Sensational Musical Event on Islay

Blàr (Battle) is a community musical event taking place on Islay on 30 May which will see at least 140 island musicians staging a performance of new Gaelic music composed by the outstanding Gaelic traditional musician Clare Jordan. The new music is based on a Gaelic poem by the long neglected Islay bard William Livingstone, which tells the story of the infamous Battle of Gruinart, which took place on Islay in 1598. Every musical group on the island will take part: the traditional instrumentalists, the island brass band, all the primary school Gaelic choirs, the junior Gaelic choir, the high school choir, the senior Gaelic choir, and the Islay Pipe Band. The performance will be an innovative multimedia event featuring a dynamic digital art work commissioned of local artist and writer Raymond Lafferty.

Clare Jordan said: “Last year Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle commissioned me to compose a suite of three songs with words from William Livingstone poem Blàr Thraigh Ghrunieard. I wasn’t aware of Livingstone’s poetry when I started on the project but I became fascinated by this forgotten masterpiece. The Battle of Gruinart was the last clan war fought on Scottish soil and behind the bloody and brutal depictions of 16th century Scottish warfare is the tragic story of two families the MacDonalds of Islay and the MacLean of Mull torn apart over ownership of Islay lands. Sir Lachlan Mòr MacLean was killed in the Battle and he was Sir James MacDonald’s uncle. There’s a further layer to the poem: the folklore and legends surrounding the battle and in particular the story of the evil Dubh Sìth (Black Fairy) who in spiteful rage killed MacLean with an arrow. These are great stories, well-known on Islay, but we’re now going to be sharing them with a wider audience.” Continue reading....

Iseabail Mactaggart Còisir Gàidhlig Ìle’s conductor said: “This is a thrilling event to have produced. The three songs Clare composed for the choir are wonderful and by linking them together with new instrumental passages has produced a stunning new work. Bringing 140 performers together has been a considerable challenge but it has brought together people with different musical interests from all corners of Islay and united them in common cause. This is truly a community arts event and Islay has never before seen anything on this scale and of this ambition. We are delighted to have Dr Raymond Lafferty on board - he is working alongside Islay young people taking the John Muir Award in Gaelic at RSPB Gruinart to produce a stunning digital film which dovetails with the music. Children from all the Islay and Jura primary schools have also produced their own artworks based on the stories in the poem and we are thrilled with the results.

Although Gaelic poetry is at the heart of this project we have been determined that this will not be a barrier and that Blàr will be fully accessible to non-Gaelic speakers. The scale and ambition of the project means that we can only have only the one performance but that performance will be during Islay’s exceptionally busy Fèis week and we already know that our audience that will not only be a local audience but an international one too.”

Fergus Muir, Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle’s President, said, ‘Blàr is probably the biggest Gaelic cultural event other than local Mòds that we’ve seen on Islay and it’s brought together people from all corners of the island. That so many people want to see the performance is justification for all the effort that has gone into making Blàr a reality and we’re delighted to be able to offer a second performance on the night of the 30th. We’re grateful to all the organisations that have supported Blàr so far.’ Two performances of Blàr will take place at Bowmore Hall, Islay on 30 May at 6.30pm and 8pm. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Fèis Ìle, Bowmore and Port Ellen Post Offices.

Tag: gaelic choir blar islay festival