A new musical work, born amid the travel restrictions in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be the centrepiece of this year’s celebration of Highland music, Gaelic language and culture at the Blas Festival 2023 which takes place at the start of September.
Lèirsinn (meaning perception in Gaelic) is an innovative new piece of music by Lochaber multi-instrumentalist and composer, Ewen Henderson, which explores the way humans relate and respond to the physical spaces and landscapes around them and how this, in some way, is shaped by the imagination.
Ewen, who is a member of folk group Mànran and has significant experience in composing, playing and directing music for TV and film including ITV’s Sanditon, BBC Alba’s Pìobairean Beaga Bhaile Ghobhainn and Alleulia, commented: "The initial idea of Lèirsinn was born during lockdown, when travel was heavily restricted. I found myself taking imaginary journeys to places further afield and, on several occasions, feeling moved to compose pieces of music inspired by these trips.
"Once restrictions lifted, I made actual physical journeys to these places and wrote further pieces of music inspired by these "real" trips. Lèirsinn brings these pairs of pieces of music together and invites the audience to explore the extent to which our imaginations shape and colour our experiences of the places around us."
For the performances, Ewen will be joined by a line-up of musicians including Megan Henderson (fiddle, piano & vocals), Hamish Napier (piano & whistles), Innes Watson (guitar & fiddle), Iain MacFarlane (fiddle & whistle) and Su-a Lee (cello).
Lèirsinn will be performed several times during Blas Festival, which is a collaboration between The Highland Council and Fèisean nan Gàidheal. The nine-day festival is taking place from 1– 9 September in venues from the Isle of Skye to Fort William and Gairloch to Ballachulish.
Calum Alex Macmillan, of festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, added: “One of the main features of the Blas Festival is the annual commission we award. Ewen’s proposal for Lèirsinn embodies what Blas has at its core; a celebration of Gaelic culture, music, song and language and the Highland landscape.
“We are looking forward to another great festival this September, visiting communities across the Highlands with a programme that will continue to celebrate our rich Gaelic culture and heritage, including events which will showcase newly composed Gaelic songs and music, international musicians, collaborations, birthday celebrations for treasured tradition bearers and a grand finale Ceòl nam Fèis concert in Fort William featuring talented youngsters from across the Fèis movement.”
During the Blas Festival, which first began in 2004, there will be a showcase of home-grown talent alongside internationally renowned traditional musicians, with around 25 concerts and cèilidhs, an extensive education and communities programme and an online offering which will include workshops, Gaelic song sessions and livestreamed concerts. These performances will take place at a variety of venues throughout the Highlands and Islands, from small village halls to arts centres, making it a unique festival format which attracts audiences from home and abroad.
Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, one of the funders of the festival said: “We are delighted that the Blas Festival will be bringing Gaelic song and music to audiences throughout the Highlands again this year. The festival portrays the best of Gaelic language and culture and each year contributes to the aim of the National Gaelic Language Plan that Gaelic is used more often, by more people in a wider range of situations as well as contributing to wellbeing.”
Blas Festival, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’ will launch its full programme in the next couple of weeks and the concerts, cèilidhs and workshops will take place in a variety of performance venues across the Highlands. For further information about this year’s festival, please visit www.blas.scot.