A newly-arranged piece of music performed by up to 40 young people from across Scotland will be a highlight of a music festival being held online for the first time.
Four new Gaelic songs will also be premiered at the Blas Festival which celebrates Highland music and the Gaelic language and culture.
The new music has been commissioned to mark Scotland’s Year of Coast and Waters and celebrate the people and stories from coastal areas.
The festival, organised by Gaelic arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal, in partnership with the Highland Council, will be held from November 20-30 and feature a series of pre-recorded and live performances, workshops, lectures and other musical events.
Opening the festival will be a £3,000 commission called Air falbh ann am bàta/Off in a Boat. Multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and producer Mike Vass, the current traditional artist in residence at the University of Edinburgh will lead 30-40 young musicians from local fèisean groups across Scotland on an imagined voyage from Skye to Mull, Iona and Islay, with each island represented by a piece of music or song transcribed from the School of Scottish Studies Archives.
Fèisean nan Gàidheal has also awarded Gaelic singer and songwriter Rachel Walker the Fuaran Coasts and Waters commission to write a Gaelic song in celebration of the 2020 themed year.
Rachel, who has released three solo albums and often appears with Skipinnish, will perform her song, which will explore the importance and beauty of the coasts, as part of a St Andrew’s Night concert on November 30, the festival’s finale.
Rachel said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have been awarded this commission to write a Gaelic song celebrating the year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters for the Blas Festival 2020. My idea for the song was to take a journey through Scotland, exploring the seas, shores, rivers and waterways, the myths and legends hidden beneath the waves and the links to people and their livelihoods.
“The challenge has been to fit that all into a song without having 100 verses, but I’m really pleased with how it’s progressing and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to let people hear it as part of the festival.”
Due to the high standard of entries to the original commission call, three other songwriters have also been awarded a £500 commission. Songwriters Mary Ann Kennedy, James Hind and Niall O’Gallagher will have their songs performed alongside Rachel’s at the festival.
Arthur Cormack of Fèisean nan Gàidheal added: “The Blas Festival has commissioned many Highland artists over the past 15 years to produce new work, some of which has had a life through performances at other festivals and events following its premiere at Blas.
“We are very happy to work with several musicians in this challenging year by commissioning a range of pieces to be showcased at the festival and even more delighted to be able to bring Blas to an online audience ending on St Andrew’s Night.”