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Showcase concert at Celtic Connections to celebrate 40 years of SMO

As part of the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 40th Anniversary in 2013, Celtic Connections is to present a special ‘SMO 40th Anniversary Festival Concert’ as part of next year’s programme, in honour of Sabhal Mòr and the critical role it plays as the National Centre for the Gaelic Language, Culture and the Arts, and to pay tribute to and to celebrate the contribution which the institution has made to the cultural life of Scotland over these last forty years.

The concert will be held on 19th January at 7.30pm in City Halls in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections, the premier winter music festival in Scotland which will be held in 2013 between 17th January and 3rd February.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts Donnie Munro, who along with Festival Director Donald Shaw arranged for the event to take place, said: “Since its inception, Sabhal Mòr has been at the forefront of the revival of the Gaelic language and culture and has contributed enormously to artistic, linguistic and socio-economic development in Scotland.  From the outset SMO approached its work from an holistic perspective, recognising that the regeneration of the language, the culture and the community could not be approached from a purely educational perspective but that all aspects of the development and regenerative process were necessarily inter-related and interdependent and this is especially true of the role of the expressive arts. The arts have therefore played a key role in the life of Sabhal Mòr as a National Cultural Institution and it is fair to say that many of the leading practitioners in the arts, education, music and producers of cultural content have at one time or another been associated with the work and the life of the institution.”

Mr Munro added, that presenting this celebratory concert, in this special year is an act of re-affirming the central role occupied by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig as one of Scotland’s ‘national treasures’.

The line-up for this special concert brings together some of the most outstanding performers of their generations, all of whom have or have had very strong links with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig over the years, either as students, tutors, musicians in residence or those international artists who have played a major part in extending the reach of Sabhal Mòr as an international centre, through key partnerships.

Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, the internationally renowned Irish pianist and composer and Director of the Irish World Music Centre at Limerick University is one such international supporter. He will be appearing as a ‘special guest’ at the show and will perform along with a string section from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Niall Keegan and Sandra Joyce.

Professor Ó Súilleabháin commented: “The opportunity to celebrate in this 40th anniversary of Sabhal Mor Ostaig is one I cherish. I am looking forward to raising the roof with Julie Fowlis and Alasdair Fraser and the other musicians, towards a common cause.”

Renowned and multi-award winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis continues to win more and more acclaim across the globe. Her recent achievements include adding her vocal talents to the soundtrack of the recent Disney Pixar box-office hit, ‘Brave’, and she also along with acclaimed violinist Nicola Benedetti performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Ryder Cup. Julie has recently been appointed the Musician in Residence at the heritage project Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches.

Julie said: “It’s an honour for me to be taking part in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s 40th Anniversary Concert, and I’m looking forward to joining old and new friends from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on stage. My ties with the college have grown over the years, from when I first attended the college as a student in 2000 to a more recent post-graduate course which I completed last year. I am also happy to further strengthen those ties through my new Music Residency at heritage initiative, Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches which is based at the college.”

Alasdair Fraser the master Scottish fiddler has been teaching at SMO’s summer short-course programme for nearly over 25 years now, and is one of many world-class musicians who have maintained a relationship with the college over the years. Alasdair will also be joined onstage by renowned cellist Natalie Haas.

Mr Fraser said: “Sabhal Mòr Ostaig came into being at a time when Gaeldom and indeed Scotland were in dire need of a place or a ‘boiler room’ where important work could begin to re-vitalise the Gaelic language and thus increase awareness of Scotland’s rich cultural diversity in general. In 1987 Sabhal Mòr graciously enabled me to host my summer course investigating our native fiddle music with particular emphasis on its relationship to language and dance. The goal was to challenge people, including myself, to ‘find your own voice’ and to work on peeling away years of fear, prejudice and misinformation concerning our own languages and arts. That was 26 years ago. Scotland has changed immensely in the intervening years. The so-called ‘cultural cringe’ is waning, self esteem and confidence are on the rise. The arts are flourishing. People in Scotland are beginning to express themselves more fluently and move towards self-determination. Sabhal Mòr has been and continues to be an important presence and force in this journey and I am extremely thankful for the relationship I’ve had with the college during these important years of change for Scotland.”

Among the host of musical stars appearing on the night will be Fergie MacDonald, Christine Primrose, Margaret Stewart, James Graham, Allan MacDonald, Decker Forrest, Mary Ann Kennedy and Dàimh. And the house band is veritable who’s who of top Scottish traditional musicians with Allan Henderson, Iain MacDonald, Angus Nicholson, Ingrid Henderson, Andrew MacPherson, Murdo Cameron and Alasdair White.

Allan Henderson, who is musical director for the concert, commented: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, to celebrate forty years of the college and the significant part that music has played in its life. It’s often overlooked just what a force for good Sabhal Mòr has been in the resurgence, not just of our language, but of our native music. An incredible number of exceptional musicians have been associated with the College over the years, and it has been extremely difficult to choose from that number a cast list which represents something of Sabhal Mòr’s story, but I think we’ve managed it.

“We are delighted to have musicians of the calibre of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and Alasdair Fraser joining us for the concert. It only goes to show just how favourably Sabhal Mòr is viewed within the arts. Allied to that, we have a stellar cast of home-grown musicians (all of whom have been involved with the college at some time or another), who could easily sell out the biggest of venues in their own right. It’s going to be a special night. I’m sure there will plenty of musical collaboration between the various artists. Everyone seems very excited about taking part, and it’s the kind of concert that even if I wasn’t appearing myself, I’d be queuing for tickets to make sure of getting a seat. It’s definitely not to be missed.”

Also taking place at Celtic Connections on the same day is a special afternoon concert at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland featuring the best of the college’s current student talent.

Dr Decker Forrest, Director of the Music Programme at SMO, said: “The Saturday afternoon concert at the RCS will showcase the exceptional talent of current students enrolled on the BA (Hons) Gaelic and Traditional Music Programme at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. The Programme, taught entirely through Scottish Gaelic, started five years ago and has already seen a number of very successful graduates including Lindsay Mitchell, 2009 Mòd Traditional Gold Medallist, Roya MacLean and Murdo Cameron. This concert celebrates the Programme’s success to date, but is also being seen as part of the larger event being held later that evening at the Royal Concert Hall.”

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