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Sabhal Mòr Musician-in-Residence wins prestigious commission as part of Commonwealth Games celebrations

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Musician in Residence, Mary Ann Kennedy, has been commissioned to create and produce an innovative new work for the prestigious UK music initiative , the ‘PRSF New Music Biennial’ which will form part of the cultural celebrations to mark the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Placing Gaelic at the very heart of the Games, Mary Ann will work with an international team on ‘Aiseag’ (The Ferryboat), which will include the Canadian composer Scott MacMillan, Audio Designer Nick Turner from Watercolour Music, and renowned Gaelic poet Aonghas MacNeacail. They aim to create a new work inspired by human and cultural connections, rooted in the Highlands and the Nova Scotian Gaelic diaspora.

The Biennal is the flagship commissioning programme of the PRS (Performing Rights Society) Foundation for the year of the Commonwealth Games. A total of 20 UK-wide commissions will be premiered in different locations around the country throughout the first half of 2014, before gathering at London’s Southbank Centre in London in July, and reaching the Games themselves in Glasgow in August.

Mary Ann lives in Ardgour, Lochaber, at the gateway to the Arnamurchan Peninsula which is served by five different ferry services around its coastline. The metaphor of the ferryboat is particularly appropriate to the commission as both the Highlands and Nova Scotia maintain networks of small but vital ferry services around their coasts and inlets. ‘Aiseag’ will also mean that Gaelic music and culture will feature prominently in the ‘New Music Biennial’ and the celebrations to mark Glasgow 2014.

The music will be performed by soloists from the Highlands and Nova Scotia, a Scottish classical string section and Inverness Gaelic Choir and will also feature electronica and found sounds from the ferries’ environments.   

Mary Ann Kennedy began her music residency at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in November last year and her post is part of Creative Scotland’s Creative Futures Residency programme. Mary Ann comes from the well-known Gaelic musical family, the Campbells of Greepe, and is a highly respected musician, singer, composer, producer and broadcaster and has an extensive breadth and depth of knowledge of Gaelic language, music and tradition. Her current work at the college includes a project based on her family’s music, and an album of songs of Gaelic Glasgow, to be released in 2014.

Mary Ann commented: “It’s a real honour to be able to bring Gaelic into the heart of the cultural celebrations of the Games in this way, especially in my hometown of Glasgow. I’m looking forward to working again with Scott, Nick and Aonghas – and to finding some exciting ways of bringing these maritime worlds back up the Clyde and Thames!”

Welcoming the news Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts, Donnie Munro, said: “This news is wonderful, for Mary Ann in her own right, as a highly regarded international artist and producer and, of course, also for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, as host to her current artist’s residency. This is precisely the type of creative opportunity which the residency programme was designed to facilitate. With this exciting project, Mary Ann not only places Gaelic language and culture at the centre of the Common Wealth Games cultural celebrations but, importantly, places the language and the culture within the wider context of  international arts experience.”

The PRS for Music Foundation established the ‘New Music Biennial’ in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of England and the British Council. Organisations from all over the country were invited to submit ideas for commissions that they would like to realise with a UK-based composer. A total of 20 new commissions will be performed as part of the initiative in 2014, to coincide with the staging of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The commissions will be brought together across two weekend events hosted by London’s Southbank Centre (4-6 July) and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music (2–4 August) in the summer of 2014, coinciding with the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games. ‘Aiseag’ will also enjoy a special Highland premiere ahead of these two events.

The ‘New Music Biennial’ follows on from the success of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and coincides with Scotland’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Applicants were asked to submit ideas with an international focus, connecting with the Commonwealth and beyond. The panel of judges was chaired by the Controller of BBC Radio 3, Roger Wright, and as well as the 2014 performances, the commissions will be broadcast on Radio 3.

The commissions were announced at a launch in London’s Southbank Centre today (Friday 26 April).

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