festival this year, once again, to showcase and celebrate our homegrown talent.”

Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is delighted that Fèisean nan Gàidheal has been successful in ensuring that the much-valued Blàs festival is running again this year.  The high quality and range of events in the progamme promote a very positive message about the Gaelic language and culture.  We know that the arts are a key driver in attracting people to learn Gaelic and in strengthening its use and  Blàs, along with other festivals, add significantly to Scotland’s culture and its attractiveness as a country.”

Councillor Alister Mackinnon, Chair of the Gaelic Strategy and Implementation Group and Chair of Corporate Resources, Highland Council, said: “The Highland Council has supported the Blas Festival since its inception 14 years ago. The Blas programme is educational and entertaining especially as we celebrate the Year of Indigenous Languages, and includes events from Kyleakin to Lochinver and Gairloch to Strathy on the North Coast”.

The full programme of events can be found at www.blas-festival.com along with details of how to purchase tickets.

 

IAIN MACFARLANE – Gallop To Callop (Old Laundry Productions OLP005)

Gallop To CallopIain MacFarlane is a former member of Blazin’ Fiddles and he’s recruited a few old friends to play on Gallop To Callop, his debut solo album. There’s Ewen Henderson, formerly of Battlefield Band, former Altan melodeon player Dermot Byrne, Breabach’s Megan Henderson, Ewan Robertson and James Lindsay, pianist/flautist Hamish Napier and Iain MacDonald who has played with just about everybody including Ossian and Wolfstone. This is a band with a real pedigree.

You should have a fair idea of what to expect and you won’t be far wrong. There are quite a lot of original compositions and some drawn from the tradition and the standard piping repertoire. The beauty of MacFarlane’s writing is that you are hard-pressed to tell the new from the old. The up-tempo numbers are played in, dare I say, the old-fashioned style with a piano continuo and if you’ve heard Violet Tulloch you’ll know what that is. Some of the piano is undoubtedly by Napier but some is by Iain’s wife Ingrid Henderson who is perhaps better known as a clarsach player and it is that instrument that leads some of the gentler pieces such as the lovely ‘Isobel’s Tune’.

It’s hard to pick favourites as the album whirls past. ‘Tatties On The Manifold’ with MacDonald’s whistle is a particularly fine bouncy tune and that is followed by the breakneck set of ‘Stoddie’s Reels’ and I can’t resist a tune like ‘The Head, The Heart And The Tail’ which describes the process of whisky distillation.

This is the perfect album from lovers of Scottish traditional music. Iain MacFarlane writes and plays with a love and respect for the tradition and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Dai Jeffries

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Iain MacFarlane and Ingrid Henderson. No title (or could it be called ‘Hello’?)