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‘Sabhal Mòr Ostaig partners Celtic Connections in an exciting International Commission’

The Atlantic Corridor- Slighe a Chuain

On Wednesday last the fulfilment of an idea which had long been in the mind of the extraordinarily gifted Galician musician/piper, Carlos Nunez, was brought to life in a special performance at Celtic Connections.

Through a unique and exciting collaboration between Celtic Connections and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, this outstanding international musician was to travel to Skye where, over a 10 day residency period at Sabhal Mòr, he was to research, develop and routine much of the creative content which would form the ‘backbone’ for this special Celtic Connections performance at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.

Carlos had a special interest in travelling to Sabhal Mòr, in order to work with ‘key individuals’ there who are world recognised experts in the history of the Scottish Bagpipes and of course, also to visit the island itself with its particular and iconic status at the centre of the history and the development of Scottish Pipe Music.

His special interest was to explore, research and develop new thinking around the concept, originally presented by Hugh Cheape in a series of published works, that the Highland bagpipe may have arrived in Scotland from the Iberian Peninsula via a long-established maritime route and that this historical link, which existed over many centuries, played a significant role in bringing this shared piping heritage to communities along the ‘Atlantic Corridor’ linking Galicia, Wales, Ireland, the Western Seaboard and the Islands of Scotland, Patagonian, Argentina and Brazil, and whose influences can still to this day be found, to varying degrees, fused  with  the indigenous musical forms of all these  countries.

In exploring the specific Scottish dimension, Carlos was able to make use of the significant amount of reference material held within Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Special Collections and furthermore, he was particularly delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with Prof Hugh Cheape, a world renowned expert in this field  and  Dr Decker Forrest, a very fine Piper in his own right, who heads up Sabhal Mor’s Traditional Music Degree Programme and who has also published important academic work on key elements of piping history. Additionally, Carlos was also able to work with local piper, Dr Angus Macdonald of Glenuig, who along with his brothers, Allan and Iain, is recognised as one of the outstanding Pipers of his generation. Carlos also took the opportunity of his visit to Skye to meet with Dr John Purser, musician, composer, writer, broadcaster and musicologist, who has written extensively on the history of Scottish Music. Carlos described the experience of his time at Sabhal Mòr as being ‘hugely beneficial and deeply inspiring’.

The performance on the night was received with great critical acclaim and the packed out concert hall audience was treated to a fascinating and movingly beautiful  musical journey through the historical and geographical context of the ‘Atlantic Corridor’, all woven into an intricate and compelling musical tapestry by  Carlos Nunez’s charismatic presence,  consummate musicianship and engaging stagecraft. Carlos was joined on stage by his very fine ensemble  with wonderful guest performances from, Decker Forrest, Karen Matheson and Donald Shaw, dancer, Sophie Stevenson, Gaelic singer and harpist Mischa Macpherson, Argentinian accordionist, Chango Spasiuk and  Welsh musicians, Angharad Jenkins, Patrick Rimes and  Gwenan Gibbard ‘signposting’ the Patagonian connections.

A particular highlight of the night was when Dr Angus MacDonald descended through the auditorium, performing a pìobaireachd commemorating the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, where a Galician regiment, fighting in support of the Jacobite cause, lost many lives. He was joined by Núñez on Gaita in what was a very moving musical manifestation of that cultural and historical convergence.

Prof Hugh Cheape said today,

This has been a very fruitful collaboration and, with Carlos’ enthusiasm and experience, has enabled us to bring current research in Celtic and Gaelic Studies to the audience of Celtic connections. Carlos has launched a very effective musical craft on the ‘Atlantic Corridor’.

Donnie Munro, Director of Development, Fundraising and the Arts at Sabhal Mòr, who along with Celtic Connections Director, Donald Shaw, jointly arranged for the commission said today,

‘We at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig were delighted to have facilitated this commission in partnership with Celtic Connections and our desire to do so, is indicative of the vision which the institution has, to place Gaelic Language, culture and heritage, confidently and with purpose, within an international context. This project again shows the strength of the great common heritage we share across the Celtic regions and confirms that far from being peripheral, our joint history points to one of significant international influence.’

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