Audiences across the world will once again be able to enjoy performances as part of this month’s Blas Festival as the organisers decide to stream a selection of the live performances and offer workshops online for all to enjoy.
The Blas Festival, which kicks off this Friday 19th November and runs until the 27th November, celebrates Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over 9 days of events in venues across the Highlands and Islands. Last year, due to the pandemic, all events during the festival were streamed online and this year, to allow people from far and wide to enjoy the performances, one concert every evening during the festival will be streamed live.
The performances to be streamed online include performances from Donald Shaw, Charlie Mackerron and Karen Matheson from Inverness Cathedral, Mànran’s Kim Carnie and Brìghde Chaimbeul from Inverness Town House, Dàimh from Gairloch, Gaelic singer Deirdre Graham and Eabhal from Lochcarron, Celtic Praise from Inverness Cathedral, Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey with Ingrid Henderson and Iain MacFarlane from Resolis, Brian Ó hEadhra and Fionnag NicChoinnich with Emma Macleod in Lochinver and fiddler, Iain Fraser in Ullapool.
Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’ and is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council, will feature four performances of the brand-new musical commission, Buaidh nam Ban, by Mànran singer and TV presenter, Kim Carnie, celebrating the life and works of women bàrds including Màiri Mhòr nan Òran – the performance at Inverness Town House, 20th November, will be streamed online.
Fiddler Iain Fraser will the premiere his new album, Gneiss, which was commissioned by Fèis Rois. The album celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Adult Fèis (Fèis Rois nan Inbheach) and features a host of artists who have a strong link with this much-loved annual event. This event will be streamed live from MacPhail Centre, Ullapool, on the 26th November.
On the final night of the festival, 27th November, there will be a special performance of the soundtrack from BBC Scotland’s Gaelic drama, Gruth is Uachdar (Crowdie and Cream), composed by Donald Shaw and Charlie McKerronof Capercaillie, which will also be streamed live. They were awarded the Royal Television Award for both soundtrack and theme tune and will recreate the music for the first time in 20 years since its broadcast in the stunning setting of Inverness Cathedral with a stellar line up of traditional musicians and an opening set by Karen Matheson.
Online workshops this year include storyteller Ruairidh Maclean discussing the rich Gaelic culture of traditional heroic tales, a fascinating insight into the history of printing in Gaelic from Dr Anette Hagan, Rare Books Curator for Early Printed Collections at the National Library of Scotland and Fiona J Mackenzie, Canna House Archivist will share the story and songs of folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw, who came from Pittsburgh to South Uist, and her muses, the Macrae sisters of Glendale. There will also be music and stepdance workshops, for children and adults, with Mairi Macmillan, Iain MacMaster, Alison Carlyle and Fiona MacAskill.
Arthur Cormack from Blas Festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, added: “We are delighted to once again stream a variety of Blas Festival events this year to extend the festival’s reach through digital means, after people from across the world joined us last year in the very first online Blas Festival.
“After another difficult year, we are proud to offer a festival featuring the very best in Scottish traditional music and song and Gaelic culture at the same time as providing much needed employment within the arts sector and social activities in communities across the Highlands and Islands.”
Cllr Calum Munro, Chair of Highland Council’s Gaelic Committee said: “The Highland Council has supported the Blas Festival for many years and I’m delighted that we are able to continue our support of the festival this year and to allow communities across the Highlands to enjoy high quality musicianship and Gaelic cultural entertainment. The Blas Festival programme includes many different events, such as marking a significant birthday of an internationally renowned Highland fiddler and celebrating the significant contribution to her culture of one of the great Gaelic tradition bearers from Uist. In addition, there will be fantastic performances by established, talented musicians who are well known to us all and new compositions and performances by many talented young people from across the Highlands. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Fèisean nan Gàidheal for their hard work in creating such an inspiring and innovative programme.”
The full programme of events, both live and online, can be found at www.blas.scot along with details of how to purchase tickets for the streamed events. The full list of workshops can be found at https://www.blas.scot/workshops.