Children from Golspie to Ghana have been enjoying a summer of free Gaelic music tuition, thanks to Gaelic arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal.
With ongoing support from Creative Scotland, HIE and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Fèisean an t-Samhraidh (Summer Fèisean – Fèisean being the Gaelic word for festivals), organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in collaboration with local Fèisean, offer live online music lessons with musicians from across Scotland, every week throughout the summer holidays.
Fèisean usually take the form of a week-long series of music, dance and Gaelic language activities in their own locality and there would normally be around 20 of them during the school holiday period. Due to the current Covid-19 situation it was not possible for the usual summer Fèisean to take place, so the small team at Fèisean nan Gàidheal set up a programme of music lessons online, teaming up with local Fèisean to deliver classes via Zoom at the time they would normally have been taking place.
Each Summer Fèisean session offers a variety of lessons from some of the top traditional musicians and singers in the country, all of whom had been booked to teach at the local Fèisean prior to lockdown. Children have been able to choose from a selection of workshops including fiddle, Gaelic Song, accordion, whistle and bagpipes.
Tutors, who include Skipinnish singer, Norrie MacIver, Eilidh Cormack, Gaelic singer with female trio, Sian, Mànran fiddler Ewen Henderson and BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, Mischa Macpherson, have also been putting together videos to form the traditional Tutors’ Cèilidh at the end of each week, all of which are streamed on Facebook, along with a selection of Gaelic songs for everyone to learn together.
So far Fèisean have taken place throughout Scotland including Harris (Fèis Eilean na Hearadh), Tiree (Fèis Thiriodh), Uist (Fèis Tìr an Eòrna), Barra (Fèis Bharraigh), Sutherland (Fèis Chataibh) Lewis (Fèis an Rubha) and Eigg (Fèis Eige). Two other Fèisean – Fèis Phàislig (Paisley) and Fèis Arainn (Arran) – have organised their own online Fèis and these are open to anyone across Scotland, or beyond.
Catriona Danquah, who lives in Ghana and whose children have attended Fèis Thiriodh previously, commented: “Our two children aged 11 and 13 tuned into the summer Fèisean online from Ghana for Gaelic singing and chanter lessons. They loved every minute of it, the teachers were organised and engaging and the sessions couldn’t be long enough! In 2018 their first Fèis spawned a love of the clàrsach and chanter, this year Gaelic singing has been added. It’s wonderful that Tiree’s musical gift is able to be shared so widely whilst we cannot travel, we are so grateful and look forward to next year, hopefully on Tiree.”
There will be further opportunities for participants to take part in the online summer programme on the following dates:
W/C 27th July – Fèis Eilean an Fhraoich (Lewis), Fèis Air an Oir (Sutherland) and Fèis Thròndairnis (Skye) – www.feisean.org/samhradh5/
Fèis Arainn (Arran) – www.feisarainn.com
W/C 3rd August
Fèis Lochabair (Lochaber) – www.feisean.org/samhradh6/
Fèis Lannraig a Tuath (North Lanarkshire)
As part of a joint “#cleachdi aig an taigh” initiative with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Fèisean nan Gàidheal has continued to offer a huge range of free music and Gaelic language activities for all ages throughout lockdown and has so far provided lessons and workshops to over 2,400 people from all over the world.
Calum Alex Macmillan, Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Development Manager, commented: “Although the summer Fèisean couldn’t run as normal, we are delighted to have been able to work with them to offer fantastic tuition opportunities to their participants through these online lessons. The feedback from participants, and their parents, has been excellent as have numbers of participants. We are also pleased to offer financial support to Fèis Phàislig, Fèis Arainn and Fèis Lannraig a Tuath which have independently organised online Fèisean for their own participants.”
“At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many musicians found themselves without work and an income. We are pleased to have been able to help in a small way by making goodwill payments to those who had work cancelled but also, with the support of our funders, by continuing to employ artists to deliver our online programme.”
If you would like to sign up for one of the remaining Fèisean please visit www.feisean.org or www.facebook.com/fngaidheal for more information.
All Fèisean an t-Samhraidh events are being offered free to participants this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, but if anyone is able to make a donation, funds will be used to support Fèisean get up and running again once regulations allow. You can donate through JustGiving – bit.ly/327qDL9.