‘Soisgeul’ (pronounced ‘SOSH-kill’), Scotland’s Gaelic Gospel Choir will make a virtual ‘musical promise’ online next month, as a weekend of music and celebration looks forward to a post-COVID world when singers and audiences alike can gather again in real life to make and listen to live music.
‘Làn-Dùil’ (pronounced ‘LAHN-DOOL’) (translation – In Hope) takes place from 23rd – 25th April with a series of workshops, events and cèilidh online, led by the Soisgeul’s Artistic Director, Mary Ann Kennedy, and their principal guest leader, the highly respected gospel director, Gareth Fuller. And there’s an open invitation and a warm welcome for all Gaelic choristers, singers from other traditions and audiences worldwide to join in an exciting weekend of music.
Soisgeul – the Gaelic for Gospel – last met up in March 2020, the day before the whole of the UK went into full national lockdown. The choir, which was formed in 2015, had taken the Gaelic choral world into a whole new approach to singing in Gaelic. Their uplifting, groundbreaking performances, rooted in the spiritual traditions of two musical worlds, featured in high-profile events such as the Royal National Mòd and the massed choirs of ‘Glòir’ at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in 2019.
An Comunn Gàidhealach – the organisers of the national Mòd, Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival – will be hosting ‘Làn-Dùil’ as part of a series of events aimed at supporting their community of Gaelic singers, musicians and audiences. Since lockdown, many Gaelic choirs in Scotland and further afield have worked hard to keep their singers’ souls and voices going, and ‘Làn Dùil’ is also a recognition of these singers and their determination to carry on singing.
Soisgeul sings a broad range of repertoire, from Gaelic traditional spiritual songs to Gaelic versions of gospel classics. Mary Ann and Gareth have worked together since they first met at a Soisgeul workshop on the island of Iona, the heart of Celtic Christianity, creating a repertoire whose performance and repertoire is unique within both music traditions.
The ‘Làn-Dùil’ weekend kicks off on Friday April 23rd with a special online showing of performances from key inspirations forSoisgeul over the years. Online workshops on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th led by Gareth and Mary Ann will introduce new singers and established Soisgeul members to new repertoire, and take them through some firm musical favourites. On Sunday morning, there’s also a unique opportunity to watch the Demus Productions documentary for BBC ALBA tracing the formation of the choir.
And a Saturday night online cèilidh, hosted by Celtic Music Radio broadcaster and Soisgeul member John Joe MacNeil, will feature singalong choir performances and a specially recorded set of ‘dances for the front room’ by Ingrid Henderson and Iain MacFarlane of the Glenfinnan Cèilidh Band. Ingrid and Iain joined Mary Ann and a global virtual Gaelic choir to bring in the New Year on BBC ALBA this January.
Mary Ann’s arrangement of ‘Thoir Dhomh Do Làmh’ (Give Me Your Hand) brought together 300 singers from 32 choirs and eight countries around the globe, and was in part the inspiration for the Soisgeul weekend.
Soisgeul Artistic Director Mary Ann Kennedy said, “It’s so exciting, after a year away from being able to sing together, that we have this fantastic opportunity to show folk that we are heading slowly but surely back to being able to make music together, and we’re grateful to An Comunn Gàidhealach and to funders Bòrd na Gàidhlig for their support.”
Guest choir leader Gareth Fuller said, “Ever since I met the choir on the first freezing cold weekend in Iona, I knew we were on to something special. I can’t make it up to Scotland just yet, but I’m so happy that the virtual world gives us the chance to come together online.”
James Graham, Chief Exectutive of An Comunn Gàidhealach said, “The spring would normally be a time for singers and choirs to be taking part in local mòds in preparation for our national festival in October. With Gaelic choirs such a big part of our musical world, we’re delighted to be a part of this weekend of music and celebration.”
Soisgeul chair, Jackie Cotter, said, “For so many of us, our last experience of singing together before lockdown was Soisgeul. It feels so right for our joyful music to be the promise of good things yet to come, and we can’t wait to welcome old friends and new members alike!”