A project which aims to inspire young Gaelic speakers to engage with the wealth of Gaelic culture in their local communities, has contributed to an online resource of over 100 Gaelic songs, sung by young Gaelic singers from across Scotland, with the latest songs having been researched and recorded during the pandemic.
‘Fuaran’ is a heritage initiative established by Gaelic arts organisation, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, to encourage a new generation of Gaelic speakers and singers to actively engage in the research and collection of Gaelic songs in their local area. Over the last seven years, over 54 young people aged 16-25 have taken part in research, training and song workshops, led by a host of leading Gaelic song and research experts.
Last year, another 18 young Gaels took part in the project and 12 have now recorded some of the songs they collected from communities across Scotland. The project participants first met, online, from May 2020, taking part in online workshops from experts including Gaelic song researcher Jo MacDonald, Director of Tobar an Dualchais, Floraidh Forrest, Gaelic singer and song researcher Gillerbrìde MacMillan, whilst also receiving one-to-one support via video call from Gaelic singers Christine Primrose and Margaret MacLeod and Gillebrìde MacMillan.
The songs were researched and recorded this year by: Alice MacMillan (Point, Isle of Lewis), Calum Ross (Aberdeen), Donald and Peigi Barker (Black Isle), Eòin Cumming (Gairloch), Evie Waddell (Stirling), Fergus Munro (Fort William), Finlay MacLennan (Kirkhill), Peigi MacVicar (Isle of Skye), Rona Macleod (Bonar Bridge), Rory Cormack (Conon Bridge) and Sophie Macdonald (Glasgow).
Researching songs of religion, Fergus Munro commented: “I really enjoyed this project. We have a wealth of spiritual songs in Gaelic and I found two really good examples which shine a light on the kind of faith that people held in Lochaber 150 years ago and the important work that folklorist Father Allan MacDonald undertook in the Highland and his creative skills. I’m really happy that these songs are being given new life through Fuaran.”
Brother and sister duo, Donald and Peigi Barker, looked at the songs of siblings, Margaret and Donnie Macleod of Na h-Òganaich fame. They came across a poem, Gille Gu Geingealadh, by the great Gaelic Lewis bard Murdo MacFarlane, a close friend of the Na h-Òganaich siblings. When they couldn’t trace a melody for the song they put their musical talents to use and composed a brand new melody to set the poem to which Margaret gave her every blessing.
They added: “Taking part in Fuaran allowed us to develop our Gaelic language and research skills. We got help with the different aspects throughout the process; our conversations with Mairead na h-Òganaich were so helpful and we learnt lots of new skills which we will be able to implement in future projects.”
Fèisean nan Gàidheal Development Officer and project co-ordinator, Karen Oakley said: “It’s with great delight that we can showcase the youngsters’ songs online. When the Fuaran participants first sung some of them for a live online concert as part of Blas Festival, it was very heart-warming to read the comments of audience members watching at home. Many wrote of the songs reminding them fondly of particular times or places and people in their lives. It shows how powerful and uplifting projects like this are to, not just the participants, but those with a keen interest in our Gaelic songs and culture.”
“The songs feature on the newly developed Fuaran website that allows users to search for songs pertaining to a particular area of Scotland. We hope that it will be a great resource for people wanting to discover more about the people, places and stories and songs in their area and across Scotland.”
For more information about Fuaran and to use the resource, please visit www.feisean.org/fuaran.
- The participants were recorded in various locations across the country including Lews Castle in Stornoway, The Stables in Cromarty and The National Piping Centre and Pollokshields Burgh Halls in Glasgow
- Fuaran receives funding via Creative Scotland, Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Argyll and Bute Council.
- The website also features songs connected to the 2020 themed Year of Coasts and Waters, researched by Jo MacDonald.
- Finlay MacLennan, (Lentran(West Allt na Ceàrdaich, near Inverness) who chose to research Gaelic Jacobite songs including those in praise of Charles Edward Stewart, said: “Fuaran opened a new and exciting door for me; Gaelic songs are like a key to the history of Scotland and are a great way to research particular events such as the Battle of Culloden.”
- Alice MacMillan, (Isle of Lewis) who researched songs with a family connection with the help of her grandparents, Etta and Seonaidh ‘Beag’ MacMillan, commented: “There are a good number of writers in the family but I selected William MacKenzie (Cnoc Chùsbaig bard) because he used to live just down the road from where I stay. I also wanted to choose songs that hardly anyone sings today. It was important to me to choose two songs that are rarely heard so that the poet’s words could be passed on.”
- Calum Ross, originally from Aberdeen but now based in Glasgow where he works for DASG, researched songs of Easter Ross with a connection to the sea, said: “My forebears and family in Easter Ross were fishermen and farmers and because of that I am interested in stories, songs and anecdotes about the sea, fishing and land-use. It was a pleasure to be involved in this project. The team was exceptionally friendly and encouraging of us in our research. I’m extraordinarily happy that folk will hear the songs being sung anew and that that they will be heard being sung by a new generation of young Gaels.”
- Eòin Cumming, (Gairloch), who researched songs of Wester Ross, said: “There are several poets I could have chosen. John Cameron is an exceptional poet and I decided to research his life and work because the substance of his songs relates to local things I know well and feel a connection to. Fuaran was a brilliant project for developing my researching skills. I learnt some beautiful songs, discovered more about their history, and got to know the composer. I’m delighted to be at this stage and for the songs to be going live.”
- Evie Waddell, (Stirling), who has not graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Traditional Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), researched songs about people’s rights and how disability and exclusion are represented in song – an important topic to her as she is deaf in one ear and has done sign language on Gaelic songs. Evie said: “During the project, I got better at using websites such as Tobar an Dualchais and I discovered other websites about Gaelic songs that were new to me! I liked that I was choosing the songs as I don’t do that so often, and I liked that I had the time to look at them closely and that the research wasn’t through university. For all of my life, I’ve understood and said how important it is to research songs as much as we can but this is the first time I’ve felt that I’ve done this! I don’t feel so shy about asking for help from lots of people”.
- Peigi MacVicar, from Isle of Skye and with connections to North Uist, came across songs of both islands. On Òran Dhòmhnaill Mhogastad (Donald of Monkstadt’s Song), she said: “This song mentions Monkstadt in Skye and Balranald in North Uist. I have a connection with both places as my house is near Monkstadt and I have family in North Uist near Balranald. Because of that it was interesting for me to learn through songs about the connections between the two places. While Donald of Monkstadt was living in North Uist he stayed in a house in Baleloch, the very place where my family and I stay when we visit”.
- Rona Macleod, Bonar Bridge, researched songs from Sutherland, including Hò ‘n ceàrd dubh (Hò the black crook) a satire to Patrick Sellar, the infamous Factor often viewed to have had a great hand in the Sutherland Clearances. On the song, Rona said: “This song caught my attention because it is about the interesting character, Patrick Sellar. As well as that the song mentions some places I know and that are near me. I enjoyed looking for songs from my own area. Before the project, I didn’t know many songs from specific places. I also learned how you could research and find information on older songs and the different ways to do that. That will be really useful to me in the future”.
- Rory Cormack (Conon Bridge), researched songs of Ross-shire, particularly those of Gaelic poet, piper and artists, Angus MacPhee. Rory said: “I began my research on the internet looking for songs from my own area, Ross-shire. After a short while I found a book and CD by Fiona MacKenzie both titled ‘Òrain nan Rosach’. After listening to the songs and reading the lyrics I came to the conclusion that I was particularly interested in Angus MacPhee’s work. There was something slightly magical about his writing that affected me and I really like the imagery he created. It was obvious that there was a strong connection between Angus and Fiona so I sent her an e-mail asking for more information about Angus. As it happened Angus was a kind of mentor to her!”
- Sophie Macdonald researched songs connected to Glasgow. Sophie said: “I wished to find more songs from Glasgow because I was brought up here and this is where I learned Gaelic. Although I have heard many songs from the Highlands I hadn’t come across songs from Glasgow before. I came across this song [‘Ciad Turas MhicDhòmhnaill a Ghlaschu – MacDonald’s First Visit to Glasgow] after speaking to Mary Ann Kennedy and I learned that she had had similar thoughts and this encouraged me to research this subject. I really liked this song because it is bilingual and so interesting and different from anything I had heard before.
About Fèisean nan Gàidheal
- Fèisean nan Gàidheal (FnG) was established in 1991 as the independent umbrella association of the Fèis movement. It is a membership organisation that offers a range of services to its members including grant-aid, training, insurance, and instrument loans.
- FnG is funded by Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Highlands & Islands Enterprise and delivers contracts for several local authorities.
- FnG supports 47 tuition-based Fèisean that offer tuition in traditional Gaelic arts to around 13,000 young people across Scotland every year.
- FnG also runs the Fèisgoil service to deliver work in schools. Through the service it organises music tuition through the Youth Music Initiative and teaches Gaelic language to support GLE and 1+2 languages.
- Drama work is a feature of FnG’s arts and education service, producing and touring a number of original Gaelic language theatre-in-education plays for schools and providing drama skills tuition. Highlights include a national tour of a Gaelic language pantomime and the Gaelic Drama Summer School.
- FnG’s FèisTV service livestreams events and offers online tuition.
- Overall, Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s work engages around 70,000 people annually.
For more information, please contact Katie Mackenzie, email@example.com / 077091 2771.