ONE of 11 shows over the first weekend of Blas 2013, from Portree to Wick, this six-act bill – like the festival as a whole – could easily have been subtitled “the many faces of Gaelic music”.
Blas Grand Opening Event
Eden Court Inverness
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While that six included two poets alongside singers and instrumentalists, both Màrtainn Mac an t-Saoir’s and Angus Peter Campbell’s brilliant bilingual performances vividly optimised the language’s inherent musicality, the cadences that feed so potently into Gaelic song, thus recalling the original indivisibility of poetry and music within bardic tradition.
Whoever’s been working with the Highland Council-backed youth folk ensemble ’Snas on their arrangements – or orchestrations – deserves equally vociferous applause to that won by the musicians themselves.
Far from mere massed versions of conventional band settings, these were tailored to the 21-piece line-up with a boldness and sophistication reminiscent of the Unusual Suspects, a challenge greeted by the performers with terrific collective élan.
The Gaelic song quartet Cruinn – James Graham, Fiona Mackenzie, Rachel Walker and Brian Ó hEadrha – stunningly affirmed their supergroup credentials with both sublimely complementary vocals and spine-tingling contemporary reinventions of ancient material, together with beautifully crafted originals.
The multi-award-winning Dingwall Gaelic choir’s ensemble approach steered more towards the tonalities and ultra-disciplined artistry of modern classical music, while retaining the melodic allure and expressive vitality of the songs’ roots.
Ending the night with a resounding flourish were Mànran, fronted by another of Gaeldom’s finest younger singers, Norrie MacIver, and rapidly ascending to the Celtic major league with their clever, classily populist mix of folk, rock and pop.