Tuesday 9th September 2014
Blas 2014, the tenth anniversary festival being held across the Highlands and Argyll has got off to a flying start, with standing ovations the order of the day.
With a packed programme of events still to come during this week, the festival will conclude with the Ceòl nam Fèis finale concert at Eden Court on Saturday night, which promises to be a fantastic celebration of some of Scotland’s best young musicians.
Amongst the guests who set the ball rolling in some style at the weekend were Cherish the Ladies whose standing ovation at Eden Court was one of the highlights. They can still be seen in Gairloch, Clashmore, Kingussie and Portree before rounding off their series of concerts at Fort William’s Nevis Centre on Saturday 13th.
Another undoubted highlight was the 2014 new commission for Blas “Mìorbhail nam Beann”. Commissioned jointly with SNH, it had a well-received premiere at the opening night in Inverness in the organisation’s iconic Great Glen House. The show is on tour for the rest of the week at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye on Thursday 11th; Ullapool’s MacPhail Centre on Friday 12th and at Taynuilt Village Hall on Saturday 13th.
On Wednesday 10th in Strathpeffer Pavilion another new piece of music “An Turas: The Voyage of The Hector” will be performed by John Somerville and the young musicians from Fèis Rois, who commissioned their former participant to write the piece. Joining them will be the mighty Dàimh and duo James Mackenzie & Neil Ewart.
As part of Highland Homecoming, this year’s Blas Festival will welcome some of the world’s strongest athletes who will be attending the Scottish Masters championship at the Northern Meeting Park. A special ‘Welcome Home’ show – Do bheatha dhan dùthaich – takes place at Eden Court on Thursday 11 September with a magnificent line-up of musicians including top bands Mànran and Macanta as well as piping father and son Angus MacColl Sr and Jr setting the tunes for the Cheryl Heggie Dancers.
Festival Director Donna MacRae said: “The first weekend is key to setting the tone of for the following few days and we have a great start. We had a sell-out show in Wick and we are very pleased to be under way. There’s plenty more to look forward to this week and we hope to have a successful build up towards our final weekend.”
Shinty’s showpiece event, The Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup Final, to be held in Inverness on Saturday, coincides with Blas this year. To mark this, three shows highlighting the importance of shinty to Highland communities and Gaels world-wide, as well as the impact of the First World War on Highland communities, will be performed in shinty-playing areas.
The first of the “Home and Away – Glòir nan Caman” shows will be in Tighabruaich, home of Kyles Athletic, on Wednesday 10 September. The next evening in Inverinate in Wester Ross and finally on Friday night, 12 September, the evening before the Camanachd Cup Final, Eden Court in Inverness is the venue. Building on the success of “Shinty’s Heroes”, the shows will be presented by Hugh Dan MacLennan with musical direction by Megan Henderson. Joining the cast will be the piping MacGillivrays of Calrossie, Gary Innes, Linda Macleod and Calum Alex MacMillan. Rumour has it that there may be a surprise guest or two in the Inverness performance!
Also maintaining their international links with Blas 2014 are the wandering minstrels of Cuairt nam Bàrd with Fèisean nan Gàidheal and Comhdhàil Nàisiunta na Gaeilge bringing together poets and musicians to celebrate the shared Gàidhlig/Gaeilge culture of Scotland and Ireland. They will be appearing, along with local writers and musicians, in Oban (Tuesday 9th), Sleat (Wednesday 10th) and Inverness (Thursday 11th).
Just some of the many highlights and the majority of Blas events this year offer an added bonus with the presence of locally produced food and drink at most venues giving audiences a taste, not only of Highland culture, but Highland food and drink.
Details of the food and drink events, and the rest of the Blas programme, are available locally and through the festival website www.blas-festival.com.