Blas 2015 takes off again to new heights
The second decade of Blas festivals is launched this weekend with a spectacular series of opening night events in the Blas 2015 programme across the Highlands and in Argyll on Friday 4th September.
Music, milestones and memories will be the hallmark of the 11th Blas festival, which enters its second decade as one of Scotland’s leading music festival having put together a stellar line-up of some of the best musicians and singers to celebrate Highland culture.
Established 11 years ago as a result of The Highland Council’s desire to create a festival that would match the vitality of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours, the Council has continued its support of Blas. It is now an international event continuing to successfully showcase Highland culture.
Chair of The Highland Council’s Gaelic Implementation Group, Councillor Hamish Fraser said: “We welcome the Blas Festival which was originally initiated by the Council 11 years ago. Since 2005 it has developed to become bigger and better with events taken place from Portree to Portmahomack, Strathy to Strathpeffer, and Carrbridge to Campbeltown, but has still managed to maintain, at its heart, the original charm and uniqueness which sees internationally acclaimed artists share the stage with home-grown young musical talent.”
Blas 2015 has also been welcomed by Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Interim CEO, Joe Moore said: "Bòrd na Gàidhlig are committed to supporting traditional and contemporary Gaelic arts & culture. The Bòrd recognises that many people are attracted to learn and use the language by accessing and partaking in various Gaelic art forms including music, song, dance, drama & literature. We are pleased that the Blas Festival has become a highlight on the Highland’s social calendar.”
The Blas 2015 programme is packed with a notable series of events marking special anniversaries and milestones enhanced by a ‘blas’ of Scottish produce in this year celebrating food and drink. Fèisean nan Gàidheal, which delivers Blas, will see some of its own members in that category. Fèis Spè celebrates its 25th anniversary, as do the Kiltearn Fiddlers, established under the auspices of Fèis Rois. World-renowned band Shoogenlifty will mark their own 25th anniversary at The Ironworks in Inverness on September 5th with Hò-ro and Niteworks.
Blas 2015 Director Donna MacRae, of Firefly Productions, said: “We are particularly heartened once again to see how well our ticket sales have done in advance with at least one sell-out of a major event and others pretty near it. I would encourage anyone swithering about attending to make a quick decision and to book on-line to guarantee tickets as they are going fast. We are also very grateful to a number of private individuals who have thrown open their family homes to entertain visitors for the House Cèilidhs for which visitors from places as far afield as Israel, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia have snapped up places within days of them appearing on-line. We are all set to go and it is gratifying to see that our loyal followers are flocking to our events once again.”
They all have a bit to go before they match the 70th birthday celebrations being thrown to mark renowned singer Anne Lorne Gillies’ major milestone. Friends and associates who have shared stages and experiences with Anne over the years will come together, to celebrate a distinguished career both here and on the other side of the Atlantic, in Inverness Cathedral on Friday September 4th.
Few bands have had a bigger influence on Gaelic song than Runrig. The songs, written by founder member brothers Calum and Rory MacDonald, will feature in a specially commissioned event “Òran: A celebration of the songs of Runrig” which will be the Grand Finale of Blas 2015. This takes place at the Eden Court Empire Theatre in Inverness on Saturday, September 12th.
Few of the anniversaries being marked this year will, however, be as poignant as the “Shinty’s Heroes: The Pipes Come Home” concert being held in the Phipps Hall, Beauly on the opening night, Friday September 4th. In the centenary year of the infamous Battle of Festubert, when hundreds of Highland soldiers lost their lives, a set of pipes belonging to a notable shinty player from Beauly, Donald Paterson, killed by a sniper in the battle, will return to Beauly to be played by Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie as part of a unique commemoration.
Amongst the other top acts gracing this year’s festival programme will be Dick Gaughan, Macanta, J.P. Cormier from Canada, The Scottish Traditional Song Collective, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, The Alan Kelly Gang with special guests Eddi Reader and John Douglas. Gaelic singers will, as usual, be to the fore. As well as Anne Lorne Gillies, Cathy Ann MacPhee and Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes, Mairi MacInnes, Margaret Stewart with Ingrid Henderson & Alan Nicolson and Eilidh Mackenzie with Anna Massie & Mairearad Green will all make an appearance.
Session A9 will make their only Highland appearances this year at Blas 2015 - in Wick and in Sleat on the Isle of Skye. There will also be a series of cèilidh dances at various locations with top dance bands including the Fergie MacDonald band in Strathy, and the Robert Nairn Band in Broadford, both on Friday September 11th.
The fourth 2015 Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame Dinner will be hosted by Hands Up for Trad, in partnership with Blas, on September 11th. This celebration at Inverness Airport will acknowledge the 2015 inductees to the Hall of Fame and feature music from Rona Lightfoot and UHI students.
Tickets for all Blas events can be bought online, or by phone, with details on the festival’s website blas-festival.com where further information is available on the full programme of events.