IN 1998 two of Gaelic music’s most respected singers, Mary Ann Kennedy and Arthur Cormack, decided to put together a group of traditional musicians to perform at the Highland Festival. They secured the services of a third vocalist, Maggie Macdonald, and a strong instrumental section consisting of fiddle player Bruce MacGregor, keyboard and clàrsach player Ingrid Henderson and guitarist Chaz Stewart.
The duo dubbed their new group Cliar, after the Gaelic poets and musicians who once made a living travelling around Scotland, bringing news and entertainment wherever they went, and in the spirit of these itinerant musicians of yesteryear the group have dedicated themselves to journeying down the road less travelled. Yes, Cliar have played the Royal Albert Hall in London, but they’ve also visited Stornoway, Arisaig, Portree, Farr and a host of other far-flung locations normally ignored by all but the most dedicated of today’s wandering minstrels.
As their reputation has grown, Cliar have been variously described as a "Gaelic supergroup", "a formidable vocal and instrumental combination" and "the cream of the crop in Scottish Gaelic music", although they prefer to be known as "the definitive voice of acoustic music in the north".
Despite all the touring, and despite the fact that all the members of the group have busy schedules of their own (Bruce MacGregor, for instance, is also a BBC producer and the leader of Blazin’ Fiddles), Cliar have somehow managed to put out two acclaimed albums - Cliar in 2000 and last year’s Gun Tamh, which, appropriately enough, translates as "restless".
Cliar, Edinburgh Folk Club, today, tel: 0131-650 2349