After the superb 2016 summer school, it was hard to think this year’s Ceòlas celebrations could be matched – it was. Beaming sunshine welcomed the start of one of the busiest weeks in the Uist calendar and help to create that unique Hebridean buzz.
This year’s tutors were comprised of some of the best traditional musicians, singers and dancers both from Scotland and Canada. Dancers Mats Melin, Frank McConnell and Sophie Stephenson held classes ranging in skill from complete beginners to experts soon to be teaching themselves.
Piping was in the capable hands of Fin Moore and Seonaidh MacIntyre for Piping for Dance classes. Griogair Labhruidh, of North Bail’ a’ Chaolais, is becoming a great exponent of pìobaireachd. Ashley MacDonald led the Youth Pipers and their own compositions, performed at Friday’s Crossover Concert, were at very high standards and their contributions to the cèilidhs were outstanding.
Shelly Campbell and Kenneth MacKenzie, from Cape Breton, were joined by Allan Henderson and Eilidh Shaw, teaching youth and adult fiddle classes. Their own skill was ably demonstrated to full-houses at the evening cèilidhs and concerts throughout the week.
Ingrid Henderson, whose clàrsach class was highly appreciated, was indispensable during the week’s numerous cèilidhs. Mary Ann Kennedy, who MC’d the Cèilidh Mòr, described her not only as a highly telented musician but that ‘rare’ type of person who is also an adept accompanist.
Gaelic class numbers are steadily growing each year and have become a great draw to many students looking to experience the authentic Gaelic-speaking communities in Uist. Ably handled by Catrìona MacIntyre, Catrìona Black and Ailig ‘Bhaltos’ MacDonald, the Gaelic drama showcased at the Friday Crossover Concert is one of the highlights for many.
In particular, the 2017 summer school will be remembered for the Gaelic song. New to the week was Mary Jane Lamond, from Cape Breton, who was joined by Rachel Walker and Christine Primrose. Their contributions, along with a number of local talent, on Wednesday night’s Song Cèilidh was considered by many in attendance as the best singers’ concert ever held by Ceòlas. The theme, centred around Bho Ghinealach gu Ginealach, a book of song-poetry from the Campbell family of Taobh a Deas Loch Baghasdail in South Uist, saw a mixture of local and Highland songs for two and a half hours of spellbound unaccompanied performance. The Campbell family themselves were represented by Ruairidh MacKay, Dòmhnall Ruairidh and Dòmhnall Anthony Campbell, who sang their personal favourites. The evening ended with a rendition of ‘A Pheigi a Ghràidh’ performed by 18 singers on stage. Worthy of a mention was a surprise appearance by Michelle MacNeil Walker from Barra who left the audience wanting more of her singing.
All events were to full houses, with the community coming out in droves to hear the talented tutors. The Cèilidh Mòr featured the usual huge programme which enabled the tutors to share their talent with the wider community. Griogair Labhruidh sang two songs off his debut album ‘Dail Riata’, which marked 10 years since its launch.
Walks centred around two books: the recently relaunched Eriskay Where I Was Born went out to Roisinis to hear readings by Màiri MacKenzie, and Bho Ghinealach gu Ginealach saw the Campbells giving a tour of their own township in Taobh a Deas Loch Baghasdail. Rona Hyslop, a Gaelic learner from Fife, exhibited her fine oil paintings all week long.
Thursday afternoon featured an intersting talk by John Renshaw concerning the development at Cnoc Soilleir. He consulted on four possible building options for the site and representatives of the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Creative Scotland and members of the local community were all present. If you were not able to attend, and would like to see or comment on the options, please contact Ceòlas Uibhist.