A MAJOR new live show inspired by the Scots Gaelic diaspora is to take centre stage on Glasgow Green during the Commonwealth Games before being taken on tour around the world to showcase the historic language.
Around 25 singers, musicians and dancers will perform in the “epic” new production Children of the Smoke, which will feature entirely new material inspired by centuries of Gaelic heritage across five continents.
The 75-minute show, part of a huge programme of cultural events in the famous city park during the games, will be the culmination of a two-year project involving more than 70 artists from around the world.
Stories and poets by 20 different writers are being transformed by Edinburgh-based composer and producer Jim Sutherland, who has assembled the group to stage the free concert on 28 July.
Built around a story of “love, family, exile, loss, hope and strength”, it will involve a mixture of music, song, dance and film performed on a set featuring a rotating fishing boat.
Among the leading artists lined up to perform on the night are Gaelic singers Joy Dunlop, Fiona MacKenzie, Alasdair Whyte and Kathleen MacInnes, and piper Allan MacDonald, fiddlers Patsy Reid and Anna-Wendy Stevenson, and cellist Su-a Lee.
Sutherland, who also masterminded the soundtrack for Scotland’s first Gaelic feature film, Seachd: The Inaccessible and worked on the Disney-Pixar film Brave, is also behind the longer-term project Struileag.
The £400,000 initiative - which has been backed by the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, VisitScotland and dedicated Gaelic channel BBC Alba - will involve the making of a 60-minute concert film, a double CD of the music commissioned for Struileag, a poetry book and an online storytelling project.
Sutherland, who assembled an orchestra of classical and traditional musicians for a major Edinburgh Castle concert during 2009 Year of Homecoming, talks were already underway to tour Children of the Smoke across the UK next year and then around the world after its world premiere in Glasgow. Locations being explored include New York, Moscow and St Petersburg.
The Children of the Smoke show - which will touch on issues as varied as the notion of Gaelic identity, military service, exile and homelessness - is the biggest Gaelic element of the Commonwealth Games culture project and is also part of this year’s £5 million Homecoming programme, instigated by the Scottish Government.
Struileag is the biggest project to be undertaken by Sutherland, a renowned percussionist, who has had a hugely varied career, producing more than 60 albums, and working with the likes of Billy Bragg, Emmylou Harris, The Chieftains, Mumford and Sons, The Bhundu Boys and Van Morrison.
Sutherland, the show’s artistic director, told The Scotsman: “I actually started off the project with the idea of a live show two and a half years ago, it’s what has driven everything else.
“I’d actually been doing a lot of work with Gaelic singers on other projects and was at the stage where I felt like I’ve got a hell of a lot out of Gaelic music.
“It was the right time to try to put some energy back into it, work with some more writers and musicians, and create a show and a new body of work. The fact the next Homecoming year was coming up gave things a real focus.
“We were looking at launching the live show in Inverness later this year, but we have decided to bring it forward to give it a much bigger audience during the Commonwealth Games.
“A lot of public money has gone onto this and I want it to have a real impact. We’re speaking to a lot of places at the moment, but all the diaspora countries have real potential for us.”
David Taylor, portfolio manager for special projects at Creative Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to support the ambition of this project which is a major demonstration of the significance of Gaelic to our culture, and a wonderful platform for some of Scotland’s exceptional artists.
“This contribution to the Homecoming programme and the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme, has allowed space for experimentation, and a showcase for the Gaelic language within the contemporary arts.