Blas will spread festival cheer throughout Highlands

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The programme for this year’s Blas Festival has been launched hot on the heels of the Royal National Mòd.

The programme for the 15th annual festival offers an outstanding line-up of musicians from Scotland and further afield for this year’s Gaelic music festival which will take place next month in venues throughout the Highlands.

Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from November 22-30, culminating in a variety of events across the Highlands to celebrate St Andrew’s Night.

It aims to celebrate Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over eight days of concerts, cèilidhs and workshops in venues across the Highlands and Islands.

In a programme which really does offer something for every member of the family, as well as the 20+ main concerts and cèilidh, there will also be daytime cèilidhs, a series of song lectures and a special schools programme which will see some of the musicians visit locals schools for performances and workshops.

Acts at this year’s Blas, which takes place at venues from Aviemore to Barra, include the Gary Innes Band, pictured, Tideline’s Robert Robertson and Ross Wilson, Iain Macfarlane and Ingrid Henderson, an outstanding piping night at Inverness Town House and neo-trad trio Project Smok.

As always there will also be special performances from an overseas act. Two of Cape Breton’s finest fiddlers and step-dancers, sisters Dawn and Margie Beaton, will be entertaining audiences in Gairloch, Resolis, Ullapool and Roybridge, alongside Gaelic singing trio, Sian, and singer Kathleen MacInnes.

This year will also feature two special partnerships. Blas and Smalls Halls Festival will present shows in Kyleakin and Edinbane, featuring a world-class line up of musicians including Grantown-on-Spey multi-instrumentalist and composer Hamish Napier and BBC Young Folk Award winner, uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson. The Highland capital will host a show by electronic celtic fusion super group, Niteworks, at Ironworks – a partnership between 432 and Blas.

Fast becoming a Blas tradition, three birthdays will be celebrated in true Highland style, with an impressive array of special musical guests. Gaelic singer, John ‘Seonaidh Beag’ Macmillan will celebrate his 80th birthday alongside Donaidh Macleod who turns 90 this year. Celebrating with the Lewis men, at An Lanntair in Stornoway, will be Gaelic singers Kathleen MacInnes and Iain Mackay, Allan Henderson, members of the Lewis Pipe Band and other special guests.

Also celebrating a special 80th birthday will be Barra’s Chrissie Macdonald, or Chrissie Denny as she is commonly known, who will be joined by Mary Ann Kennedy, Allan Macdonald, Alasdair Whyte, Còisir Ghàidhlig Bharraigh and The Cèilidh King, Fergie Macdonald, at Barra’s Northbay Hall.

Having recently showcased their work in Canada at the Celtic Colours Festival, Fuaran will take to the stage to showcase the fruits of their recent work. Fuaran, a heritage initiative established by 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, will perform alongside tradition bearer, singer and piper, Rona Lightfoot, and Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart.

Arthur Cormack, Fèisean nan Gàidheal Chief Executive, said: ‘Blas Festival has become an important event in the calendar for communities across the Highlands and Islands since its inception in 2005. We are delighted to be able to put on Blas Festival this year, once again, to showcase and celebrate our homegrown talent.’

The full programme of events can be found at www.blas-festival.com