On 15th September, nearly 1,000 young musicians impressed a Highland crowd with an incredible showcase of Scottish music and culture, alongside the top names in traditional music.
With support from the Year of Young People 2018 Event Fund, the Blas Festival, organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council, came to a close with an outstanding display of Scotland’s young musical talent in a largescale showcase, Òran Mòr, in Inverness.
Meaning Great (or Big) Song, this musical extravaganza took place at a packed out Northern Meeting Park in the Highland capital and featured young musicians from Fèisean and various youth initiatives from across Scotland including the Highland Council Youth Music Groups, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music and City of Inverness Youth Pipe Band.
The audience was also treated to performances by some of the biggest names in traditional music including Trail West, Mischa Macpherson, Brìghde Chaimbeul, Breabach and Skipinnish – all of which were selected by the young musicians taking part on the day.
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Year of Young People ensemble: a brand new Gaelic song written by up-and-coming young Gaelic songwriter, Glasgow-based Gaelic student, Robbie MacLeòid. His song, Bèo an Dòchas (Living in Hope), was written specifically for Òran Mòr and was sung by all the young people, under the musical direction of Donald Shaw and led by young Gaelic singer, Annia MacGillivray from Tain, who impressed the audience with her beautiful voice.
Robbie MacLeòid commented: “Writing this song for Òran Mòr at this year’s Blas Festival has been an incredible experience and opportunity for me. It is fantastic to be involved in an event like this and I am very grateful to Fèisean nan Gaidheal for all the support they’ve given me and the work they’ve done for Gaelic language and music over the last 30 years. It has been a wonderful day!”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “Òran Mòr truly put Scotland’s young people’s incredible talents centre stage at this year’s Blas Festival. It is great to see that the organisers fully embraced the spirit of the Year of Young People 2018 by creating exciting opportunities for young people to get involved both on stage as well as behind the scenes. The performances were not only a fantastic showcase of Gaelic music and Highland culture but also a platform for the young musicians and composers to share their passion for Scottish traditions and heritage. We are delighted to be supporting the event in celebration of this special year.”
Alix Aburn, a Blas Festival Youth Ambassador said: “I have been involved with Blas Festival this year as part of the Year of Young People 2018 and the entire experience has been incredible. It has been an invaluable learning experience, discovering what goes on behind the organisation of a festival like Blas and getting to perform alongside some amazing musicians. And to be part of Òran Mòr today has just been the icing on the cake! It was a brilliant feeling standing up on stage alongside my friends and professional musicians, entertaining the crowd in Inverness!
“Blas Festival provides young musicians like myself with the opportunity to perform alongside some of the top Scottish traditional musicians at the moment at a variety of venues across the Highlands and Islands and I hope to be involved again in the future!”
Blas Festival, which aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over nine days of concerts, cèilidhs and larger events in venues across the Highlands and Islands, ran from 7-15th September and featured traditional musicians and singers including Julie Fowlis, Wolfstone, Niteworks, Assynt, Alasdair Gillies and a new Gaelic song commission by BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner, Mischa Macpherson.
For more information about Blas, please visit www.blas-festival.com.
Photo credit: Fèisean nan Gàidheal