Musicians tune up as Blas Festival returns to live stage

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Gaelic music will be celebrated by live audiences across the Highlands and Islands once again as the Blas Festival returns to the stage next month.

Norrie MacIver and west coast folk group Dàimh feature in the impressive line-up.

An impressive line-up of traditional musicians and singers have signed up for the popular event – most of whom were not able to perform for more than 18 months due to the pandemic.

Musicians including Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw and Charlie McKerron, Skipinnish front man and singer Norrie MacIver and BBC Radio 2 Folk awards winners, Mischa Macpherson, Brìghde Chaimbeul, Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey, will perform during the nine-day festival in November, which will take place in venues from Staffin in Skye to Arisaig.

The 2021 Blas Festival will host 26 concerts and cèilidhs as well as a variety of workshops and Facebook Live events. Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’ is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and will take place from November 19-27.

It will open with a brand-new musical commission, Buaidh nam Ban, by Mànran singer and TV presenter Kim Carnie, celebrating the life and works of women bàrds and will culminate in a night of special concerts in Strathy, Raasay, Kilmuir and Inverness.

Lochaber left-handed fiddler, Angus Grant, will celebrate his 90th birthday at this year’s Blas Festival.

As always, a special birthday is being celebrated at the 17th Blas Festival; Legendary Lochaber left-handed fiddler Angus Grant will celebrate his 90th birthday in style with musician friends including former pupils Allan Henderson, Ingrid Henderson, Sarah Jayne Shankland, Eilidh Shaw and Kevin Cameron.

There will also be a special night dedicated to the Uist singer, piper and tradition bearer, Catriona Garbutt, who will be joined by fellow Uist musicians and singers, including Sineag MacIntyre, piper Dr Angus Macdonald, Catriona’s nephew Niall Campbell and Ruairidh Gray.

Fiddler Iain Fraser will premiere his new album, Gneiss, which was commissioned by Fèis Rois.

On the final night of the festival there will be a special performance of the soundtrack from BBC Scotland’s Gaelic drama, Gruth is Uachdar (Crowdie and Cream), composed by Donald Shaw and Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie in the stunning setting of Inverness Cathedral, with a stellar line up of traditional musicians and an opening set by Karen Matheson.

Other highlights of this year’s Blas include Tim Edey and Ross Ainslie in Arisaig and husband and wife duo, Fionnag NicConnich and Brian Ó hEadhra in Lochinver and Applecross.

Arthur Cormack from Blas Festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, said: ‘In what has been another challenging year for musicians and communities, we are looking forward to bringing the Blas Festival back to audiences across the Highlands.

‘The varied programme, which will consist of both ticketed and free events, provides much needed work for musicians and creative practitioners.

‘Musicians contributed greatly to the wellbeing of people during Covid lockdown periods and we hope they will now be supported as live events take place once again.

‘We aim to make it as safe as possible for people to attend Blas events and are grateful to all our funders, particularly The Highland Council, for continuing to support the festival.’

The festival portrays the best of Gaelic language and culture, and each year contributes to the aim of the National Gaelic Language Plan that Gaelic is used more often by more people in a wider range of situations.

The full programme of events can be found at www.blas.scot along with details of how to purchase tickets.