The small town of Llangollen in North Wales was last week taken by storm by a party of Scots participating in the prestigious International Eisteddfod Festival of Music, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
For the first time, the culture of the Gael was represented in both competition and in concert at the Eisteddfod, which attracted upwards of 60,000 visitors over the week. The Festival is and international and multicultural celebration of music in all its forms, classical, traditional and folk, and is in its 59th year.
Representing Scotland and Gaelic was the Gaelic vocal harmony group "Fionnar, a group of seven young Gaelic singers and musicians established by The Highland Council’s Mairi Mhor Gaelic Song Fellowship.
The Mairi Mhor Fellow, Fiona Mackenzie from Dingwall, said of the trip: "Fionnar were absolutely delighted to be invited to go to Llangollen, by the Director, Mervyn Cousins. This is the first year that there has been a section for Celtic Music and we thoroughly enjoyed the chance to bring Gaelic music and song to the Festival. The girls, who come from Ross-shire, Inverness, Glasgow, Oban, Fort William and Ardrisaig have worked very hard over the past few months preparing for the trip and it was a great chance to experience the musical cultures of so many countries."
The group were successful in the competitions which they took part in, taking two 1st places and two 3rd places. They won the Folk Song Group with a prize of an Eisteddfod trophy and a cheque for £500, against choirs from around the world including Georgia in Russia, India and the Ukraine. Eilean Green of Achiltibuie took 3rd place in the Celtic Instrumental Solo competition on Bagpipes and Fiona Mackenzie took 3rd place in the prestigious Celtic Vocal Solo competition which was won by Fionnar member, Davina Macintyre of Ardrisaig.
Fiona said: " To win at the International Eisteddfod has been a huge honour for all of us but more than that we are very excited just to have had the chance to perform on the massive stage that is the International Eisteddfod, Royal Pavilion. We were bowled over by the reaction of everybody to the group and their individual talents and how excited everybody was by our culture, particularly with our display of waulking songs. Everyone was keen to hear more about the Gaelic Culture and how involved our young people are. The Director would like us to return next year to represent Scotland in the Festivals 60th Anniversary year."
Also at the Festival representing the fiddle tradition of Scotland was the Kiltearn Feis Rois Fiddlers under the baton of Alpha Munro of Evanton. The group performed in the Celtic Massed Ensemble class and took 2nd place earning great praise from audience and adjudicators alike. They were also the stars of the Friday night concert in the Pavilion delighting the audience with pipe and fiddle sets.
Fiona added: " Both myself and Alpha were excited at being given the chance to take our traditions to Wales and hopefully the links between our Celtic cultures will be further strengthened by our visit. The Festival was a perfect example of how musical cultures can bring countries and peoples together in a spirit of friendship and harmony."