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?
The Scottish west coast is probably one of the best places in the world for a sailing holiday. Stunning landscapes, beautiful bays and lochs to anchor, ever changing views (and weather), what more could you want? Charlie Hitchen did just that and recorded their adventures in a nice video. The first couple of minutes cover Islay, Jura, Oronsay and Colonsay:
Lots of traditional music in the video, including some recorded during a session at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen (with some of the usual suspects….).
This weekend I’m going to see Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton (supported by Jenn Butterworth and others) at the south coast of England. Which inspired me to write another post about an artist I got to know through the Islay Sessions (which makes it a post for this blog). In case you’re wondering what the connection is: Brìghde has played together with Ross (not sure if she has played with Ali as well), here’s a nice recording:
But now to the real topic of this post, to Brìghde Chaimbeul‘s debut album, The Reeling. It was published in January 2019 to very positive reviews, for example in the Guardian. I’m not sure if she played any of it during the Islay Sessions in November 2018, but what I heard certainly motivated me to buy the album on release day. Here’s a (rather low quality, as it was recorded with a mobile phone) short snippet from her performance at the Islay Sessions in Bruichladdich Hall (my lack of musical skills don’t allow me to identify the tune):
Back to the album, it’s available on various download/streaming services (I bought it on Google Play as that’s what I use mostly) and you can buy a CD/LP from Rough Trade. If you’d like to get an impression before you buy you can hear some (or all if you have a Spotify account) here:
If that’s not enough, here’s a video with one of the songs from the album:
Isn’t that a beautiful rich tune? I’ve listened to the album many times now and will listen many times again. I’m not sure about any upcoming gigs by Brìghde, but I’m sure they’ll be mentioned on her social media accounts: Brìghde Chaimbeul on Facebook and Brìghde Chaimbeul on Twitter.
Something slightly outside of the normal content of this blog, but then there’s a good chance that without the Islay Sessions I wouldn’t have heard of this album (and others I will write about some other time). So I think it does fit into this blog. I’ve known Gráinne Brady for a number of years now, performing at and organising the wonderful Islay Sessions. Early on she was mainly performing together with other artists, last year saw her launching a solo project with her debut album. I’ll let her tell you about it herself:
The Islay Sessions saw the second ever live performance of the album, Gráinne supported by Andrew Waite and Innes White. It was a great experience, her telling us about the project and then performing it, taking on parts of the spoken word as well. Some great musical storytelling. Here’s a short snippet (mobile phone recording, so not the greatest quality) from the sessions, just to give you an impression:
If this got you interested, Gráinne is going on tour in Ireland and Scotland in late February and March 2019. Here is her tour poster:
Looking forward to seeing Gráinne Brady again (having seen her at several Islay Sessions over the years), this time launching her solo album (I believe that session is sold out now).
One ‘new’ (as in new for me) artist I’m very much looking forward to is Brighde Chaimbeul. I had heard of her through Hamish Napier (who I had seen at another Islay Session a number of years ago). Here’s a taster of her playing together with Innes White (who will also play with her on Islay):
That’s all I’ve got for now. Hope to see you at the Islay Sessions or if not elsewhere on Islay in the two weeks leading up to them.
Living and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:
Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.
I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.
Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.
Almost a month since the event and I finally managed to get my act together to edit my first longer video from the Islay Sessions 2017. I’ve decided to go slightly out of sequence and start with the later evening sessions in the bar of the Port Charlotte Hotel, where everyone gathered after Adam’s and Mark’s Concert in the Conservatory (which I’m aiming to edit next).
Sometimes a delayed ferry can be a good thing. I’m usually booked on the afternoon ferry when leaving after one of my Islay visits. This November visit Calmac called to inform me that due to delays in the dry dock (the MV Hebridean Isles was having her annual overhaul) the one ferry timetable would be running slightly longer and they had to move me to a ferry leaving in the evening. Initially I wasn’t too happy as it meant I would arrive at my hotel (which I had already booked and paid on one of those non-changeable, non-refundable deals) much later than planned, but then an unexpected benefit turned up:
As it turned out the long anticipated launch of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook took place the afternoon of the day I was leaving. Under normal circumstances I would have missed it, but because I was now on a later ferry I was able to attend.
The launch took place at the Islay House in Bridgend, a very nice venue for the event. After some mingling and chatting with various people in the foyer we were asked to move over into one of the rooms for the main launch event. Lynn MacDonald opened the proceedings, talking about how the project came to pass and more. Kenneth Thomson spoke about some of the songs and poems included in the collection and how he came across some of them. Finally a representative from Acair Books (unfortunately I’m not sure of her name) spoke about working on the project and the importance of recording the old Gaelic songs and poems. Then it was time for some of the songs. Various singers including Mòd Gold Medal winner 2017 Alasdair Currie sang a variety of songs, some with audience participation. After the music we enjoyed a few biscuits and cup of tea/coffee while talking about the event and buying our copies of the songbook. A very enjoyable afternoon!
The songbook itself is a lovingly collated and designed book, not only for singers and Gaelic speakers, but for everyone (including me who doesn’t know much Gaelic apart from a few words and is musically challenged). Each song receives two pages, on the left are the notes, on the right the words in both Gaelic as well as an English translation. Various beautiful black and white pictures of Islay are spread through the book. Lynn and Kenneth provide an introduction and foreword while at the end of the book we find author biographies. The songbook is ring bound, as someone explained to me that makes it easier to place it on a note stand when performing a song.