Islay Sessions 2017 video #1: At the Port Charlotte Hotel

Islay MusicAlmost 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).

The musicians include Adam Sutherland, Marc Clement, Jenn and Laura-Beth, members of Tannara (and Megan MacDonald), Gráinne Nic Bhrádaigh, Emma Tomlinson as well as Ron and Mhairi from the Joy Dunlop Trio. I hope I haven’t missed/forgotten anyone…

But now it’s really time for the video, half an hour of beautiful tunes, laughter and joy:

I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes and the video transports a bit of the joy of the evening into your lounge, study or wherever you’re reading and watching this. More to come over the next few weeks.

Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook launched

Islay MusicSometimes 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.

A collage of impressions of the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook
Impressions from the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook

You can buy the songbook at local outlets on Islay (I know C&E Roy stock it, there might be others) as well as online at the publisher Acair Books. For more information visit the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Facebook page or follow the Òrain Ìleach Islay Gaelic Songbook Twitter feed.

To finish here’s a video with some of the performances from the launch event at Islay House:

(Sorry for the shaky video, I had to handheld my mobile phone as I had run out of memory on my main video camera)

Islay Sessions 2017 coming up in November

Islay MusicLess than a month to go to the Islay Sessions 2017 taking place in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. And after having to miss it last year due to my heart operation I’ll be back to enjoy them even more this year. This years programme includes a variety of artists, some I’ve seen before, others will be new to me.

Picture of Adam Sutherland and Laura-Beth Salter performing on stage
Adam and Laura-Beth enjoying a tune during the Islay Sessions 2015

The Islay Sessions 2017 start on Friday 17/Nov with a Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement will be performing. After the concert there will be informal sessions in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar, I expect until late into the night.

There will be workshops on Saturday morning, the participants will then also perform at the big concert on Saturday evening 18/Nov at Bruichladdich Hall. I hope many local musicians young and old will join Tannara, the Joy Dunlop Trio and Jenn & Laura Beth.

The weekend will close with another Concert in the Conservatory at the Port Charlotte Hotel on Sun 19/Nov (followed by more informal sessions in the bar I hope), this time with Innes Watson.

Picture of Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions
Innes Watson playing guitar at the Islay Sessions 2015

I understand there will also be a whisky tour during the weekend, details haven’t been posted yet as of writing this. Check the Islay Sessions Twitter account and the Islay Sessions Facebook page for updates. For tickets to the concerts go to the Islay Sessions Eventbrite page.

Cantilena Festival 2017 on Islay starts today

Islay MusicSorry I’m a bit late, I got my dates mixed up and for some reason thought it’s in a week. But then again it’s not too late yet. The annual Cantilena Festival on Islay officially starts today (there were a few warmup events this week already). Beautiful music played in various venues across Islay, here’s an overview of the programme starting tonight:

The Festival opens at the Columba Centre in Bowmore with a programme of chamber music including Mozart’s Piano trio in G major and Schubert’s Trout Quintet. Players involved in this concert are Scott Mitchell (piano), Angus Ramsay (violin), Michelle Dieux (violin), Stephen Shakeshaft (viola), Sarah Harrington (cello) and Ben Burnley (bass).

Picture of the Cantilena musicians

The Festival continues on Monday in Laphroaig when our students from the Royal Conservatoire of Music have the opportunity to showcase their talents individually and then as part of the whole ensemble.

Tuesday will see the group at Lagavulin when the programme will include Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bach (double violin concerto) and Rossini. This concert will also feature our guest artist – Tobias Ringborg. He is a renowned Swedish violinist and conductor and Cantilena are pleased to welcome him to Islay which he has never visited.

Picture of the Cantilena musicians taking the bow after a performance at Lagavulin

On Wednesday Tobias will feature as soloist as will Havilland Willshire. The programme includes a Frank Violin Sonata and also piano music by Chopin and Beethoven.

Viennese Evening at Ardbeg. This will be the programme for Thursday and is a new addition to Cantilena’s repertoire. Music will include waltzes and polkas with composers Strauss and Kreisler.

The Festival concludes on Friday 14 July at Bruichladdich, in the Village Hall and will feature soloists and all the players in Mendelssohn’s famous Octet and our usual ‘Classical Ceilidh’

Some general information:

Cantilena is very generously supported by distilleries across the island. Come along and enjoy the music; sample the various malt whiskies; and have the chance to chat to our professional players and students throughout the evening. All concerts start at 7.30 pm and ticket £12/£10 may be purchased at Celtic House in Bowmore or at the door on the venue on the various evenings. There is no charge for school age young people.

And that’s not all, there will also be some whisky and music:

Whisky and Music afternoon

Martine Nouet celebrated whisky expert presents a Whisky and Music afternoon on Wednesday 12 July in Islay House. Martine will guide you through several Islay malts which will match with music which Cantilena will play.

Further information at www.martinenouet.com

For further information also visit the 2017 Cantilena Festival page. I’m sure it will be yet another successful festival and everyone will enjoy the music.

Fraser Shaw Islay tunes CD launch

Islay MusicTwo years ago Fraser Shaw passed away, but his memory and his music live on, in particular through the Islay Sessions and the Fraser Shaw Trust. In the Fraser Shaw Trust Fraser’s family and friends have worked to finish a song book of Fraser’s compositions and record them. Both will be published this year, the proceeds will be used to support Multiple Sclerosis help organisations and activities in Argyll.

I don’t know if these were his own tunes or someone else’s, here are some memories of Fraser playing together with other musicians at the Port Charlotte Hotel during the Islay Sessions 2012:

But back to the future, in particular the upcoming CD launch. Three events are coming up over the next few weeks and months:

For further updates follow the Fraser Shaw Trust on Twitter or visit the Fraser Shaw Trust Facebook page.