Imagine a cèilidh that could wake the dead

“Imagine a cèilidh that could wake the dead” The Herald

 “Beautiful Gaelic songs … with plenty of humour and successfully captures the cèilidh spirit” The Wee Review

For this week, a lively and fun piece of musical theatre capturing the true spirit of the cèilidh comes to the north and south ends of Skye.

Gaelic language-based Theatre Gu Leòr brings Cèilidh to Kilmuir Hall tonight (22 March) and to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, TDC main hall, on Friday. Both shows begin at 7.30pm.

Wild, outspoken and buried face down on the Isle of Harris, poet Màiri Ruadh is back from beyond the grave, with one last night to resurrect the true meaning of the cèilidh. She has fire in her belly and is determined never to be silenced again.

Cèilidh is a new play full of live music, songs and stories. It is subtitled and suitable for anyone with or without Gaelic, but only those ready for a cèilidh like no other!

Energectic five-piece hit Sabhal Mòr

Critically-acclaimed Edinburgh-based quintet Mt Doubt are making big waves on the Scottish music scene.

Described as “Caledonian pop with a good slug of guitar” the “atmospheric” alt rock/dark pop five-piece are on tour to promote their latest EP Moon Landing and come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, An Talla Mòr, tomorrow (Saturday, 18 November) with singer-songwriter and poet Lee Robert Bouzida.

In 2015, Edinburgh musician Leo Bargery set up the Mt Doubt project. Two years down the line and the addition of four talented musicians, the band have received radio airplay on Amazing Radio, Xfm, KEXP, and BBC Radio Scotland;  Leo’s distinctive vocals (“a voice like grizzled honey”) and the band’s accomplished musicianship have gained high praise from The Herald, The National and the BBC; and they were tipped as one of Vic Galloway’s ’25 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2016.

Lee Robert Bouzida is a young singer songwriter with family connections in Ord. He comes to An Talla Mòr following the launch his new CD, The Making of a Bad Dream.

The evening kicks off at 7.30pm.

Welcome to Skye’s new cultural hub

“Pleasure to officially open @SEALLEventsSkye new hub – great people with a passion for culture”

Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Minister for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Scotland’s new cultural arts hub celebrated its official opening on Friday morning with a number of very special guests.

During her short visit to Skye last week, Fiona Hyslop, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, visited the new office and community space of SEALL (Skye Events for All), the largest rural touring promoter in the Highlands.

The community-led performing arts promotion charity runs a year-round touring programme and the Fèis an Eilein, the Skye Festival. SEALL’s head office has been situated on the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig campus in Arainn Ostaig for a number of years but, owing to an increase in staff in late 2016, needed more space. Last week, they moved upstairs to the old library room and transformed the space into an ambient and comfortable cultural hub where artists and members of the community will be made welcome. 

Between a wet and windy trip to the Fairy Pools and a tourism summit at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the minister took time to officially open SEALL’s new offices alongside SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes.

Guests included Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Principal Boyd Robertson, Lucilla Noble of Fearann Eilein Iarman, local dignitaries and members of the Skye communities who were all treated to a warm Island welcome and a few songs by Ùig Gaelic singer Anne Martin. The Minister was also presented with a book entitled An Leabhar Liath by Ian MacPherson and Peter Mackay, which provided the inspiration for a concert by Anne during this year’s Féis an Eilein.

The Minister said: “SEALL is an inspiration to what can be achieved in terms of support for Scotland’s culture. Over the years, SEALL has become one of the best rural performing arts promoters in Scotland with a great reach and range of events.

“SEALL connects with the local communities to help serve them and is one of the best organisations across the UK in terms of its ability to mobilise its many volunteers in a very rural area.

“Skye has always been on the cultural map and achievements such as this are the life blood of our communities.”

Mrs Hyslop made particular note of Scottish band The Elephant Sessions who come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s An Talla Mòr on Thursday, 16 November, as part of SEALL’s 2017 autumn programme.

She said: “The Elephant Sessions are one of those Scottish bands who are on course for a great career. I saw them recently on the Pavillon de l’Écosse at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France. They got such a good reception that the pavilion floor broke!”

On Twitter, the minister tweeted: “Pleasure to officially open @SEALLEventsSkye new hub-great people with a passion for culture- they have @ElephantSession gig soon.”

Kate Forbes added: ““I was delighted to join the Cabinet Secretary for Culture to officially open the new SEALL offices in Sleat.

“SEALL is a fantastic initiative – I’m on their mailing list and so I see the fantastic variety of events.

“I commend the huge amount of work that has gone in to building up SEALL and it was great to spend time with the team and the Cabinet Secretary to celebrate those successes.”

SEALL chair Eileen Armstrong said: “It was a great privilege to welcome everyone to this momentous day in SEALL’s history and the opening of a brand new cultural space on Skye.

“This will be more than just an office and we hope its informal atmosphere will not only encourage locals and visitors to drop in for a chat but will also provide a welcoming space for our performing artists to meet and rest before their concerts.”

Established in 1991 by director Duncan MacInnes, award-winning SEALL has grown from a small community events organisation in the south of Skye to the largest performing arts promoter in the Highlands, delivering a diverse mix of quality live events to locals and visitors in an area with a population of around 800 people.

Duncan said: “We were absolutely delighted with the turn-out to the opening of our new cultural hub and for the show of support from the Scottish Government, councillors and members of our local communities. We offer our thanks to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for offering us the use of this space and for our on-going partnership.

“Above all, we owe our continued success to the tremendous support we receive from our funders, partners and communities as well as our board members and the volunteers who give their time and effort to make SEALL events so popular. Of course, SEALL would not be here without the support from local people and visitors who make it a priority to come to our events in all weathers and at all times of year.

“SEALL is all about bringing top quality events to remote rural areas of the Highlands whilst embracing our Island’s unique cultural heritage and we are proud to be considered leading lights in the creative sector of Scottish culture.”

SEALL administrator Marie Lewis says she is looking forward to welcoming visitors to the new hub. She said: “We are very grateful to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for facilitating this new move. We’ve spent some time and effort in transforming the old library into a comfortable, informal space.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors and artists to Skye’s new cultural hub and extend a warm invitation to anyone who is interested or involved in performing arts on the Island, as well as members of our wonderful communities, to come in for a chat, have a coffee and see what we do.”

Skye debut for Embers

Adam Holmes & the Embers come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Tuesday, 7 November and will be joined on this UK tour by Rachel Sermanni.

Singer-songwriter Adam Holmes is one of the brightest rising stars on the UK music scene, with influences from either side of the Atlantic mixing together to form his own brand of soulful Americana with a hint of Scotland.

Adam said: “The band and I can’t wait to play at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This will be our first time playing on Skye but we’ve only ever heard great things about the crowd and we can’t wait to see you all.

The Midnight Milk tour will showcase the much-anticipated third album from the Edinburgh outfit. This new album is a widescreen affair with no instrument or sound off limits, audiences will be happy to hear the live performance is no different with instrumentation including guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion and glockenspiels.

When Adam began thinking of ideas for his third album he came to the realisation that his four year old MacBook had more technology on it than The Beatles had available for Sergeant Pepper or that Pink Floyd had used on Dark Side of the Moon. With the confidence that he had everything to hand that he needed to get the album in his head out to the world, he began the process of recording and producing Midnight Milk from the comfort of his own bedroom. What has resulted is not the minimalist album that you might expect, but instead an album that upon listening has been described as an “atmospheric, cinematic experience”.

Adam’s live performances have been described as “atmospheric” or “cinematic” and their concert promises audience a cross mix of musical genres, ranging from folk to gospel to hip-hop with some ska and reggae rhythms,  alongside some beautiful melodies that fans have come to expect of this band. Ultimately the performance promises to leave the audience feeling a sense of completeness and satisfaction, the ultimate aim behind the album.

The “minimal, murky, magnificent” music of Rachel Sermanni provides an exciting addition to the evening. Rachel has proved herself to be one of Britain’s most promising folk artists and this live set will be accompanied by her long-time friend Jennifer Austin on piano. 

More information and tickets from HERE.


Monster of a performance

★★★★ “(A) small and perfectly formed piece of physical theatre… wondrous to behold and awesome in the true sense of the word” Irene Brown, Edinburgh Guide 

© Chris Scott

An unusual and captivating piece of visual theatre, exploring Mary Shelley’s Gothic monster, comes to Sleat next week.

Edinburgh-based circus artist, musician, theatre maker and entertainer, Phil Hardie, will deliver Welcome My Son, his immersive solo exploration of Frankenstein via circus, physical and traditional theatre and words.

Based on Mary Shelley’s “The Modern Prometheus” the show explores themes of social conformity, isolation, prejudice and abandonment, told in an extraordinary, moving and intensely physical performance.

Phil seamlessly blends acrobatics and balancing acts with dialogue to build the narrative, in particular the relationship of the central two characters: Dr Frankenstein and his monster.

© Chris Scott

With a chilling and uncomfortable original score by composer Stuart MacFerson, this visual masterpiece is not for the faint hearted and may well leave its audience clinging to their seats.

“Heart in mouth stuff as well as tears in eyes. Stunning marvellous and truly original. Thank you.”

“Fantastic theatre, managed to drag me into the piece entirely. I could watch him all night.”

“Great music and creation of mood…magnetic presence…fully engaging with us, we understood your characters dilemma; great use of the apparatus to tell us about a character.”

For more details and tickets click HERE



SEALL hosts “the best Celtic guitarist in the world”

A full house for Tony McManus who brought with him the wonderful guitar and fiddle player Julia Toaspern. Tony then invited Dougie Pincock and Jack Evans up for a set. SEALL has no idea why it has taken 17 years to get Tony back!

Tony comes to the south of Skye as part of his tour of Scotland and this is a rare opportunity to experience a concert by “the best Celtic guitarist in the world.”

BLAS festival comes to Sleat

The Highlands’ premier Gaelic music festival descends on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig next month with two days of world-class performances by some of the best traditional artists in the country.

Duncan Chisholm, Mànran, Jarlath Henderson, Ali Hutton, Mischa MacPherson, Innes White, Megan Henderson and Hecla will appear over the weekend of 8 and 9 September as part of the Blas Festival – Fèisean nan Gàidheal – which kicks off at the beginning of the month in venues across the Highlands, Argyll and the Western Isles.

On Friday, 8 September, at 7.30pm, one of Scotland’s all-time great fiddle players, Duncan Chisholm, will perform at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s main hall. He will be accompanied by two of the country’s most celebrated pipers, Jarlath Henderson and Ali Hutton. Support on the night is from Hebridean musician Mischa MacPherson who will be joined by two accomplished and empathetic musicians – guitarist Innes White and fiddle player Megan Henderson of Breabach.

Mighty trad supergroup Mànran come to An Talla Mòr on Saturday, 9 September, at 8pm. They will be supported by Hebridean music trio, Hecla, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s young musical talent Ceilear Fèis an Earraich.

Mànran are one of the most well-known and best-loved Scottish bands of today. The 2011 launch of their debut single, Latha Math, heralded a meteoric rise to the top of the Scottish music scene that quickly saw them begin to play many of the most prestigious festivals around the world. From then, multi-award-winning albums followed as the band continued to live up to the hype that surrounded their early release, while establishing their characteristic sound and distinctive approach to musical arrangements.

Hecla is a traditional music trio based in the Outer Hebrides. Featuring Ailis Sutherland (pipes/whistle), Ilona Kennedy (fiddle) and Kaitlin Ross (guitar/vocals), Hecla present beautiful, crisp and energetic arrangements of traditional Gaelic songs and instrumentals.

 SEALL artistic director, Duncan MacInnes, said: “Blas is a celebration of our music and traditions and a cultural showcase for the Highlands, which is very much what SEALL is all about.

“We are delighted to be part of the Festival for another year. We have hosted events for Blas since it piloted in 2004 and, through the programmes, have had a great excuse to welcome some of the best musicians in Scotland back to our stages.”

Gaelic Love and Transgressive Verse – another World Premiere!

No other four Gaelic singers, musicians and academics could have dared to, or even succeeded in, pulling off a night of risqué Gaelic love and transgressive verse. Ian MacPherson, Peter MacKay, Anne Martin and Ingrid Henderson presented ‘An Leabhar Liath’ or ‘The Light Blue Book’ to a delighted Skye Festival audience on 24 August. The full-house was treated to a no-holds barred night of bawdy songs and in-your-face Gaelic and English poetry, but with a deep sense of academia and fun.

Traditional dance steps out

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s  Sophie Stephenson is an expert in Scottish step dance.

She has taught and performed the traditional dance style in countries around the world, including Canada, the US, Norway and Spain, showcasing the relevance of this timeworn artform in both a Scottish and International context.

At the age of 11, Sophie took her first step dance classes with pioneering dancer Harvey Beaton from Cape Breton. After university, she moved to South Uist to immerse herself in Gaelic language and culture whilst attending a course in traditional music at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Benbecula. It was here that she began teaching weekly step classes. A dance travel scholarship then took her to Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island where she learned all about the style in a community context. She came to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Sleat in 2013 to study Gaelic and now works in the college’s marketing department, while still teaching step dance through her Sophabulous Step Dance classes and workshops.

Whilst her steps are rooted in a uniquely Scottish or Cape Breton style, Sophie is international in her outlook and endeavours to make connections with other percussive dance styles and music and dance cultures. To this end, she has been involved in a number of international creative projects including Tosta (Gaelic and Basque), Keltika (Basque, Breton, Irish and Scottish) and Three Feet, Six Shoes (Scottish, Irish and Flamenco).

Sophie aims to approach the style in a fresh and inspiring way. She says she is less concerned with notions of trying to revive and or preserve an old tradition but rather to promote the dance and realise its relevance within today’s Scottish context. To this end, she has undertaken a wide range of recent collaborations including TradBeats, which features Gaelic mouth music, step dance, beatboxing and body percussion; Highland hip hop ensemble Spring Break; a film project with Basque rap and step dance on the txallaparta (Basque instrument); and ‘Threads’ theatre production with Stellar Quines Theatre Company.

Sophie said: “I am trying to promote a fresh take on the tradition by bringing it into theatre and film and through collaborating with international artists.

Sophie was selected as one of the artists to represent Scotland at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient this August in Brittany where she will be performing alongside Capercaillie. She then returns to Skye where she will be holding a Sophabulous Step Dance Weekend, with workshops at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig during the Skye Festival – Fèis an Eilein.

The weekend takes place on Saturday and Sunday, 19 and 20 August and is suitable for adults and children over 12. Students will have a chance to try out their newly learned steps, if they so wish, at an informal music session on the Saturday evening.

Sophie added: “Step dance is a natural response to music. If you can feel the music, it is normal to want to dance to it. For me, it’s like playing along to the tunes with your feet”

“Step dance is not intended to be a spectacle. Whether it’s on stage, as part of social dance or just jamming along at a session, it’s about responding to the music and being part of the music, like a musician.”

“I teach my students the basic traditional steps. How they put these together to express themselves is up to them.”

“I believe there is a lot of potential for step dance to be further integrated within traditional music in Scotland.  We have a vibrant trad scene with sessions, cèilidhs, festivals and touring musicians. Step dance has a place in all of these contexts and is accessible to anyone who wants to learn.”

The weekend is available as a residential course or two consecutive day courses and places are limited.





Standing ovation for Secret North

An outstanding performance of the Secret North on 21 June received a standing ovation from an appreciative audience in a packed An Talla Mòr.

Ailie Robertson, Donald Grant, Sondre Meisfjord, Karen Tween, Jarlath Henderson and Marit Fált played new music from either side of the North Sea from their recent collaboration.

Duncan reported: “A totally brilliant concert which led to a very rare spontaneous standing ovation at the end.

“There were about 80 people there, including one honeymoon couple, several visitors from across Europe and a couple of large parties from Skye.”