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Sabhal Mòr Ostaig music students’ success at Pan Celtic Festival


The 47th International Pan Celtic Festival was this year held in Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland from the 3-8 April and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s BA (Hons) Gaelic and Traditional Music students were amongst those fortunate enough to be present, representing Scotland in many competitions and events. 

This annual festival is a colourful and vibrant celebration of the music, song, dance, pageantry, languages and sports of the six Celtic nations - Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. 

Nine students from SMO attended, along with the Music Course Leader, Dr Decker Forrest, who opened the first night of the Festival on Tues.  Included in the Scottish contingent were choirs, singers and musicians and playing every night in the Central Bar were Robert and Allan Nairn, from Ardnamurchan, who are regular Festival attendees as the Scottish house band.

Throughout the week the students were engaged with rehearsals, soundchecks, competitions, concert performances and of course less formal musical contributions in the pubs. They undoubtedly contributed much to the Festival and, in turn, enjoyed an exceptional week full of new experiences and wonderful music with their Celtic neighbours.

The International Song Contest was the highest profile event of the week. It was broadcast live on TG4 from a packed concert hall in Letterkenny.  This competition showcased the best each of the Celtic nations had to offer and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig did themselves proud coming third.

Speaking about the competition, Dr Decker Forrest said: “We took third, behind Ireland and Cornwall respectively, performing a song composed by Rody Gorman for John Purser on his 70th birthday and words set to music by Christine Primrose. Our contribution was therefore a real collective effort from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and was obviously well received by the audience and judges alike.”

Hannah Macrae, from Lochaber, triumphed in the adult Fiddle competition taking first prize.  Anna Nicolson, from Staffin, also did extremely well taking first place in the under 18 Clàrsach competition.

Dr Forrest added: “Hannah MacRae’s win in the adult fiddle competition was a fantastic achievement and brought proud recognition to Hannah and of course to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. As with all the events at Pan Celtic her competition included some of the best musicians from the 6 participating Celtic nations. She played with tremendous control, skill and incomparable West Highland flair which prompted some lovely comments on her playing from the judge before he read out the results.” 

In other competitions, Hannah Macrae and Lauren Byrne competed together in the Instrumental duet, Amy Mackay from Harris participated in the Traditional Solo Singing and all the students took part in the Group Traditional Singing competition.

The music students will be bound for Glasgow next to perform at Ceòl is Craic’s annual event ‘Ceòl Mòr Ostaig’ at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street. The concert will take place on Saturday 28th April with performances from current students on the BA Gàidhlig is Ceòl Traidiseanta along with a host of artists including Mary Ann Kennedy, Murdo L and Sian (Eilidh Cormack, Ellen MacDonald and Ceitlin Smith). Tickets can be bought here.