The Highlands & Islands will see a flurry of musical and cultural activity from this Friday (2nd September) until 10th September as the Blas Festival hits the road for the 18th year, visiting village halls and concert venues across the region, as well as an extensive online programme of events.
Musicians and singers including Norrie MacIver, Rachel Walker, Gillebrìde MacMillan, Mànran, Mary Ann Kennedy, Kim Carnie, Paul McKenna and Sian will take to the stage in venues from Stornoway to Ballachulish as the Blas Festival returns with its annual celebration of Gaelic music and culture.
Highlights include Staran, a formidable collection of some of Scotland’s most sought after artists, who will play at the impressive Dornoch Cathedral on 4th September; Shinty aficionados, Gary Innes and Hugh Dan MacLennan, will be at the Highland Cinema, Fort William on 9th September to celebrate 100 years of the West Highland Museum, home to important shinty artefacts, with stories, songs and craic; and Julie Fowlis, Anna Murray, Christine Primrose, Catriona Macdonald, Allan Macdonald, Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and many more will join forces with singer and tradition bearer, Mary Smith, to celebrate her 80th birthday in style at An Lanntair in Stornoway on the final night of the festival, 10th September.
Nine of the concerts will also be livestreamed including Essie Stewart @ 80 and Chloë Bryce’s commission, The Summer Walkers; Tomhas, a new collection of Gaelic songs by Calum Munro performed by Kim Carnie and Norrie MacIver; Capercaillie’s Charlie McKerron with his Badenoch Suite; and A’ cuir seinn ri seanchas featuring Allan Henderson, Margaret Stewart and others. On the final night of the festival, Welsh youth group, AVANC, will be joined by Cèilidh Trails from across Scotland. These livestreamed events can also be booked via the Blas website – www.blas.scot.
With 43 concerts and cèilidhs taking place in venues across the Highlands & Islands, there is also a full programme of online workshops and livestreamed events, for all members of the family. The youngest members of the family, age 3-6, will be able to take part in Action Songs with singer Claire Frances MacNeil (in Gaelic & English) on the 3rd September; on the 5th September, Skipinnish front man, Norrie MacIver, will be teaching your favourite Runrig songs; Dàimh piper, Angus Mackenzie, will lead an adults workshop, teaching tunes from the new Coigach & Assynt Collection on the 10th September; a children’s Puirt a Beul workshop with Mànran singer, Kim Carnie, also takes place on the 10th September as well as an opportunity to learn some of the music from Chloë Bryce’s commission, The Summer Walkers. All of the workshops are taking place online and are free of charge, but must be booked on the Blas website. In addition, Fèisean nan Gàidheal has organised music sessions and drama performances in Highland primary schools.
Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council with funding from Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund.
Cllr Calum Munro, Chair of the Highland Council Gaelic Committee said: “The Council is delighted that the Blas Festival is returning in full swing, after the pandemic restrictions. The online programme is extremely exciting as it includes many events which will be live-streamed, workshops, and Gaelic song sessions. A number of the events will be taking place in halls and centres across the Highlands from Kilmuir to Boat of Garten”.
“It will be great to see so many talented musicians and artists performing live in venues and also virtually. I hope the performers receive warm greetings from audiences from both across the Highlands and internationally, I also look forward to seeing some of you at the festival.”
Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “The Blàs Festival is a highlight of the Gaelic year and this year’s programme demonstrates the range and quality of musicians and artists working in Gaelic. We recognise the importance of Gaelic song and music in attracting people to the language and to increasing the use of Gaelic through enjoyable events, and the contribution that these make to people’s wellbeing after the challenges of COVID-19.
“Fèisean nan Gàidheal is to be congratulated for organising such an attractive programme and for creating opportunities to participate in a packed programme.”
The full programme of events can be found at www.blas.scot along with details of how to purchase tickets.