As I eluded to yesterday, today marks the start of a new chapter in my life, even though I don’t know yet where it will lead me. All I know is that over the coming weeks I’ll be looking for new career opportunities, while also aiming to use the opportunity for a few other changes. But at the same time there are some constants, including my love for Islay and some annual rituals/traditions:
This morning I got up early and left for my morning walk before dawn, on the return leg I saw a lovely colourful New Year’s day first dawn of the year sky over one of the West Berkshire fields I pass on my route. When I returned home I got the oven going for some fresh “New Year’s Day bread”, one Hemp Hearts bread and one fruit bread. Then it was time for one of my New Year’s Day traditions (mentioned on this blog before eg in 2020 and in 2018), the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna with a dram of Islay single malt whisky and my New Year’s Day brunch.
The whisky is the same as for Christmas, the Kilchoman Single Cask 11 Years Old Bourbon Cask. The brunch is the aforementioned Hemp Hearts bread, scrambled eggs and some smoked salmon. The salmon “slowly smoked for 12 hours over oak & whisky cask chippings”, so I’m imagining they were Islay whisky cask chippings.
The concert has now reached the encores with the famous Blue Danube, so I’m going to finish now and wish you all a happy and healthy New Year 2022!
The Islay Sessions 2020 had to be moved to an online event for the well known reason of the Covid pandemic and related restrictions. For 2021 the Sessions return to their home on Islay, they will take place over the weekend 26-28/Nov/2021 in the usual locations, mainly the Port Charlotte Hotel and Bruichladdich Hall. Here’s a promo video with some more details:
Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend in person myself this year due to work commitments (the last 5 and first 2-3 working days of the month I need to be working and with the long journey to Islay from where I live it’s not feasible the way the Sessions fall). I understand there are efforts under way to also stream the Sessions online, so I hope to be able to attend at least virtually.
Details are still a bit sketchy, but news reach me this morning that mega popstars Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift are going to film the music video for an as yet unreleased duet on Islay. From what I understand they recorded the song (a love ballad) two years ago and have now decided to release it. Of course the song needs a video, and this is where Islay comes in…
The two superstars wanted something a bit different from the usual polished boredom of a pop video. On a Zoom call with Craig Ferguson (while now an American citizen he of course was born and grew up in Scotland) they got talking about it and Craig suggested they might want to take a look at Islay.
They seem to have taken to his suggestion and are now planning to travel to Islay once Coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they and their crews can safely visit the island and film the video.
Likely locations include Soldier’s Rock, Kilchoman beach, Sanaigmore Bay, Finlaggan, Bowmore (in particular with the Round Church in the background), but there’s also talk of an excursion to Jura for views of the Paps of Jura and the Corryvreckan whirlpool.
While I preparing my venison burger on my Fyne Venison Weekend I thought it would be nice to listen to some Islay music. Luckily the YouTube recommendation algorithm (and that I’m subscribed to him) suggested a nice video from Shane MacKinnon he uploaded today. Here he is with Donnie and Niall at the Islay Hotel in 2019:
And there’s more, as here he is with Kyle and Ciara at the Port Charlotte Hotel a little bit earlier in 2019:
As mentioned previously the Islay Sessions 2020 had to move online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Originally the plan was to hold them on the original weekend in November, but for various reasons that didn’t work out and the event had to be pushed out. Two days ago as of writing this it finally happened and the live stream went ahead. I put on my finest tartan, poured myself a wee dram and sat down in front of the computer to watch. While of course not as good as a real live event it was still a great evening! All credit to the organisers and the musicians for making this such an enjoyable event.
Greig Shaw was our host, I believe from his garden shed, which he had very nicely decorated for the event. Greig led us through the evening, talking about his late brother Fraser in whose honour the Sessions are now being held and very ably introducing the musicians. The musicians were be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. Of course there was also a prize draw with some rare whiskies and other goodies.
The individual concerts were pre-recorded, which I think was a wise move. I’ve attended other online concerts, which were plagued with problems, sound and image being out of sync and more. Here the stream worked well and it was a joy to hear the musicians play as well as talk about their music.
As I had hoped the live chat was available, which I found very enjoyable. A lot of people I know personally as well as virtually were chatting while listening to the concert, many of the musicians joined in as well. Memories were exchanged, virtual rounds bought and more.
If you missed it or would like to see it again the Fraser Shaw Trust has made the whole event available on their YouTube channel (don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t yet):
Thanks again to the Fraser Shaw Trust, all the organisers and all the musicians for such a wonderful evening. Hopefully we can see each other again in person soon for some real live music!
Same as so many other events this year the Islay Sessions 2020 will take place online. They will also be a bit shorter this year, taking place on Saturday 21/Nov/2020 in the evening. However, the line-up is as good as ever with some familiar faces (as in, they have performed at previous sessions) and some new artists. Today the organisers uploaded a short teaser:
Some new media from Islay to write about. Back in August the This is Islay podcast was launched. Its goal is to bring you voices from Islay, news and events with interviews from the community. It is intended for both locals and listeners further afield to give an insight into what is happening on Islay and how the community experienced events. The intention is to complement other news sources (e.g. The Ileach), not to compete with them.
Islay's new ferries are eagerly awaited. In this episode, a conversation with Nasir Udin, Senior Civil Engineer with CMAL – Caledonian Maritime Assets – and This Is Islay's Glen Roberts, discussing the upcoming port improvements which will take place in Port Ellen as well as Port Askaig, Colonsay and Kennacraig, all in preparation for two new ferries under construction in Turkey and scheduled for service in late 2024 and early 2025.
Updates on the port improvements for Port Ellen and Port Askaig may be found at cmassets.co.uk/project/islay-vessel-enabling-works/
Information on the new ferries is available at cmassets.co.uk/project/islay
You may contact CMAL directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Is Islay is a volunteer-led community podcast celebrating the people, places, events and connections of our community. For more information, visit our website at thisisislay.co.uk and follow us on social media.
I hope you’ll enjoy the podcasts as much as I did and will subscribe to them (I’m using Google Podcasts, which works really well for me, but various other services including Spotify are available). With the latest developments around Covid-19 I found the information about the Islay Resilience Group very interesting and how it will help with possible future developments. But of course there are plenty of other interesting topics as well.
Regular readers might remember me writing about Gráinne Brady’s debut album just over a year ago, launched at the Islay Sessions 2018. Hopefully there will be Islay Sessions 2020, be it live on Islay or virtual (Fèis Ìle 2020 is moving online), as I’m hoping we will get to hear more from her there. Why? Because Gráinne is currently finishing her second album. I should have posted it earlier as now there are only a few days left, but if you’re quick you can still support her in fundraising to finalise and launch the album:
If you’re interested in supporting her go to Gráinne’s Indiegogo campaign for Newcomer and make your choice which goodies to pick (depending on your contribution). They range from digital downloads over signed CDs and/or launch tickets to a house concert.
Just over a week to go until the Islay Sessions 2019, taking place 22-24/Nov/2019 (Fri-Sun). As of writing this I believe there are still some tickets available, but not for all events (I think the Friday is sold out). So who will be there this year?
The one I’m most looking forward to is Claire Hastings. Claire was scheduled to perform last year, but unfortunately had to cancel as she lost her voice, rather important for a singer. I’ve bought both of her albums and have listened to them many times. Here’s one of my favourites:
Another one is this one, although I hope nobody will miss their boat on the way to Islay:
Next on my list are Eabhal, some of the members I know from previous Islay Sessions. Here’s a nice taster for their music:
The one I know least about is Kim Carnie. I will find out about her during the Saturday concert as well as on Friday where she will be performing with Laura-Beth Salter, Innes White (which I both know from previous sessions) and Calum MacCrimmon as VOX (no website I know of).
Very much looking forward to a great weekend with lots of great music, meeting old and new friends!
Obviously a bit of rain isn’t going to stop the Islay Pipe Band from performing, plenty enough rain on Islay to be used to it. Here they are playing for almost a quarter of an hour in a rainy Buchanan Street in Glasgow, recorded by Eric Traynor during Piping Live 2019:
PS: I noticed there’s a man (blue jacket, green backpack) going round doing something with some kind of instrument at the drones of the pipers while they are playing. What is he doing there? Is he helping them or distracting them?