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Musical greats gather to celebrate 40 years of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig




Glasgow’s City Halls venue was jam-packed on Saturday night (19 January) for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s special 40th anniversary concert, SMO@40. A host of musical stars who have shared in the college’s rich history were onstage to celebrate the college’s continuing contribution to Gaelic and Scotland’s culture and to showcase the intimate relationship SMO has enjoyed with music over the years since it was established 40 years ago.

The concert was held as part Celtic Connections 2013 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.

Among the musicians and singers to appear on stage were: Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, the renowned Irish pianist and composer Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, fiddler Alasdair Fraser, Fergie MacDonald, Christine Primrose, Margaret Stewart, James Graham, Allan MacDonald, Decker Forrest, Mary Ann Kennedy, Dàimh, Allan Henderson, Iain MacDonald, Angus Nicholson, Ingrid Henderson, Andrew MacPherson, Murdo Cameron, Alasdair White, Eilidh MacFadyen, Natalie Haas, Niall Keegan, Sandra Joyce and Kenneth Edge.

Speaking afterwards, SMO Chair Sherriff Roddy John MacLeod, said: “Tonight has been a terrific night here in Glasgow. We knew it would be because what you had here was a stellar line-up of many of the best musicians in Scotland – and some from abroad – who had all wanted to come together and give of their talents in celebration of what Sabhal Mòr Ostaig means to them. It means something special to each and every one of them and the College, for its part, is proud to have them as friends. It was a night for joy and thankfulness. Joy that the College has reached this milestone in such robust good health and thankfulness for the many who strove so hard over the years to make that happen; many of those were with us here tonight, many couldn’t be and some, sadly, have passed away. On behalf of Sabhal Mòr, our deepest gratitude to them all.

“With our plans for a new village next to the College in Skye and for widening the College’s area of operation to other islands, we are ready for the next 40 years. The Sabhal Mòr Development Trust has also tonight announced a major fund-raising campaign to allow the College to rise to the challenges of the next 40 years. With the status of Gaelic in Scotland still by no means secure, these challenges are as great, if not greater, than they were 40 years ago, so we hope people will respond positively to that appeal. This is to be a year of celebratory events for Sabhal Mòr.  Whoever and wherever you are, please come and join us at those. What a start tonight has been.”

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: “This concert has been a very special way to launch this important year in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s history. That such an amazing array of talented international musicians and singers should come together in this way to celebrate and to honour the work of Sabhal Mòr is a wonderful testimony to the deep affection and respect in which it is held and, furthermore, is a recognition of the unique and special place which Sabhal Mòr occupies at the heart of Scottish cultural life. It is hugely appropriate that this year of celebration should start with music and song as these two distinct strands of our cultural life have been important ‘carrying streams’ for the transmission of our cultural heritage through many generations and also, and importantly, the ‘portal’  through which Gael and non-Gael alike have shared the riches of this precious national inheritance.”

Also as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations, the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Development Trust have established the 40th Anniversary Appeal. The appeal asks people throughout the world who care passionately about the future of the Gaelic language and culture to help Sabhal Mòr Ostaig with its vital work. There are a number of ways people and organisations can help fund and support the college (which has, as a charitable organisation, to source 47% of its funding each year). People can support specific projects or choose to support the college’s mission and work in general, but no matter what support package benefactors choose, they will be contributing to the over-arching aims of Scotland’s Gaelic college. More information can be found on SMO’s website at

Photographs © Graeme MacDonald

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