The 12th Blas Festival is just around the corner, beginning on Friday 2 September, and anticipation is growing as the festival’s latest commission is getting ready to take to the stage with Mary Ann Kennedy, Nick Turner and a small ensemble set to celebrate the dark skies of the Highlands through Gaelic culture, global history and 21st century science in a new production.
Beul na h-Oidhche gu Camhanaich - Mouth of the Night to First Light - will take audiences on a surround sound journey through the heavens and constellations with stories, songs and music connected to the sun, moon and stars and fir chlis, or Aurora Borealis, of the Scottish Skies.
Mary Ann explains: "The Highlands and Islands are such a great place for stargazing, with so little light pollution - and Nick and I often sit outside at night in Ardgour, watching for shooting stars. Having celebrated the sea and the land in previous commissions for Blas, the idea of the skies seemed like a natural next step."
As part of the new work, there will be a special sequence remembering Mary Ann's 'sister in music', cousin Maggie Macdonald who sang with Cliar, Inverness Gaelic Choir and was a tutor and Board member with Fèis Rois. Maggie died a few weeks ago after a short illness and was likewise a fan of the night skies. Grioglachan (Constellation) - a song by fellow chorister Marcas Mac an Tuairneir and Mary Ann - and She Watches the Stars will lead into the Aurora Borealis, a particular favourite of Maggie's.
Arthur Cormack of Fèisean nan Gàidheal, which delivers the Blas Festival in partnership with The Highland Council, said: “It has been one of the particular pleasures of Blas to enable artistes to bring new works to fruition. Since 2005 a host of fine traditional musicians have brought new music and song to stages across the Highlands commissioned by the festival. All of those pieces have had a life beyond Blas and have gone on to be performed at other festivals including Duncan Chisholm’s Kin, Iain MacFarlane’s Mìorbhail nam Beann, Margaret Stewart’s A’ Bhanais Ghàidhealach and Julie Fowlis’ Heisgeir.”
He went on: “All those new pieces have celebrated aspects of our unique Highland Culture, our people, history, language and traditions and have left a lasting legacy of works that may be revisited in the years ahead. We congratulate Mary Ann and Nick on securing this year’s commission after an open competition, and look forward to seeing the fruits of their creative minds with a commission that will make use of 21st century technology in celebrating our culture.”
Beul na h-Oidhche gu Camhanaich will be perfomed at following venues during Blas 2016, which runs from 2 to 10 September:
Tuesday 6th September @ 7.30pm – Craigmonie Centre, Drumnadrochit
Wednesday 7th September @ 7.30pm – Macphail Centre, Ullapool
Thursday 8th September @ 7.30pm – SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Sleat
Friday 9th September @ 7.30pm – Acharacle Primary School, Acharacle