Congratulations to A' Mire ri Mòir who have been nominated in Trad Music in the media sponsored by Skipinnish in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2017. Vote now!
We asked John MacIsaac of A' Mire ri Mòir the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
Mire ri Moir is appointment listening on weekday mornings on Radio nan Gaidheal, for followers of traditional music in a setting reminiscent of the village taigh-ceilidh , where music, razor sharp wit, and provocative views were all included in the entertainment mix. Blending a passion for traditional Gaelic song and music, viewed from the doorstep of 21st century life, Morag MacDonald's ability to relate to her audience, old and young, can most clearly be seen, as well as heard, each year at the Royal National Mod. The Friday morning ‘Mire ri Moir’ ceilidh has become as central to the 'Mod experience' as any of the premier competitions. Morag's knowledge of traditional music and her colloquial use of language appeals to an audience across the whole of Scotland and beyond. From the two West Highland Terriers in Argyll named Mire and Mòr ; the Wick farmer who insists that his cows are more generous with their milk when they listen to the show, to those who find themselves in deep disagreement with Morag’s musical views but still unable to switch-off, Morag MacDonald has ensured that Mire ri Mòir is not just a radio programme, but a part of people's lives.
Why are you involved in Scottish music?
I’ve been in the privileged position of getting to broadcast a daily programme of traditional music to the loyal ‘A' Mire ri Moir’ audience since the early 1990’s – A dream job by anyone’s standards. As a young child growing up in the close-knit Gaelic-speaking community in Ìochdar, South Uist, I was surrounded by music. My father sang and could play the chanter and the mouth organ. Amongst my neighbours were women who had had been recorded by the American folklorist, Alan Lomax when he visited Uist in 1951. The School of Scottish Studies was also a frequent visitor, recording many singers in the community. Like many of my generation I didn’t appreciate at the time, the wealth that surrounded me. It wasn’t until these people had passed, that I fully realised what I had inherited. I like to think, that I can now share and pass on that experience, and that I can bring the music and the story behind the music to the Mire ri Mòir audience. I enjoy the interaction too. A good ceilidh is a two-way street, and while I chat and play the music, I get sent songs, stories and little snapshots of listeners lives.
Any particular career highlights?
The annual Mire ri Mòir ceilidh at the Mod, with its mix of performers and audience, is very special. 10 a.m. on the Friday morning of the Mod may not seem the most auspicious time to start a live radio ceilidh programme, but every year without fail it’s amazing how many artistes turn up ready to perform, no matter how late a night they’ve just had. It’s also a mix of performers that you’re not going to find anywhere else, from the very young to the very fine vintage models! Every year, we have people taking part for the first time and this year it was Seonaidh MacIntyre and Iain Smith from Trail West who braved the microphone singing, unaccompanied. We also had Robert Robertson from Tide Lines and Ewen Henderson from Manran. It’s always a joy to see artistes who have been with us from our very first Mod ceilidh like Mod Medallists Donald Angie Matheson, Fred MacKenzie and for well known singer Alasdair Gillies, now in his 80th year, it is as much a highlight for him to take part as it is for the audience to sing along with him. It’s also so encouraging to see young children wanting to take part, and knowing that they are growing up with Mire ri Mòir and developing such a strong interest in traditional music.
I love getting audience feedback and that comes from such far-flung places as Mexico, Korea, and Japan as well as places nearer home. People who don’t have a word of Gaelic listen for the music and they often comment on my laugh as well!!!
What are your plans for the future?
Well, that’s up to the audience!! I hope to carry on involving people in traditional music, wherever they may be in the world. I hope to carry on encouraging young people in particular, to get involved in Gaelic music by making sure their music reaches a wider audience. I like to tell the story of the little boy on Lewis who refused to speak Gaelic, as it wasn’t “cool”. His parents took him to Heb Celt in the summer, where he heard Tidelines singing in Gaelic. He now wants to learn the language as Gaelic is “ so cool”.
If you would like to come along to the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in Paisley’s Lagoon Centre call 0300 300 1210 or to buy online visit www.paisley2021.co.uk/events/the-mg-alba-scots-trad-music-awards. Tickets can also be purchased via Paisley Arts Centre. Bands performing on Saturday 2nd December include Elephant Sessions, The Shee Big Band, Siobhan Miller, Tidelines, Paisley Fèis, Snuffbox, The Seamus O’Sullivan Experience, Lori Watson, Jenna Reid and Harris Playfair, Songs of Bàrd Phàislig (featuring Gillebrìde MacIlleMhaoil, Sìneag MacIntyre, Màiri NicAonghais, Seonaidh MacIntyre, Ewan MacPherson, Mhairi Hall, Màiri Nic a Mhaoilein and more to be announced. There will also be a late night ceilidh after the Awards till 1am.