New musical work sought to celebrate Year of Stories

Iconic stories, people and places across the Highlands and Islands will be celebrated this year in a new piece of music to be performed during this September’s Blas Festival.

In conjunction with Scotland’s Year of Stories, the organisers of this year’s Blas Festival are seeking proposals from musicians and composers for the creation of a new piece of music celebrating Highland stories.

The Highland and Islands are home to a wealth of iconic stories, legends and tales, some of which have become famous around the world, and the organisers are encouraging musicians to submit their proposals to create a 40-minute piece of music based on the themed year.

The Blas Festival, which began with small-scale events in 2004 celebrates Highland music, Gaelic language and culture and will host the premiere of this new piece of work during the festival which will run from 2-10 September this year.

Last year’s commission celebrated the 200th anniversary of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran and was led by Gaelic singer, Kim Carnie.

The festival, organised by Gaelic arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal, in partnership with The Highland Council, has commissioned many new works over the years, including last year’s commission by Kim, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Mike Vass (2020), Gaelic song expert, Jo MacDonald (2019) and Gaelic singer, Mischa Macpherson (2018).

The musician awarded the commission this year will have a budget of up to £3000 which will support them to compose new material or arrange existing material and prepare for a number of performances at Blas.

This year’s festival will feature a host of much-loved traditional musicians from across Scotland as well as featuring many young musicians from Fèisean across the Highlands. It is expected that significant birthdays of some of Scotland’s most treasured tradition bearers will be celebrated. As well as around 30 live events, there will be an extensive education and communities programme and online workshops, talks and livestreamed concerts.

The Blas Festival returns in September

Calum Alex Macmillan, Blas Festival organiser, said: ‘We are delighted to be returning to our traditional September dates for this year’s Blas Festival, visiting communities across the Highlands with a programme that will celebrate our rich Gaelic culture and heritage. The annual commission is always a highlight of the festival offering, and we are so pleased to be able to give artists the chance to create and showcase new work again this year. We are excited to be incorporating the theme of Scotland’s stories within this year’s commission and look forward to seeing what the successful musician will create.’

Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to Blas Festival, blas@blas.scot, by 5pm on Monday 14 March. For more information and proposal guidelines, visit www.blas.scot/commission.

Further information about this year’s festival will be available in the coming months at www.blas.scot

The main aim of Blas is to celebrate Highland music, Gaelic language and culture and the festival is held each year throughout the administrative area of The Highland Council, which is the main funder of the event.

Blas is focused on and informed and influenced by the music and culture of the Gàidhealtachd and aims to innovate, collaborate and experiment with exponents of complementary cultures, with the overall aims being to: Celebrate and strengthen traditional Highland Music and promote Gaelic; Involve communities as proactive participants, and grow new audiences; Innovate & excite; Involve young people; Be an international event, seeking to build new audiences, and have visiting international artists in particular, but not exclusively, from Ireland and Nova Scotia.