Duncan’s Report from the PEI Small Halls Festival

With SEALL gearing up to a Festival of Small Halls in November, Duncan visited the founding Festival in Prince Edward Island in June. You can read all about it HERE

SEALL’s new video

A 3 minute video, featuring music recorded by Malin Lewis and Hector MacInnes with images from SEALL’s programming and words from Duncan MacInnes, Marie Lewis and Boyd Robertson is now complete.

Famous moments for SEALL director

SEALL’s creative director has been rewarded for a quarter of a century of dedicated service to his community and Scottish traditional music.

Duncan MacInnes is one of seven individuals who have been inducted into this year’s Hands Up for Trad Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

The prestigious award recognises people who work tirelessly to help their community and enrich the lives of others through selfless service or charitable work. Inductions will take place at a ceremony in Glasgow’s Òran Mòr on 2 November.

The services to the community category of the awards, reflects the 25 years Duncan spent as a volunteer bringing Scottish traditional music to audiences in the south of Skye as well as nurturing and supporting the local young talent of his communities by providing the musicians with their first experiences of public performance.

Duncan has lived in Sleat all his adult life and a countryside ranger at the Clan Donald centre at Armadale Castle. It was here he first began promoting performing arts events, after the Old Stables building was turned into a restaurant.

Duncan said: “Because I was involved in the local drama group here, Edinburgh Mime Company approached me and said they wanted to come to Skye. I got them into the village hall. That got me thinking the Stables at Armadale Castle would make an excellent performance space and, by default, I became the centre’s arts officer. We put on events with the likes of Capercaillie, Seolas, Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach.”

In 1991, Duncan finished working for the Clan but realised there was still an audience for performing arts on Sleat.

He said: “We had a very good local audience by then and so a group of people set up SEALL with me. I started promoting events in venues around Sleat and, 27 years later, I am still at it.”

Each year, SEALL delivers a year-round touring programme and the Fèis an Eilein, The Skye Festival. Their offices are based at the Gaelic College, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and the organisation was recently given top approval by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP who 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 …” and “…connects with the local communities to help serve them.”

Based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College, on Sleat, SEALL runs a year-round programme of almost 80 events as well as the Fèis an Eilein – the two-month-long Skye Festival in July and August.

In 2016 SEALL developed into a professional team of three paid freelance staff, to which Duncan, as creative driector, is one. He continues to volunteer some of his time in the evenings as master of ceremony at SEALL events.

This year, with the help of continuing support from Creative Scotland, funders, members and supporters, the community-led organisation revealed ambitious plans to broaden its reach to venues and communities across Skye and Lochalsh as well as improve its programme. It is expected that 2018 will be a landmark year for SEALL which will host its 2,000th event.

Duncan added: “Over the winter, I archived 27 years of posters and updated our database. We have held over 1800 events so far.

“It is interesting to note the number of bands who began their careers on the SEALL stage who are now doing their 20 or 25-year anniversary tours. In May Daìmh are celebrating their 20th anniversary. We hosted their very first concert as a band in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Kate Rusby played at SEALL just three weeks before winning the Mercury Prize and, many of the nominees and winners of this year’s big trad awards have all played here at some stage of their early careers.

“We promoted Arthur Cormack when he was just starting out and we would really like to do more to give our young local talent a step up the career ladder. To this end, we invite our young rising stars of traditional music to perform opening sets for our trad giants. Years later, these youngsters will become the next big names, attract audiences in their thousands and command higher fees, just like their forerunners.”

Norman Gillies, former director of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, said: “In my twenty-five years at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig I got to know Duncan well and I am full of admiration for what he has achieved for the Sleat community over many years. 

“During my time as Director of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig I worked closely with Duncan in his role at SEALL, and as an individual promoting the arts and rural development. 

“The respect I had for Duncan meant that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig buildings were made available to him for any events that he wished to promote.  We saw this co-operation with Duncan, and SEALL, as fulfilling our role in terms of community engagement.

“The partnership that evolved brought great benefit, both social and economic, to the Sleat community.  Working in conjunction with the Summer School programme at Sabhal Mòr Duncan and his team put together what became Fèis an Eilein, an eclectic mix of events which attracted over three thousand visitors over a packed two-week programme. 

“Duncan worked tirelessly, and most of the time for very little return, to ensure that Fèis an Eilein became one of Scotland’s best known and best loved small festivals.  He also, of course, managed to find the energy to put on a year-long programme of arts events ranging from welly boot dancers from South Africa to Scottish Opera and some memorable traditional cèilidhs.

“He is a creative, intelligent and caring individual and, whilst he would be the last to seek kudos for what he has made a life’s work in community service, he is more than deserving of public recognition.

“He also has enough chutzpah to present the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs with a book of Gaelic erotic verse on the occasion of her opening the new SEALL offices.”

This is the second time Duncan has been recognised for his services to the community and performing arts. Last year, he received a Highly Commended Special Award in the 2017 Rural Touring Awards.

The Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame is dedicated to giving acknowledgement and recognition to musicians and industry people who, by their dedication and hard work, have supported and influenced the development of Scottish traditional music during their lives. Launched at the Scots Trad Music Awards in December 2005, the membership of the Hall of Fame is added to annually.

Get your Festival Programme here

The printed programme is at the printers and should be delivered to us on Thursday 12 July. Meanwhile you can browse and download it from Feis 2018 Programme 2.

SEALL’s new signs

With funding support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, SEALL has erected new signage around An Talla Mhòr and our offices An Seòmar Uine, the Green Room. It is with good authority from Senior Management at SMO that we will continue to refer to ‘An Talla Mhòr’ in all circumstances – ‘talla’ can be either feminine or masculine!  see The Essential Gaelic Dictionary. This will, of course, promote a lengthy discussion amongst linguists . . .

14 June – Ballads and Stories

Thursday 14 June at 8pm ~ Diardaoin 14 An t-Ogmhios, 8f

A’ Seinn na Sgeulachd: Bàs Chonnlaoich (‘Singing the Story: The Death of Connlaoch’)

As part of Ulidia Finn 2018, a conference on the Ulster Cycle and Finn Cycle tales

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, TDC, the main hall.

From chiefs’ halls to cèilidh-houses, heroic ballads and the stories they told have been at the heart of Gaelic culture for centuries. Two exceptional performers, singer Margaret Stewart and musician and storyteller Pàdruig Morrison, will use tale and ballad to tell the story of Connlaoch, son of the Scottish warrior-princess Aoife and the Irish hero Cú Chulainn, and his death at the hands of his own father.

Performance in Gaelic with provision in English

There is no need to book – just come along on the night. All tickets £5, Young ones free.

More information on www.ulidiafinn2018.scot

With the support of the Hope Scott Trust and the Royal Celtic Society.

Skye Festival Programme announced

Programme details of the 28th Fèis an Eilein or Skye Festival are almost complete. Very soon booking will open but meanwhile click on the Skye Festival tab at the top and see what is planned for you.

Electrifying theatre


Until 10 years ago, The Occasion theatre company, in its various guises, were regular visitors to SEALL.

It was a pleasure to welcome back founders Peter Clerke and Catherine Gillard to SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in another of their highly creative works, The Monster and Mary Shelley, which is currently touring Scotland.

It has been 200 years since the bright and precocious teenager Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published her book Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and The Occasion puts Mary in the spotlight as she reflects on the circumstances which formed her unconventional lifestyle and their interrelationship with the creation of her nameless creature.

This is a captivating portrait of a young woman whose radical ideologies and unruly modus vivendi, considered monstrous in the 19th century, had been stitched together by the influences of her parents, her husband and the associated company they kept. Her creature was her salvation, the spark of life that justified her existence, and echoed the challenge to her perceived identity within a disapproving society as the “monster abhorr’d”.

Catherine Gillard puts on a convincing and spell-binding performance as the charismatic Mary and ably manages to place a contemporary mood into what is intrinsically a Gothic setting. The only other character in the production is the creature which sits brooding under wraps behind her and provides an almost silent alter-ego to which she can bounce off her reflections and animate her tale.

Stewart Ennis’ script is profound and compelling. His themes of love, loss, place and identity are delivered with empathy and understanding; often dark but punctuated at intervals with spells of bright humour to bring light to the mood.

The production is brought together by an atmospheric backdrop of shrouded shapes and some clever lighting that accentuate and enhance the changing moods and events in Mary’s life and it was a privilege to get to know her personally through a simple yet illuminating and brilliant piece of theatre.

It is a delight to present theatre of this quality to SEALL. Small-scale theatre companies are sometimes over-looked by rural audiences, one of the reasons being the presumption that they may disappoint. In Scotland alone, there are many companies just like The Occasion with a staggering diversity and range of work who are touring excellent theatre pieces that enlighten, educate, inform and entertain, just like The Monster and Mary Shelley. They deserve our strong support and a robust applause.

We look forward to the next visit by The Occasion.

 

 

Young Fiddle Bursary at Alasdair Fraser’s Summer Camp

Do you know of a young fiddler looking for a place at the SMO Fiddle camp?

SEALL is offering to give one young fiddle player from the Skye and Lochalsh area the chance to attend the prestigious Alasdair Fraser Fiddle Camp at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in July. The bursary will cover fees and accommodation, Anyone between the ages of 18 and 26, who is on a low income and who has a basic knowledge of fiddle playing, is invited to apply, regardless of ability.

The course takes place between 21 and 27 July and includes a range of unique workshops, lively performances and the opportunity to get to know other musicians and participate in group work for all abilities. Classes are held daily and sessions/concerts are enjoyed nightly, with a huge final public cèilidh on the 27 July.

The camp, which runs alongside a cello course by Natalie Haas, holds the unique honour of being the only one taught by Alasdair in the whole of the UK, and each year students from Scotland and around the globe return to join Alasdair and Natalie in creating a unique experience on Skye.

SEALL production manager, Marie Lewis, said: “Twenty eighteen is the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People and a celebration of an inspiring and gifted generation of creative thinkers and high achievers.

 “The year, in particular, is about providing opportunities for young people to achieve and grow by showcasing their extraordinary contribution to communities, innovation, the environment and culture.

“We wanted to play our part in this celebration for young people in Skye and Lochalsh and came up with the idea of a bursary for Alasdair Fraser’s Fiddle Camp week. We are focusing on an independent young person who would benefit from the experience but whose income is too low to be able to afford the fees and accommodation.”

The course is attended by over 100 fiddle players from all over the world who come to play and learn the instrument in a fun, friendly and non-competitive environment.

Marie added: “This really is an excellent course. People return every year for the experience and the week gets booked up very early in the year. It is already fully booked.

“Alasdair brings people together to make music, regardless of ability. He has people who play in philharmonic orchestras playing alongside complete beginners and everyone feels as if they are a member of a big musical family. What is also good about this course is that it is very democratic. There is no selection process, no pressure to achieve and attendees here make friends for life.

“We would encourage applications from anyone from Skye and Lochalsh who is between the age of 18 to 26, looking for a very special chance to make music and friends in one of Scotland’s most beautiful environments.”

For further information and an application form, contact Marie on 01471 844207 or email marie@seall.co.uk. Deadline for applications is Friday, 18 May.

Ross and Ali

Dynamic musical duo Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton are taking their anticipated new album out on the road and will stop off for a concert on Skye this month.

The partnership between these two multi-instrumental Scots trad giants from Perthshire has received a number of high profile awards since 2015, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo in 2017 and a nomination for the same accolade this year.

Together Ross (who plays Border pipes, whistles, cittern, banjo and harmonium) and Ali (Highland pipes, whistles, guitar, tenor guitar and harmonium) have been described as “rugged and inventive yet true to the tradition”. Over the years they have become major figures in the Scots trad music scene, following the footsteps of Gordon Duncan and Martyn Bennett.

Ali said: “We both grew up through the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band and were lucky to have Gordon Duncan as our mentor. Gordon let us see the possibilities that can happen with the bagpipes and instilled a passion in us to play them with other instruments.

“We really get a huge buzz from playing Scots trad music so I guess that’s why we choose it over other genres. Its the music that excites us!”

Celebrated Scottish Kirkhill fiddle player Duncan Chisholm described the pair as “two complete musical minds, connected first and foremost as lifelong friends.”

Ali explained: “We’ve been playing and jamming together since we were in our early teens and spent a lot of time sitting in bedrooms, listening to music and coming up with our own music, so it’s very natural to get material together. I suppose there’s a mutual understanding about each other that allows the process of making music very easy.”

Ross and Ali are touring their new album Symbiosis II and come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, An Talla Mhòr, on Friday, 27 April.

Ross said: “Symbiosis II is a continuation of the work we’ve been producing as a duo over the last few years. Once again, it is an album of mostly self-penned music. This time we decided to go bigger on the production. The album is a bigger band sound, complimented by the talents of Duncan Lyall on Moog and synths, Martin O’ Neill on bodhran and kit, Steve Byrnes on kit, and Patsy Reid on strings.”

The concert begins at 7.30pm and, as is customary at SEALL’s traditional music events, young local musicians will open the night. Malin Lewis, fiddle and pipes; Lewis McLachlan, tenor guitar; and James Bauld, flute and whistle, all from Plockton’s National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, will play a set.

Ross added: “Trad music has become very popular with younger people and the standard that the younger ones are at now is pretty incredible.

“It’s very important to encourage young musicians to perform and write music. The folk scene is thriving at the minute. It’s constantly growing and evolving. It’s a great opportunity for young musicians to perform alongside professional bands as it gives them a taste of what it’s like to be a full-time musician. Allowing for them to consider this as a viable career option.”

The event takes place at 7.30pm and is sponsored by Fearran Eilean Iarmain who will be hosting gin and whisky tasting sessions during the evening.

Other events coming up at SEALL are a concert by legendary Irish musician Andy Irvine on 21 April at An Talla Mhòr and a rare visit by the Travelling Gallery to Broadford on Saturday 28 April in the car park outside Café Sia. 

TO RESERVE YOUR SEATS FOR ROSS AND ALI, CLICK HERE